Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why Memorize?

Funny, I just scanned this article and said, ‘Ok, I get the idea.’ Then, something I’ve never done before, I searched my non-Shakespeare feeds for Shakespeare references, and there it was again.  So, I read closer.

The West’s most famous wordsmith, William Shakespeare, gained his education by memorizing the epic poetry of the classical world. Through this practice, the Bard developed an ear for the sophisticated rhythms and patterns of language, helping him churn out some of civilization’s most cherished pieces of literature. Moreover, by memorizing the myths and stories of the ancient world, Shakespeare had a fountain of creative resources to draw upon as he wrote his plays.

Almost the entirety of Abraham Lincoln’s education was self-directed. Lacking formal schooling, he consumed books with an insatiable desire, reading snatches of them whenever he could. He also committed to memory numerous passages from his favorite books. It enabled him to learn the musicality present in great writing. It’s no coincidence that the mind that produced the Gettysburg Address had at its immediate disposable snippets from the world’s finest authors.

Bonus for the implied Lincoln/Shakespeare connection :).


C. B. James said...

Okay, I can't get the Shakespeare/Lincoln connect, but I have been known to require my students to memorize passages from Shakespeare, even though it will not help them on the standardized test they all have to take. As long as my administration never finds out, I'm okay.

The Liverpool Shakespeare Festival said...

How would you standardise a test of the appreciation of musicality in poetry and prose I wonder?

Duane said...

Lincoln/Shakespeare connection in the sense that Lincoln was known to be a giant fan of -- and almost certainly memorizer(?) of -- Mr. Shakespeare.

They could have picked anybody. Just thought it was a funny coincidence.

catkins said...

I think it is a strectch to assume that Shakespeare memorized "the epic poetry of the classical world." Certainly, he would have been familiar with it, and would have to memorize some of it as part of his grammar school education. But I expect that he had many texts available to refer to and we need not speculate that he memorized them even if we recognize some of them in his writing. Reading is more important, to my mind, than memorizing.

Jared said...

Memorizing is a way of reading the text closely and carefully. Perhaps a skill that very few possess.