It comes up a lot. It came up on Twitter just now. Shakespeare is meant to be seen, not read. Which implies that it is meant to be performed, so that people can see i.
But what exactly does that mean, and how can we work with it?
On the one end there’s the class field trip, packing up a few dozen kids to head down to the local theatre and sit still for a production of it doesn’t matter what because most of them won’t pay attention long enough to remember it.
Or, there’s “see the movie.” Stay in the classroom, maybe you have the students’ attention, maybe you don’t, but when Olivier’s Hamlet says goodbye to his mom a little bit too enthusiastically, you can pause it for a minute and explain the who Oedipus thing (thank you Mr. Corey, my 12th grade English teacher).
But can we take it another level? A large majority of kids have iPods, or at least computer access at home (barring the edge socio-economic situations where it’s not likely). Couldn’t they download the movie and watch it at their own pace, rewinding as needed?
What about looking forward when most students are packing an iPad-like tablet device? I like to imagine a world where the student has a player that shows everything they might want – the text, the footnotes, a modern translation, as well as multiple performance interpretations of each scene. Want to study the final scene of Lear? Great, drill down right on that. See Olivier do it, and then James Earl Jones, and then Ian McKellan. Read the notes. Form your own opinions.
You just can’t do that stuff by simply going out and seeing the show just to say you saw it. Sure, “live” theatre brings something different than a film does, but that’s a bigger question that really has nothing to do with Shakespeare but does have everything to do with the realities of time management in a busy world.
I don’t think it’s as easy as “see rather than read.” I think that a combination of both is the only real option, and technology is getting us closer to it.