Award-winning actor Adrian Lester, currently playing Othello at the National Theatre, has called for a rethink in the way Shakespeare is taught in schools.
Speaking in a TES webchat on Wednesday, Lester, previously the character Mickey Bricks in BBC series Hustle, claimed teachers have a tendency to “insist on an appreciation of iambic pentameter and poetry” rather than getting students to connect to with the drama of the stories.
“As soon as you scratch beneath the surface of the iambic pentameter and the five beat rhythm, as soon as students get the keys to unlock the text and go past that and really look at what the characters are saying – that’s when the play starts to open up to them.”
Lester said that if the drama of Shakespeare's plays was put at the heart of teaching students would develop a “visceral connection” to Shakespeare’s characters.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and a former English teacher, said she agrees with Lester.
She said when teaching first-time Shakespeare readers you must “start from a place of respect and then move to engagement”.
The respect will come from engaging students with the overarching themes of plays such a love and jealousy, familiar to them from soap operas on TV, Bousted said. Only then after this connection has been made will students be able to connect with the language.
Reporting by Tamara Silver.