11 May 2018
← Shakin' Up Shakespeare
Shakin' Up Shakespeare
When William Shakespeare penned Lady Macbeth’s hurried words of comfort to her husband after King Duncan’s bloody murder, “A little water clears us of this deed,” (Macbeth II.ii.12) I often wonder if he was aware of the magic contained within this symbolic phrase. Did he quietly acknowledge to himself that he had captured the failings of humanity – how we flee from the consequences of our actions – within these carefully chosen words? Or was it all by chance; a mere addition of a line to enhance Lady Macbeth’s foolishness?
As insightful as we often believe the Bard to be, I doubt that he would have been able to envision hordes of Year 12 students busily dissecting these words to understand their ability to capture the human condition and, in turn, connect with modern audiences.
In a world of power struggles and selfish ambition, it is little surprise that this play can transfer effortlessly from the Elizabethan stage to a modern-day context, ensuring the play’s place as a staple within the English senior syllabus. This means that, once again, at St Patrick’s College, the senior classes are in the throws of examining this transcendent text, which they will continue to do so over the course of Term 2.
To bring life to the antiquated language, Shake & Stir (Brisbane’s premier Shakespearian acting troupe) was invited last week to perform their modernised version of the Scottish play – as it is often referred to by superstitious players – The Macbeth’s.With only three actors and a minimalistic set, it was hard not to be awe-struck by the young players who delivered their lines in flawless Shakespearian, expertly demonstrating the fracturing of Macbeth and his lady. At the end of the 60-minute performance, it became painfully evident that “a little water” would never remove the blood on this ruthless couple’s hands, as we witnessed their eventual tragic demise.
Clearly, Shakespeare’s works are designed to be performed, rather than read in isolation within a classroom. It is therefore hoped that the addition of this opportunity to see this central work live on stage will add a new dimension of understanding of the text’s complexities for the students, particularly as we continue to closely analyse the play in class.
The senior teachers and myself are excited to see this understanding transferred to the students’ upcoming assessment items. Individually, they will ponder what the text might mean to students such as themselves in the modern world, in addition to analysing how Shakespeare constructs his central themes for his audiences.
It is always a pleasure passing on a text to our students that has long been held up as the pinnacle of English literature. Shakespeare only continues to live if we continue to value his impact on the world in which we live… A concept we, as their teachers, hope our young men hold onto before we utter, “Out, out brief candle” (V.v.19) to another term of Macbeth at our College.