14 2 mins 8 yrs

I took my kids (as in 1990, some twenty-odd years back, they were still were kids) to see Hamlet at a Newcastle cinema. There was a ‘full house’ with many seats occupied by teenaged girls along with a fair sprinkling of boys of a similar age, but with the lead role in Hamlet being taken by the young(ish) Mel Gibson, the Aussie and Hollywood star; this was to be expected. I accompanied my kids not because of Gibson’s presence, but mainly because of the need to see yet another of England’s  playwriting genius’ works brought to the screen.

So, in the days before ‘smart’ phones had even been invented, I was still a mite curious as to how one of the great plays of England’s past would be accepted by a restless teen-aged audience, most of whom had probably never even heard of William Shakespeare, and even less of the majesty of his plays.

But I was left astonished at the silence given this story of deceit, betrayal, murder and revenge. This largely teenaged audience remained entranced as the Danish Prince, at first devastated by his father’s death, and the suspiciously early remarriage of his mother to his uncle, who had claimed the throne on the death of his brother; began to plot his revenge under a cloak of seeming lunacy. There was no whispering, no laughter, no testosterone-fuelled uproar from the rear seats; just a silent acceptance that they, the youngsters in the audience, were in the presence of a masterpiece.

Which is why I reckon that this bloody idiot ought to be placed against a convenient wall, and silenced before she contaminates any more young minds with the dross she preaches.

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14 thoughts on “No snogging in the back, please.

  1. Something must be going wrong in schools. How many people have knowledge of just one play (watch Pointless when they do a Shakespeare question). If they were inspired by what they received, they would surely go on and seek out more plays.

    The way we were taught at school was almost calculated to put us off for life.

  2. Agit8,

    Allow me to introduce you to basic family maths.

    One Father + 3 teenaged kids @ fifteen miles from target – lousy public transport = Car + urge to watch Shakespeare fulfilled.

    Sez me indeed!

  3. I cheerfully admit to being Shakesperophobic.
    It probably is great literature, but it seems to me that it depends on who performs it rather than the writing itself.

    A recipe for treacle pud could be made to sound dramatic and inspiring if read by Laurence Olivier…..

  4. ” This largely teenaged audience remained entranced as the Danish Prince, at first devastated by his father’s death, and the suspiciously early remarriage of his mother to his uncle, who had claimed the throne on the death of his brother; began to plot his revenge under a cloak of seeming lunacy. ”

    Could be a script from East Enders…..

  5. Absolutely!

    I think there is a lot of snobbery around Shakespeare.
    Not saying that applies to you or any other person with a genuine appreciation of the Bard.
    But it has become (imv) a kind of social litmus test of intellectual snobbishness acceptability that I don’t buy into.
    I identify far more with the meatn’peraters prose of Rudyard Kipling. I respect Shakespeare, but I deplore the snobbiness that goes with it as being a reflection of our infernal class system.

  6. Agit8ed

    The worlds of Art Drama and Literature always have a snobbish elitism attached. It’s not just to do with Shakespeare. It exists throughout the culture, everywhere.

  7. Colm,

    I have met lovely middle class people that in my opinion have been practically brainwashed into a love of classical literature, especially Shakespeare.
    Almost saying that you’re not truly English unless you know his works and can recite the plots in detail.
    Balderdash!
    I am proud enough of my country, proud enough to defend the rights of those who genuinely appreciate Shakespeare, Chaucer and whoever else. But the fact that I don’t doesn’t make me any the less English.
    Knowing Shakespeare is like having an Oxford or Cambridge first. A mark of intellectual and social distinction.
    Some may regard me as being snobbish for not liking ANY soap operas, but I don’t. I am ME, proud to be ME and knowing Shakespeare (for the wrong reasons) doesn’t make me a better or somehow more superior person.

  8. The only cultural attribute I would insist every true English person must have is to know, appreciate and enjoy the quintessential English artistic icon that is … the Carry on films 😉

  9. Colm,

    I reckon there may be a further query regarding the ‘Carry On’ titles.

    Were they first authored by Edward De Vere, or by his contemporary Shakespeare, and were they then smuggled into Scotland, where they remained until unearthed by that giant of the classical theatre scene; Sid James?

  10. Ah Yes, Sid James, The South African ‘dirty old Englishman’

    Edward De Vere was of course Kenneth Williams, and Ann Hathaway was Barbara Windsor – seeking to escape the randy clutches of ‘Sid’ Shakespeare .

    Oh what a Carry on we weave…

  11. Agit8ed –

    “I have met lovely middle class people that in my opinion have been practically brainwashed into a love of classical literature, especially Shakespeare.”

    How do you mean?

  12. What I mean Pete is that some aspiring parents have insisted that their children get a handle on the Shakespeare’s plays not out of a love of the literature but because they recognise the social and career enhancing value of knowing Shakespeare.

    I worked with a young teacher who tried to inculcate Macbeth into our class of kids and admitted that she too had hated Shakespeare as a schoolgirl, but that her parents had impressed upon her and her sister that knowing the Bard’s works was frightfully important. Most people I have spoken with about it haven’t actually had any great love of the literature, but it was almost like a mark of attainment or “group initiation”.
    You meet very few people actually reading the stuff as one would a good novel..

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