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Talking Shakespeare

Notes from a Journey

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Louis Fantasia

Talking Shakespeare is a collection of essays on Shakespeare’s plays and politics and their impact in the world today. Originally given as provocative talks on Shakespeare at some of the most prestigious universities, conferences, and theatres around the world, they reflect on the author’s more than thirty-year career as a producer, director and educator. The essays provide a unique and personal look into multiple aspects of Shakespeare’s world—and ours.

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Chapter 5. “Here’s fine Revolution, if we had the trick to see’t:” Teaching Shakespeare Today

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· 5 · “HERE’S FINE REVOLUTION, IF WE HAD THE TRICK TO SEE’T:” TEACHING SHAKESPEARE TODAY (English Speaking Union, Los Angeles, 2010) A call for papers went out recently from a distinguished American education- al journal. The journal is primarily for secondary school teachers of English. The topic proposed was “Teachers Set Free: Folger Education and Other Revo- lutionary Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare.” When I first saw this call, the question I asked myself was what do they mean by revolutionary? Am I one? Or am I a reactionary? Counter- revolutionary? Or what? The word revolutionary seems to have taken on its “upset the status quo” meaning with Copernicus and Galileo and their literally revolutionary theory that argued that the Earth revolved around the Sun. This was, indeed, a revo- lutionary concept because it forced us to see our role and place in the universe from a completely different perspective. The celestial spheres hung in balance not because of cosmic harmony, but because of the laws of physics. If Man was the Aristotelian measure of all things and made in God’s image, it was not because he was at the top of some great, static chain of being, but because reason and intelligence were put to work improving the human condition. Humanism and rationalism came to be applied without the limitations of dogma, giving rise to the Age of Enlighten- ment with its subsequent political, scientific, social, and cultural revolutions down to our own day. “Here’s fine Revolution, if we had the...

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