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Annual Shakespeare Lectures

This year’s annual Schools Shakespeare Lecture was held on Wednesday 18th April 2018 at Stratford Town Hall, delivered to students studying English literature at SGGS, KES, Stratford College and Stratford School. The lecture was incredibly insightful - here to talk to us was Dr Anjna Chouhan from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, who spoke about genre in Shakespeare’s plays.

Both classes at SGGS are studying two of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies; Hamlet and King Lear. The use of genre in both plays is extremely poignant, yet Dr Chouchan discussed how Shakespeare’s plays show an immense cross over in genre throughout. Therefore, Shakespeare uses his plays to comment on, as opposed to occupy, generic categories; it is a topic for negotiation as opposed to conformity. Chouchan gave an example of this in my personal set text, King Lear, which although read as a tragedy, could also be categorised as a history play too. Shakespeare therefore uses certain aspects of tragedy to comment on the genre and not simply occupy it. The decomposition and disintegration of Lear’s world acts as an impetus for tragedy, following an inevitability from the tragic genre which sees the protagonist, equipped with their own hamartia (tragic flaw), experience a reversal of fortune. Albeit that we are studying Shakespeare’s tragedies, students from the other schools were studying some of Shakespeare’s comedies, including Measure for Measure, The Tempest and The Taming of the Shrew. Dr Chouhan gave insightful comments supported by a wealth of past and present criticisms on the purpose of genre within comedy and its effect on Jacobean audiences.

Following this, we had the opportunity for a Q&A session with a panel of scholars of Shakespeare, including Rev Dr Paul Edmonson, Dr Viv Thomas, Mr James Sorel Cameron and Sir Stanley Wells CBE. They provided us with insightful answers to our questions, proposing alternative readings and criticisms to strengthen our understanding and application of AO5 for our upcoming exams. The forum for discussion was enormously beneficial, giving students from all of the schools the opportunity to debate and review ideas together.

Overall it was a really interesting afternoon, allowing us to relish the opportunities we have here in the Bard’s home town!

Sofia Giles, Year 13