Shakespeare can be taught. Students don’t even have to know how to read to become familiar with the sound and cadence of Shakespeare’s language. Watch this video of Brian Cox teaching a friend’s toddler to recite a portion of the “To be, or not to be…” soliloquy.
Meaning and understanding comes later, but familiarity almost certainly makes that easier. And to grasp the meaning, it would help if only we had more teachers follow the example of Geoffrey Tennant in the great Canadian TV series, Slings and Arrows, and declare: “So, let’s get rid of the curriculum and I think we should just f*ck around with some texts.” I’ve experienced many an English teacher drain all of the joy and depth from Shakespeare by mechanically having the class take turns reading passages while ticking off what students need to know for the AP exam.
Watch Geoffrey motivate an accountant from the plastics firm to do a better reading of Macbeth’s “Tomorrow” soliloquy: