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Reviews Edward L. Rocklin. Performance Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare. Urbana, Dl.: National Council of Teachers of English, 2005. Pp. xxvii + 413. $39.95 paperbound. Edward L.Rocklin's PerformanceApproaches to TeachingShakespeareis designed for high school,college, and universityEnglish teachers. The bookis divided into two parts. The first chapter ofpart 1 deals with the principles of a performance approach to teaching drama, focusing on showing students how to distinguish drama from prose fiction and how to read a play in all of its dimensions, visual and aural as well as textual. The second chapter focuses on the theoretical underpinning of a performance approach to teaching Shakespeare. Part 2 consists of three chapters devoted to explaining numerous strategies for teaching three Shakespearean plays through performance: The Taming ofthe Shrew, Richard III, and Hamlet. The chapter on The Taming ofthe Shrewfocuses on action and scene (drawing on the work ofEmrys Jones), role (created bythe dramatist), and character (created by the actor). The chapter on Richard ///focuses on framing and refraining actions and introduces Bertrand Evans's concept of "discrepant awareness."And the chapter on Hamlet focuses on defamiliarizing the play and on trying out multiple interpretations ofscenes. I totallyagree with Rocklin's viewthatShakespeare'splays should be taught as theater as well as literature.PerformanceApproaches explains and illustrates from real classroom experiences manyways ofdoingjust that.In fact,the amount ofmaterial in the book—numerous classroom exercises ofvarious kinds, reading (and rereading), and writing assignments—is almost overwhelming. And indeed, Rocklin acknowledges that he is offering more material than can be covered in one term (31); he encourages teachers to pick and choose from the largesse ofclassroom experiences he has on offer. This being so, it is a pitythat Rocklin did not include some sample syllabi in the book so that teachers might see for themselves what combinations and sequences of exercises work best together andjusthowmuchcanbe covered in onesemester.ApparentlyRocklin's 241 242Comparative Drama students explore only three plays, though they are, of course, expected to carry over to other Shakespearean plays the strategies of reading and interpretation that they have learned. Coverage is always a problem and even, as Rocklin (citing Miriam Gilbert) insists, an illusion. Nonetheless, in most advanced Shakespeare classes, students would normally be required to read more than three plays, though I can envision a special-studies class being run in the manner suggested by Rocklin. Rocklin also does not specify how many students typically are in his classes. Many of his exercises would work very well with classes of twenty or fewer but would become problematic in a class of thirtyfive or forty. In this case, there would scarcely be time for all ofthe students to participate in all of the exercises and offer their own versions of each of the selected scenes. Just once do I glean, by doing the math, that at least one ofthe classes that Rocklin describes has only fifteen students in it (334). These practical considerations aside, Rocklin has much to offer both to teachers accustomed to using in-class performance as a method of teaching Shakespeare and to those who would like to begin doing so. The latter group, however, could have used some more practical help in planning their courses, perhaps in place ofportions of chapter 2, which I find the least satisfactory in the book. For those of us familiar with the theoretical issues arising from the relationship between text and performance, the chapter on theory may seem excessively given to classification (though this is a strategy that Rocklin uses throughout the book) and even rather stodgy. The rest ofthe book, however, is extremely lucid and engagingly written. In the remainder ofthis review I will indicate some ofRocklin's strategies that I find most fascinating,pedagogicallyastute,and helpful.While most teachers ofShakespeare would probably feel that they do not have the time to devote to the preparatory activities that Rocklin describes in his first chapter, teachers of introductory drama courses could certainly profit from some of the exercises Rocklin describes. In particular, teaching students to ask, "What does ? do?" (rather than"What does ? mean?"), where ? is any given element ofa play, seems to me an enormously profitable exercise for students of drama...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 241-244
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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