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Shakespeare's Schoolroom: Rhetoric, Discipline, Emotion by Lynn Enterline (review)

From: Comparative Drama
Volume 47, Number 2, Summer 2013
pp. 271-273 | 10.1353/cdr.2013.0015

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Thanks to Ben Jonson, we all know about Shakespeare's "small Latin and less Greek" and the supposed deficiencies of his education. Shakespeare's Schoolroom refocuses our attention on the ways in which a grammar school education shaped the young playwright, not simply in terms of pedagogic practice—the aims and day-to-day methods of early modern education—but for the relationships through which it was conceptualized and achieved: rhetoric and the passions; imitation and punishment; and student and schoolmaster. In this work, Lynn Enterline re-examines the familiar ground of the classical training provided by grammar schools such as King Edward VI, Stratford-upon-Avon, and sheds new light on the role of this educational system both in helping fashion early modern identity and in informing the language, characterization, and processes described in selected works by Shakespeare. Across the chapters of Shakespeare's Schoolroom, the assumption that early modern pedagogy helped inculcate social and moral values in an unproblematic and straightforward way is challenged, with the literary outputs of one of the products of that educational process—Shakespeare himself—used to test the validity of that claim.

Enterline approaches the topic of early modern pedagogy through a consideration of its relationship with emotion and passion—or "affect" (19), as Enterline sometimes prefers to call it. The usual practice of situating emotion in the context of medical works and discourses is challenged: Enterline replaces medicine with rhetoric and traces the ways in which the particular use of words and language encouraged by humanist educators necessarily involved an experimentation with and performance of emotion. Her theoretical approach to the sticky topic of early modern emotions is informed by psychoanalytic theory, specifically Jean Laplanche's reading of Freud. In the first two chapters, "Rhetoric and the Passions in Shakespeare's Schoolroom" and "Imitate and Punish: The Theatricality of Everyday Life in Elizabethan Schoolrooms," this methodology and its implications are set out, and it is argued that Laplanche's model of nonnormative identity formation can help reveal the ways in which the early modern schoolroom drew on and played with the "theatricality of everyday life" (1). Imitatio, the keystone of humanist education, is performative by definition, and Enterline suggests that in being required to put themselves in the positions of classical, mythological, and historical individuals—women as well as men— schoolboys received an education in the language of the "eye, ear, hand, tongue, and heart" (4). The habit of experimenting with selves and voices instilled in early modern students what Enterline calls "habits of alterity" (7-8), which in turn resisted the students' assimilation into social hierarchies—the hierarchy of gender in particular. Other educational practices, such as translation and corporal punishment, it is argued, challenged, rather than reinforced, traditional gender roles and fractured, rather than bolstered, masculine identity. Perhaps most memorably, Bottom's "translation" in A Midsummer Night's Dream is reread as a parodic version of the "social, emotional, and bodily" transformations undergone by grammar school boys: "Read in light of the [grammar] school's announced goals, Bottom's translation...speaks to the school's carefully planned intervention in social reproduction" (6).

Chapters 3, 4, and 5 examine selected plays and narrative poems by Shakespeare in order to tease out and scrutinize the impact of this educational method. Enterline's earlier work on Ovid (most notably The Rhetoric of the Body from Ovid to Shakespeare [Cambridge University Press, 2000]) is most influential in the first of these three chapters, "The Art of Loving Mastery," on Venus and Adonis. Venus's relationship with Adonis is compared to that of master and student, and the Ovidian method of arguing both sides of a question ("cross-voicing" [88]) is used to argue that the eroticized figure of the schoolmaster could be one of maternal, rather than paternal, authority. Chapter 4, on The Taming of the Shrew, develops this meditation on the theme of "mastery," and considers its inflections through the play's various relationships. Discussing Katharine's final speech, Enterline argues that early modern schoolroom practice would have encouraged members of the audience to be alert to "the ironic distance between speaker and speech" and to attend to the "potential distance between an...



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