Sunday, April 27, 2008

Woo hoo!

One of the students in my Shakespeare class wants to write her Honors thesis on Henry V! I am soooo excited!

I would, of course, be even happier and more excited if I were going to be around to direct the thesis, but still, it's a good feeling. Made better by the fact that the student in question is very bright, very conservative and Catholic, and, at the beginning of the semester, struck me as a bit of a black-and-white thinker. And a big part of what I'm trying to teach, when I teach Shakespeare in general and the history plays in particular, is the joy of embracing shades of grey.

And she is getting it. The final paper that started off as an attempt to prove that Prince Hal Is Really A Great Guy And An Ideal Monarch-To-Be is turning into a much subtler exploration of the ambiguities in the text, the things that pull for and against that reading, and the reasons why Shakespeare might have wanted to have it both ways. I admit that I did nudge her in this direction, and gave her a copy of the classic Norman Rabkin article on the topic, but I didn't push. She came to it on her own.

And it looks like I will be getting a whole slew of papers about The Merchant of Venice from the other students in the class, and again, I'm really pleased -- it makes me happy that they're seeking out the thorny, knotty, and uncomfortable texts. I wish I hadn't dropped Measure for Measure from my original reading list, because I think some of them would have done a fabulous job with it. Ah well. There will, I hope, be other Shakespeare classes -- at least, I have to trust that there will.


Anonymous said...

Yay! I've only gotten papers of the "Prince Hal is a really great guy" variety so far, so I'm glad to see that there's hope out there. :)

Fretful Porpentine said...

I suspect my students can tell I'm a Hal-skeptic, so they may be playing me, but I'll take what I can get.