Last week at Nexus the air was filled with the sound of language from the early modern era, dulcet Baroque music and Shakespearean insults as students celebrated the Bard’s birthday in style. In tutorials we explored the significance of Shakespeare, considered the universal themes of his plays and discussed the role he played in shaping the English language (adding at least 1,700 words!)
Students also took part in a range of workshops. The first involved exploring the rich playfulness of Shakespeare’s language. They hurled Shakespearean insults at each other, including phases such as ‘Thou gorbellied, guts-griping giglet’ and ‘Thou art a reeky, plume-plucked miscreant’. It was great to witness the students enjoying Shakespearean language and appreciating its mischievousness.
In a rather less rowdy session, students explored the use of calligraphy and considered how Tudors would shape their letters. Led by students, Bou Brian and Ruby Gillson, they expertly taught students about how to use a brush pen as they wrote their favourite Shakespearean quotations. This was beautifully accompanied by the tranquil tones of the Lute.
On Thursday, students explored a dramatic reading of As You Like It’s most famous speech, “All the World’s a Stage’. We looked at how to use voice, intonation and body language to portray those famous seven ages of man. Our students did a fantastic job and tugged on the heart strings with the melancholic Jacques’ ‘conclusion that we end our lives ‘sans everything’.
Friday’s exploits were about a marriage of science and Shakespeare. Students got to witness a tremendous scientific display by Mr Chapman whilst considering Shakespeare’s use of special effects and references to science in his plays. Students were able to appreciate the ominous chanting of the Macbeth’s witches whilst watching a massive eruption of foam. We were also shown how Shakespeare and his contemporaries may have created the sounds of cannon fire. We were certainly careful when conducting these experiments; the Globe theatre is believed to have burned down due to the misfiring of a theatrical cannon!
One of the most enjoyable aspects of Shakespeare week was the consideration of the legacy Shakespeare has left for us. His language continues to hold resonance and to offer us words of wisdom. Our students were able to vote for their favourite quotation by Shakespeare over the course of the week. Favourites include ‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on’ and ‘To thine own self be true’. However, the outright winner was decided to be ‘Better a witty fool than a foolish wit’. Taken from Twelfth Night, these words from the wise and observant Feste speaks to us of the importance of verbal wit and sharp judgement as well as knowing the difference between a good joke and a bad one. A useful lesson for life!