Students See Possibilities in Shakespeare

In Professor Patty Hatcher’s humanities unit this fall, students explored Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice over six class sessions. They analyzed the written play, watched a film version of it, and saw it performed by The Actors from the London Stage on the UT campus. They also got up on their feet to experience the scenes themselves in a performance workshop led by Clayton Stromberger, director of outreach for Shakespeare at Winedale.

Clayton admitted to students that Shakespeare wasn’t always his thing. He had read the Bard as required in high school, but it wasn’t until he had the opportunity to perform it that he really came to appreciate it. “When you make the words your own,” he explained, “you help create the meaning of the play.”

Students made the words their own, and the M Station classroom became a stage. “Let the forfeit be nominated for… an equal pound of your fair flesh,” mused student Candy Gallegos, performing the role of Shylock. Together with Clayton, Candy experimented with different line deliveries while the class sat in rapt attention. How do shifts in tone or body posture change the meaning of the words? Is Shylock making light of his proposed bargain or applying utmost pressure in this scene?

Through their immersion in Shakespeare, students came to understand the numerous possibilities of the text. As student Makayla Machado aptly put it, the experience “opened everyone up to the different ways in which Shakespeare’s work can be perceived.”

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