Ben Kingsley: “I think we must be very, very careful not to relegate Shakespeare to the past and dismiss him as obsolete”

You’re reading a website named Daily Actor, so I think it’s a fair assumption that you like Shakespeare.  Because of that, you’ll probably agree with Sir Ben Kingsley‘s assessment that the best way to keep Shakespeare’s work relevant is to keep it as what it was always meant to be: theater, not literature. He gives his thoughts on how Shakespeare should be taught to children to the London Evening Standard.

Kingsley is adamant that Shakespeare’s works should not be viewed as simply historical, saying, “I think we must be very, very careful not to relegate Shakespeare to the past and dismiss him as obsolete.”

He recalls an experience that proved to him that teaching the text of Shakespeare and reading it isn’t the same as seeing it. He explains, “After leaving the Royal Shakespeare Company and before I did Gandhi [in 1982], I had the privilege of visiting schools in America with a group of Shakespearean actors. And instead of bashing their way through the text, we walked into the classroom and we performed scenes in the classroom for them. The pupils were slapping their hands on their foreheads and saying, ‘Wow — that’s what he meant!’

He adds, “A good actor, a focused actor, can unlock a 400 to 500-year-old text and make it hit you as you’ve never heard it before. A short answer to the question of whether we need to do more to stimulate the interest of children is, ‘Yes please,’ but let it be done under the right conditions. Let’s go into schools and say, this is our little group of actors, this is the first scene of Henry IV Part II, listen … Honestly, they’ll be jumping out of their seat. It’s magic stuff.”

Oh sure, he picked one of the ones with Falstaff in it. Of course kids are going to like the ones with Falstaff! He’s like a 15th century Eric Cartman.

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