LITERATURE - AUSTRALIAN - LEARING


Learing

Family First Senator Fielding to Education Minister Bishop (as revealed to Humphrey McQueen)

Dear Minister,

The prospect of a full-frontal by an avowedly gay actor is far from the most disturbing aspect of the King Lear that the Royal Shakespeare Company will present tomorrow evening in Melbourne. The ticket price will protect our children from the playís immorality.

Family values take a battering in Lear. Two of the kingís daughters grasp their share of the estate before turning their father out of doors in an example of elder abuse. The king himself declaims attitudes in defiance of the sanctity of marriage:

Die: die for adultery! No:
Let copulation thrive.

And so it does throughout the collected works.

Your concern that schools are setting matriculation exams on reality television instead of Shakespeare must not blind we Big-C Christians to the dangers of exposing children to unexpurgated editions.

The National Curriculum should stipulate the versions provided by that Eighteenth-century Divine, the Rev Dr Bowdler, who made the plays suitable ďto be read aloud by a gentleman to a company of ladies.Ē His excising the porterís scene from Macbeth, for instance, eliminated the teacherís embarrassment at explaining why drink ďprovokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.Ē

Shakespeare embodies the moral relativism of the Post-Modernists. One can never be sure whose side he is on. When Shylock denounces the Christians for their slave trading, he is giving back as good as he got for their abuse of his usury. Despite some leaning towards monarchy, the plays contain more than enough regicide and Bad Kings to satisfy the staunchest Republican.

Finding a work to prescribe for the young will be thus no easy task. Twelfth Night has too much cross-dressing and gender confusion to be redeemed by its commitment to the Three Rs such as when the household steward, Malvolio, provides students with a lesson in spelling by phonics: ďThese be her very cís, her uís and her tís.Ē Shakespeare continued in accord with the PMís preferred pedagogy that repetition is the mother of retention when another character immediately asks: ďHer cís, her uís, and her tís? Why that?Ē

Indeed, minister, why that?


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