Take a Tip from Shakespeare: getting back to verbal basics

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Simon J. Wright

Abstract

Responding to the overwhelming view that the standard of English speaking amongst the Thai population is seriously deficient when compared with most of its potential partners in the soon to be unified ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations), this paper suggests that an obsessive emphasis on grammar and the formal aspects of written English bear much responsibility for the current state of affairs. This paper argues that there is need for a return to the verbal aspects of English and, in particular, the rhythm of the language, which plays an essential part in its meaning and effect. Acknowledging the iambic pentameter as the core rhythm of English conversation, it further argues that a more widespread examination of Shakespeare’s use of language would be of great benefit to English language teachers and, consequently, their students. It is not being suggested that Shakespeare should be part of the language curriculum but stresses that the value of Shakespeare is in demonstrating to teachers the subliminal level at which the English language operates. The overtly literary study of this playwright has largely overlooked the fact that what he wrote was intended to be spoken and listened to and that his works are generally acknowledged to be the most effective example in existence of the potential of the English language. The paper also argues that, today, the study of Shakespeare will prove to be of relevance and benefit to Thai society, which is experiencing a period of transition and uncertainty that is similar to the end of the first Elizabethan age with the waning of an old elite in the face of radical forces for change.

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Author Biography

Simon J. Wright

Simon J. P. Wright is an Assistant Professor of English in the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, where he has taught for 21 years. He has taught Elizabethan, Augustan, Romantic, Victorian and modern British poetry at the undergraduate level and also modern British drama, the modern short story and creative writing. At the graduate level he has taught courses in Shakespeare, Victorianism, the modern British novel and Critical Theory. His publications include a book on Graham Greene and articles on Muriel Spark, Seamus Heaney, Mrs. Beeton, psychoanalytical approaches to literature and the interpretation of poetry.

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