Letter: Alas, poor children] We suffered too

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Sir: How long shall we endure the Conservative Party's 'traditionalist' intervention in the curriculum offered to the nation's children?

I am a bardolator, but I am deeply depressed to read that John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education, wants 14-year-olds to be subjected to enforced Shakespeare tests. To me the most significant thing about Shakespeare is that he was basically an actor. Accordingly, he wrote plays, not for studying in classrooms but for acting; plays that are still filling theatres after 400 years, not only because audiences want to see them but because actors want to act them. What young actress can resist the thought of Juliet or Ophelia, or young actor the thought of Hamlet?

I shall never forget the joy at the age of 10 of being a witch, perambulating the classroom waste-paper basket and dropping paper horrors into it, as we mouthed the words that conjured up the apparitions for Macbeth. Nor shall I ever forget the ennui of studying As You Like It for an entire year for the School Certificate. It was about 40 years before I could face seeing that charming comedy.

Please, Mr Patten, may the children be the kings and queens and witches and murderers and ghosts in action, and not pore over texts on which they are to be tested?

Yours etc,


House of Lords

London SW1

1 July