Dr Anjna Chouhan is lecturer in Shakespeare Studies at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, where she teaches pupils across Secondary school ages (home and international), university students, and Shakespeare enthusiasts. Anjna’s research is on Shakespeare in the nineteenth century, and her work includes: Henry Irving (Pickering and Chatto, 2012), The Shakespeare Book (Dorling Kindersley, 2015), and articles in Victorian Network and Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film. Anjna is a contributor to the Cambridge Schools Shakespeare digital resource and has written resources for Digital Theatre Plus, as well as acting as educator in MOOCs for the British Council and the RSC. Anjna is also a Shakespeare consultant for BBC Learning projects.
Teaching Shakespeare can be at once exhilarating and terrifying; inspirational and life-threateningly tedious. I like to think that the contradictions here echo, or at least nod, to the emotional rollercoaster that was early modern drama. When speaking to students – Secondary school and university – a common stumbling block is invariably language. Besides the archaic vocabulary – ‘hautboy’, ‘nonce’, ‘tun-dish’ and ‘fardel’ come to mind – there’s also the syntax, the distinctly Christian rhetoric, and seemingly endless concerns about marriage and death. For pupils in Secondary school these subject matters, compounded by unintuitive phrasing and words, can be a categorical turn-off.