Behind the desk : encountering Shakespeare in South African education

Master Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

While the place of Shakespeare in South Africa has never seriously seemed under threat, particularly outside of academia, the high school syllabus over the last two decades has told a different story. Where the teaching of Shakespeare’s plays has been compulsory in the past, this has changed to such an extent that many schools, where English is taught as a First Additional Language, no longer offer Shakespeare to their learners. Of the plethora of reasons given why this is the case, this thesis is more interested in the role that certain encounters have played in such a shift. The two encounters under question are between the text and the learner, and the text and the contemporary South African context. The reason for this focus is because of the way in which the curriculum is used to articulate ideas about the nation and the subject. The process of constitution is then facilitated through the learner’s encounter with the text in the classroom. This investigation stretches as far back as the inception of English studies in South Africa to education under apartheid, and concludes by analysing examinations emerging out of the post apartheid curriculum. By considering some of the contentious voices that have appropriated Shakespeare to their own end, the project considers how such spaces may be opened up within the current school curriculum. Such an undertaking would require a shift in approaches to teaching Shakespeare, allowing post apartheid learners to engage with a Shakespeare who engages with their context.

Includes bibliographical references.