Shakespeare expert teaches students close-reading

March 11, 2010 — by Lauren Kuan and Karen Yang

During a visit to Suzanne Herzman and Natasha Ritchie’s English 11 Honors classes on March 2, professor Michael Warren, a renowned Shakespeare text expert, aided students in examining Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet.” With his British accent, the professor led the students through key scenes in the play to give them a deeper understanding of the text.

Warren was invited to come and study the text carefully with students in an effort to show them how to decode Shakespearean language with the third- and seventh-period classes. In the end, students said Warren’s visit proved to be helpful especially with following reading quizzes; his teaching also changed students’ attitude about the play.

“One of the biggest goals for having him here in the first place was to really model this idea of close reading literature, looking at the words on the page,” said Herzman.

Junior Chris Chung said, “It was really cool to experience a college leveled professor come and speak to us; his level of intellect was so broad yet so simple. He used really simple techniques that people would most often overlook and forget in order to break down Shakespeare’s words and analyze them.”

The two English teachers had known Warren prior to his visit. Herzman had met him in 2002 when she went to Ashland, Oregon for the National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar for high school teachers. He was the text expert for her group and he has also spoken to her previous International Baccalaureate students when she taught in Santa Cruz. Ritchie was a student of his at UC Santa Cruz and then ultimately became his teacher’s assistant.

“It is always a pleasure to be invited by friends to visit their classes to talk about Shakespeare with their students, and my visit to Saratoga was no exception,” said Warren. “Talking about Shakespeare is always a delight.”

Warren’s next project is focusing on this year’s Shakespeare Santa Cruz play by working as the textual adviser during rehearsal. Although Herzman hoped that more students would have participated in the discussions, she agreed that the visit went smoothly and that the event was a success.

“I was hoping it would be more interactive, and I think professor Warren may have hoped it was a little more interactive,” said Herzman, “but in talking to my students afterward and looking at some of the work they’ve done afterward, I think they got the idea of close reading.”

SSC does two Shakespeare plays every summer. MW is the textual advisor for the whole company and the dramaturge for this summer’s production of Othello.