Shakespeare on the Rocks

27 Jun

I have just finished reading an absolutely fabulous book entitled Shakespeare Saved My Life. The book was written by Dr. Laura Bates, who is a Shakespeare professor and prison volunteer, about the ten years she spent visiting an Indiana prison, teaching Shakespeare to the inmates there.

This may seem to be an odd calling, but it enriched both Dr. Bates’ life and the prisoners with whom she worked. The play she chose for her initial sessions was King Richard the Second, particularly his soliloquy when he is, himself, in solitary confinement, how he peoples his cell with people he has known, places he has been, not talking to himself, but to “other people” trying to make sense of his life, and how he came to be in this predicament. The prisoners ate this up, working through the odd words, but gaining a new understanding of themselves, and eventually putting on plays where they has rewritten the Bard into modern English and modern situations.

The most enthusiastic and motivated – and motivating – of her students is a man named Larry Newsome, who was convicted of murder at the age of 17, and spent ten years – ten years! – in solitary confinement. In other circumstances, he would have been a college professor himself, but . . .

Well, read the book and find out. I promise it is a wonderful read. You will enjoy it.

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