CHRIS THURMAN: ‘That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain’
We can still learn much from Shakespeare as we wrestle with the concept of struggle heroes with feet of clay
It’s that time of year when I teach Shakespeare to a class of undergraduates studying English Literature. The first meeting usually raises a few eyebrows because I present the course in terms of SA literary and cultural studies: we approach Shakespeare’s plays through this country’s history, its languages and its sociopolitical context. So we end up talking as much about Sol Plaatje and Thabo Mbeki as we do about Julius Caesar and Coriolanus. This is an old saw of mine, and I won’t bore readers by expounding on it at great length. But a few news items that emerged in the public sphere as I prepared my teaching material during the course of March seemed to confirm that, while it’s all very well to read or watch or talk about Shakespeare’s plays in and of themselves, this is rarely as productive or interesting as paying attention to the many ways in which they intersect with local and contemporary concerns. First, there was the (inadequately acknowledged) passing of Sonny Venkatrathna...