Whitefield Academy Blog
Shakespeare: Its Value To Our School
William Shakespeare, the 16th century English writer, is undoubtedly the best known playwright of all time. Today, his plays are said to be “universally famous.” Resonating throughout space and time, they are classics.
Whitefield presents one of Shakespeare’s plays each year, and this year’s offering is Macbeth. We asked Jana Latchaw and Andrew Milbourn, the play’s directors, and several of this year’s cast members, to talk about the value of Shakespeare to them. Their comments reflected his mastery of language, his skill as a storyteller, and the way in which he helps us grasp the human condition.
Shakespeare the Wordsmith
His language, poetry, and imagery are unparalleled. Andrew Milbourn points out that Shakespeare gave us various phrases that we still use today. Examples include, ‘the milk of human kindness’ (Macbeth), jealousy as ‘a green-eyed monster’ (Othello), and “Love is blind” (Merchant of Venice). Andrew quoted the evocative phrases, “Out, out, brief candle” and “tomorrow, tomorrow and tomorrow” (Macbeth 5:5).
Shakespeare the Storyteller
Secondly, “As a storyteller, Shakespeare knows so well what is going to draw the audience in,” Jana and Andrew agreed. For example, Macbeth opens with a storm and witches. The three witches are played by Vivian Waner, Amelia Chace, and Ellie Ziglinski. They talked about having fun with the sheer drama of the part. In fact, it is they who have the most famous line of the play, “Double, double, toil and trouble, / Fire burn and cauldron bubble.” (4:1)
Shakespeare and the Human Condition
Finally, as Jana states, “Shakespeare holds up a mirror to human nature. He presents the whole spectrum of emotions which lets people feel not so alone, and he doesn’t shy away from darkness.” An example in Macbeth, Andrew explains, is the idea that absolute power corrupts absolutely – as human beings when we are promised something, do we trust and allow it to happen, or do we take matters into our own hands as in Macbeth’s case? Asher Peterson, who plays Macbeth, quoted his most memorable line, “(life) is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.” It is almost as if Shakespeare has read the Book of Ecclesiastes and the verse, ‘All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.’
As Jim Selby, Rhetoric and Humanities teacher at Whitefield Academy states, ‘Wisdom is gained by working through what the author has said and how it applies to our lives in terms of what we know (Truth), what we do (Goodness), and what we delight in (Beauty).’ Shakespeare provides a fantastic opportunity to do this very thing.
Jana Latchaw Milbourn
Jana and her husband, Andrew (a former Whitefield Academy student), are seasoned theatre directors. Here at Whitefield Academy they have directed Shakespeare plays for the last 5 years.