In recent times the approach towards Shakespeare studies has changed considerably. From concentrating on the written text of the play, we now include other aspects of the play such as theatrical performances, interpretation of the text, the numerous translation of the dramatic text, its postcolonial impact all are taken in account when one looks at a text nowadays.
Shobha Chattopadhyay, an ex-professor of Jadavpur University, Department of English sheds some light in this area in her interview for the Shakespeare In Bengal project undertaken by Jadavpur University. When interviewed this disparity between perceiving and teaching Shakespeare in different colleges and in different generations became apparent.
Critical studies regarding Shakespearean adaptation into films is a common phenomenon these days. But these were not common earlier. As said by Professor Shobha Chattopadhyay,
“This wasn’t really a trend in those days. We saw them outside the classroom, if we were interested, but they were not discussed in class”.
Though performance was a method of teaching Shakespeare in class as used by various Professors who taught Shobha Chattopadhyay, questions were set on the text of the play. “We would have traditional essay-type and locate and annotate questions, like the concept of the tragic hero, the concept of tragedy etc”, she said.
Shobha Chattopadhyay also mentioned the difference in the ways of studying Shakespeare in classroom. When nowadays a more interactive session between students and Professors is generally encouraged, she said before such was not the custom “but students would sometimes put forth questions which would be entertained. But it was never like interactive session”.
Finally the recent trend of reading Shakespeare in simplified language or paraphrase mostly seen in western countries is seen somewhat as a disturbing factor for her. She said,” I am a little conservative in this matter. I know it can be a little difficult to grapple with Shakespeare’s language but I feel that it is good for students. I don’t think one can get the real taste of Shakespeare if you do not read him in his own language.”
These changes are a matter of concern but at the same time it depicts a generation’s way of perceiving and moulding methods of studies which is bound to be different from previous techniques of teaching. However one has to remember that within all these changes the essence of the play should not be lost.