William Shakespeare

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th May 1964.

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Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North 12:00 am, 14th May 1964

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether, with a view to encouraging and retaining interest in the works of William Shakespeare, he will take steps to limit the amount of study devoted to this author in schools.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

But is there not a danger of over-concentration on the works of William Shakespeare in our schools? In looking at examination programmes would my right hon. Friend look again at the possibility of including some of the plays of slightly more modern British and international playwrights, such as Ibsen, Tennessee Williams and Arnold Wesker?

Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , St Marylebone

I think my hon. Friend really must appreciate that I do not in my Ministry decide the content of the curriculum, but I am not sure that "The Merry Wives of Windsor" is altogether out of date.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Is the Secretary of State aware that the grammar schools of England for the last forty years have not only helped children to understand Shakespeare, which is important, but also to enjoy him in dramatic performances, and that what his hon. Friend is asking for, in a wide range of drama, is going on throughout the whole of school education today, and that if there is any allergy to Shakespeare it is not the teachers' fault?

Photo of Mr John Jennings Mr John Jennings , Burton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the proposal contained in this Question would bring the most retrograde position? Is he aware that, apart from the many merits of William Shakespeare as an Englishman, this would lead the way and leave the door quite ajar to dictation from a Minister as to what should be taught exactly in the schools and how much of a particular subject? Is he aware, if at the next General Election or any subsequent General Election we were ill-favoured enough to get a reactionary Government returned, what the prospects of teaching in our schools would be?

Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , St Marylebone

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his supplementary question, but the original Question was "To be or not to be?" and my answer was "Not to be".

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Very good! Ten out of ten.