Secondly, Shakespeare texts’ themes and tropes are widely considered to be universal in terms of human experience (Nig, ek is seker jy kan jou eie voorbeelde hier insluit). This argument is often used to support the relevancy of Shakespeare in any educational context. However, one must consider the question of accessibility in terms of social and cultural aspects, such as the milieu of the texts, regarding the extent to which learners in a given context can relate to the world of the characters.
Other aspects to consider in this regard are ‘minority’ experiences such as gender dominance and alternative sexual orientations. The ability to relate is a crucial element in learners’ motivation to master the texts. Motivation, in turn, influences the level of mastery of the knowledge and skills already mentioned above. This leads us to the drawbacks of a Shakespeare-dominated drama curriculum in the South African Senior and FET phase context. When one considers the paradigms developing from the so-called ‘decolonising the curriculum’ movements of recent years, one has to ask the question; can prescribed literary texts, including Shakespearean plays, assist our learners to come to a better self-understanding within the current and historical South African environment? My opinion at this stage, considering the lack of available research on this topic, is that the Shakespearean world might be too distant for many South African learners to relate to in terms of the aspects mentioned in the previous paragraph.
This relative inability to relate might lead to a lack of motivation, and subsequent lower levels of mastery. I therefore think that more topical texts should also be included in the drama/play curriculum, texts that a wider variety of learners can potentially relate to. Examples of such texts can be found among the works of African and South African playwrights such as Zakes Mda, Athol Fugard, Gcina Mhlophe, and Nadine Gordimer, and perhaps even playwrights from abroad, such as Maya Angelou, Arthur Miller and Thornton Wilder.
To conclude, it is, firstly, my opinion that some Shakespearean works should be retained in the curriculum because of their usefulness for developing fluency in English, and their thematic engagement with important human experiences, as argued in the first section of this document. In order for this aim to be met effectively, however, educators have to incorporate active, verbal involvement on the part of the learners, and also remain mindful of the extent to which Shakespearean works present potentially insurmountable linguistic, social, and cultural barriers to learners. Secondly, I think that potentially more ‘relatable’ plays have to be included in the curriculum in order to sustain interest and motivation over the course of the Senior and FET phases.