It's Term the first, Week the first, Lecture the first, and it's Shakespeare. Peter Mack bounds down the aisle of the Arts Centre and envelops Tony Howard in a manly hug. Carol Rutter winks at Paul Prescott and coaxes the lecturers all sitting in a row at the front into giving a little wave as she introduces each of them with a chummy anecdote. It's a new year, and Team Shakespeare are ready to go. You can almost hear the cheering.
I do like Shakespeare. I do. But never would I say I had been passionate about Shakespeare. Scared of Shakespeare, brought to tears by Shakespeare, and definitely scarred by the thunk of GCSE 'this is a simile' Shakespeare, yes, but not exactly passionate.
But one term of Team Shakespeare, and I've been changed. I have seen the light, and not just because Carol's favourite techie Steve finally managed to bring up the Arts Centre spotlights after a multimedia interlude. Never before have I taken a module taught by a group of people who so obviously enjoy what they teach; who are literally brimming over with enthusiasm and affection for each other – and of course, the man himself. Despite the fact that the module has been handed down from generation to generation with essay titles and exam papers set in stone by some venerated Literature God at the dawn of time (all right, the 1960s), this module grips my attention in a way that no other compulsory module has or will ever manage to do. Anyone who has been through the second year English course will know of that to which I allude. That Thursday lecture was a nice little excuse for a midday nap (and you wondered why I always took a corner seat).
But how can you remain asleep and unmoved in a lecture where Carol punches the air, or Paul talks about Hamlet 'getting jiggy with it?' or Carol wears her 'festive' jumper, or two of the tutors get to 'read out' in an excitable manner, or Carol and Tony enjoy some bavarderie on the side? You would have to have a heart of stone not to start to feel the love, as you look around the ACCR at everyone sitting there with their Complete Works which look like outsize snack packs of Sunmaid Raisins whilst one of the chosen few enthuses about plotline. No corner seats for me in this lecture. I'm doing voluntary secondary reading, and we're nowhere near deadlines yet. I even bought suggested secondary texts. I know, I know, but it's that good.
The handbook blurb about Shakespeare and Selected Dramatists of his Time really misses out the most compelling reason to do the module (not that most of us had a choice, but still). I tell thee, it's all about Team Shakespeare. May they live on in the ACCR and multiply and flourish and indulge in manly hugs, and continue to spread the iambic pentameter'd word to future generations.