In the last ten years there has been a resurgence of interest in teaching Shakespeare through performance. However, most literature on the topic continues to focus on the pragmatic selling points of how performance makes Shakespeare fun and understandable while remaining surprisingly silent on issues of theory and ethics. By investigating the ethical implications of performance pedagogy as it affects our students' construction of identity, empathy, and pluralistic tolerance we can better understand and discuss the potential of performance pedagogy in relation to the ethical goals of the Humanities. Performance Pedagogy has particular ethical potential due to the structure of performance and the effects of role-play on a student's identity. Lessons learned in the fictional world of a play can be transferred to real life allowing learning to take place in a world of more flexible rules and without real life consequences. Further, role-play also creates a unique blending of actor and character that encourages a compassionate rethinking of self and other. Although imperfect in its empathy, this emphasis on connection is still a moral alternative to the dehumanizing effects of seeing others in terms of complete alterity. Lastly, because performance encourages interpretation, it is a fruitful tool to encourage pluralism, a much-needed philosophy for our students today and one that in relation to Shakespeare can render particularly humanizing ends. Such a discussion of the ethical effects of performance pedagogy itself also focuses on principles of connection that ought to be applied to all scholarly endeavors in order to increase their meaning and morality.



College and Department

Humanities; English



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Shakespeare, performance, pedagogy, teaching, ethics, pluralism, empathy, imagination, role-play, connection