Teaching Shakespeare in a Maximum Security Prison

Good essay by Mikita Brottman.

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 2.39.25 PMWhen I read Macbeth for the first time, I understood almost nothing. The play’s immediate subjects (kingship, Scottish history, nations at war) did not engage me, nor did I have any interest in theater. I loved Macbeth not for its story but for its language. I was fascinated by the weight of the words, their sequence and rhythm, the way they made me feel, even though they were often incomprehensible. Reading them, whether aloud or in my head, was like listening to a religious service in an archaic language. Not knowing what they meant made my faith even stronger, and their darkness had a profound effect on my imagination.

At school in the 1970s, all you got was the text itself. Nothing came between you and the book. When I handed out copies of Macbeth at the Jessup Correctional Institution, it felt like things had come full circle. Due to the restrictions of the prison, there was nothing between the men and Macbeth. There was, however, a major difference between the prison class and my own first encounter with the book. I’d chosen an edition with a modern translation opposite the original on each page, and although we mostly read aloud from the translation, we often went back over the original, as I wanted the men to get a sense and feel for Shakespeare’s language. —Literary Hub