Quotation Murphy, Sean, Jonathan, Culpeper, Gillings, Mathew, Pace-Sigge, Michael. 2020. What do students find difficult when they read Shakespeare? Problems and solutions. Language and Literature: International Journal of Stylistics. 29 (3), 302-326.




Teaching and learning Shakespeare takes place across the world. Pedagogical matters have been the subject of much discussion in the last few decades. This article begins by reviewing that discussion, showing how different approaches – textual, contextual and active (or performance) – connect with the language of the plays. No study, it is pointed out, has conducted an empirical investigation as to what exactly students find problematic when they read the language of Shakespeare’s plays, an obvious first step, one might think, in designing an approach. The main aim of this article was to describe a study designed to do exactly this. It was conducted with two groups of Shakespeare students, one with English as a first language and one with English as an additional language. Participants were asked to identify difficulties in extracts from plays, rate specific linguistic forms according to difficulty and discuss what they think of Shakespeare’s language. Common areas of difficulty included archaic words, borrowings from other languages, coinages and false friends. With these findings in mind, the article briefly reflects on pedagogical solutions that are corpus-related, arguing that these address some of the problems associated with traditional textual approaches by requiring the active involvement of learners, treating language in a contextualised fashion and focussing on the language itself.


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Publication's profile

Status of publication Published
Affiliation WU
Type of publication Journal article
Journal Language and Literature
Language English
Title What do students find difficult when they read Shakespeare? Problems and solutions
Volume 29
Number 3
Year 2020
Page from 302
Page to 326
Reviewed? Y
URL http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0963947020949441
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0963947020949441
Open Access N


Gillings, Mathew (Details)
Jonathan, Culpeper (Lancaster University, United Kingdom)
Murphy, Sean (Lancaster University, United Kingdom)
Pace-Sigge, Michael (University of Eastern Finland, Finland)
Institute for English Business Communication (Mautner) (Details)
Research areas (ÖSTAT Classification 'Statistik Austria')
6604 Applied linguistics (Details)
6611 Linguistics (Details)
6633 Computational linguistics (Details)
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