Dramatic Expressions - Teaching personal, social and emotional skills through drama

Shakespeare, personification and deaf youngsters

Posted on | July 8, 2017 | No Comments

When you were studying for O level or GCSE, did you learn that great speech of Macbeth’s after the death of Lady Macbeth which starts ‘Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…?’
What an expression of the meaningless of life and Macbeth’s indifference to it!
Yet, what might this speech mean to a youngster who is deaf?
Shakespeare has Macbeth say:
‘Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage…’
Here, life is portrayed as a character. In other words, life is personified.
Shakespearean plays are full of personification. Here’s another example from Macbeth, after he murders Duncan:
Macbeth does murder sleep

What does he mean? Sleep is personified, but this can cause a problem for deaf youngsters approaching the text for the first time?
For some deaf youngsters, personification seems to be a problematic concept. Why is this? It seems to have something to do with the way that concepts build in the mind for some deaf children, right from a young age (Theory of Mind).
So, is this a full stop for young deaf people? An end in the road? Is this part of what deters some deaf people from approaching Shakespeare, together with other devices, for instance metaphor and idioms?
Can sign language adequately express these aspects?
Can deaf children be supported to develop these concepts?
These are questions to be answered?
If you have any thoughts, please contact me.


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