Monday, 12 March 2012

'Oddball' Coriolanus reminds me of the joy of learning

A cracking movie
Another very impressive and eclectic Bath Literature Festival has just come to an end and it makes me ponder again on the sheer joy of reading – not only purely for pleasure but also for the educational benefits it brings.

Ever since I dusted off my shoes as I walked away from my college, I have said that I would like to do an Open University degree at some point. That is not for career reasons but it is due to my strong belief that we must never give up learning - or realising the benefits of lifelong education.

The link this has to the joy of reading is that last Monday evening I went to the Little Theatre, in Bath, to see a superb modern day film adaptation of Coriolanus.

For those that don’t know – and don’t worry the vast majority of people don’t – Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare’s lesser celebrated works about an arrogant soldier who despises being the politician his role requires and ends up turning on the people who attack his proud nature. It is not, by any means, one of Shakespeare’s easiest plays but the film works extremely well by changing its setting to the modern world, truncating its length and truly bringing the text to life.

Shakespeare 2012
The sole reason I was watching it is because I had done Coriolanus for my A-level. While other students at my school had been given much more famous texts such as Hamlet, Othello or King Lear to study, I felt somewhat cheated to have been left with this rather oddball work and after an initial read through I thought that I would never get to grips with it. But, crucially (and thankfully) I did.

And that is because I had to.

As I was forced to study the book, I read through it a number of times, got involved in plenty of class discussions about it and genuinely began to admire everything about it which is why I was very excited last week to see an adaptation of it on the big screen for the first time.
I took some persuading to like this

But the truth is that I would never have even bothered to read this work had I not had the loaded gun of the A-level exam pointing at me and that is why education is a joy – it stretches you beyond your comfort zone and makes you work at something that you may otherwise dismiss.

Indeed, I had a similar feeling about our very own Jane Austen whose book Persuasion I also initially treated with contempt but soon grew to love as my studies developed leaving me with a Miss Austen appreciation which has stayed until this day.

Your never too old to learn 
So, if you’re a student reading this faced with the equivalent of a Coriolanus that doesn’t initially appeal then please stick with it and revel in the fact that you’re being given a chance to challenge yourself.

As the cliche goes, education really does broaden the mind and it definitely broadened my appreciation of works that other people had realised were great while I was all too keen to sneer at them.

Oh and just in case you’re thinking viewing such high-brow films like Coriolnaus will means you will spoilt from enjoying everyday movies, then you’ll be pleased to know that a few days later I went to see The Muppets.

Yes, from Kermit to Coriolanus in just 48 hours. Now THAT’s an all-round education.

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