On Sunday, 13th December 2020, we had a wonderful and meaningful discussion with Ms. Sophia Bukhari, about literature. He read a passage from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and reviewed it because it should be all timeless classics. By connecting it to real life and the present.
She called for empathy, kindness and reviving the dying culture of reading. The participants joined in with her thoughts and voiced similar opinions.
We’ve asked her a couple of questions to get an added perspective about Shakespeare and literature today. Hope you find it as fruitful as we did!
1) Why did you choose Shakespeare to conduct this reading hour?
Shakespeare is my first love. I first encountered him when I was twelve.
We were introduced to Grade 7 from the summary version of Shakespeare’s stories. Maybe that enchanted me. Thanks to my literature teacher, Miss Amy King. It started a lifelong romance for me. Because I still find new meanings associated with my new developments. Of course, when I read his works over and over again.
So when the idea for a reading hour came up, my first pick was Shakespeare.
2) Why did you select this particular extract?
The magnitude and volume of what you can select from Shakespeare is so great that it’s very difficult to pick one extract. But in my perception, what the world needs most, and this is true for all time, is kindness. Therefore, Portia’s plea for mercy in the trial scene.
3) Your special field of interest is the Elizabethan era and Shakespeare’s works. What strikes you most about that era?
The sense of adventure. The Elizabeth age was an era of exploration, the voyages of discovery, the knowledge of distant lands and different cultures, hence opening of minds – for once you venture out into the unknown, you’re never the same again.
4) What are your thoughts on the literature taught in schools today?
Unfortunately, very few schools are choosing to teach literature now. We have already witnessed the total loss of Urdu literature from the lives of our children. This is a very sad situation. With the decline in reading habits, English literature (English is also a source of guidance) is being pushed aside because it is not necessary.
5) Many people don’t realize the importance of literature, how would you explain to them what it can do to an individual and society?
For me, the study of literature is the basic building block of any society. My first daastan-go was my grandmother and tucked in with her under her cozy razai, I absorbed a fascination with stories, and developed an appreciation of beautiful words.
For society as well as for individuals, the definition of beautiful stories fosters our soft, emotional side and to empathize with its characters, we learn perspectives on how to live our lives and be part of a larger society.
6) How do we make Shakespearean literature accessible to children?
Not only Shakespeare but anyone should be encouraged to read and appreciate it. First and foremost, make sure there are plenty of books in and around your home. Believe it that this will be your best investment ever. Because, if the books are easily accessible, the child will naturally pick them up. Talk to the children and read to them and see what they are reading.
To make children love something, the parent has to love it first – and it’s never too late to fall in love with books – they will be the best friends you’ll ever have, so I recommend not just Shakespeare, but any reading, to all. I did love it though when in an interview, Barack Obama was asked about his favorite book and he answered “The Collected Works of William Shakespeare”!