Now that I am a retired teacher, I don’t miss reading and editing all those essays.
One reason is because I am editing all MY essays for my books, my blogs, the newspaper or when I guest blog. But I came across this ditty that somehow found its way into a pile I’ve needed to discard. I have a copy because it is Xeroxed in case I needed it for a future parent conference to discuss pupils’ grades after I handed them back to their owners. What a fiasco this writing was. Prior to retiring in Coweta County, I also taught in Cobb, DeKalb and Rockdale. I am not telling you which county this student attended.
This was their prompt: Much thought has gone into Shakepeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” as star-crossed lovers. It is unique among Shakespeare’s tragedies because it is fate, not character that seals their doom. Agree or disagree with this statement citing specific scenes and quotations to support your stance. Since this is a timed test, you have 75 minutes to support your case.
I corrected the punctuation to have it make more sense, if that is possible. Here is one student’s take:
“That the great William Shakespeare’s famous book, ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ (which I might add is one of my personal favorites) is not so much about it being about character or fate because one could easily agree with that statement or disagree with it. Is it about character? Or is it about fate? The real answer to this statement has a great deal to do with how Shakespeare might have felt about “character” or “fate.”
“Certainly as the world’s most famous writer, Shakespeare himself must have had some thought on “character” or “fate.” What were his feelings about these young people’s character? Or does he lean more to the thought that Romeo and Juliet were held captive by their own fate? While other fine books by Shakespeare are also called tragedies, is ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ a book I enjoyed reading and rereading, really a tragedy?
“To prove one point or the other, one must find (by citing) the specific scenes and quotations in ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ But these quotations and scenes are too numerous to mention in this timed essay. If time permits, I will specify them at the end.
“There is no reason to believe Shakespeare himself was ever involved in star-crossed activities. He may have been but our teacher did not provide that information while teaching this book so I cannot argue that point in this paper. If I had that information, I would have provided it here. As I didn’t, I cannot. That is OK because this is a timed test and with everything else I have to write about, I doubt I would have had time to put that information in this writing test that we are taking. I mean, it’s one thing to talk about Romeo or Juliet’s fate as star-crossed lovers but quite another to add that the playwright might have been subjected to fate, also. Who knows?
“She did tell us that the musical ‘West Side Story’ is derived from this book by Shakespeare. I remember she showed us that movie and the fire escape symbolized the balcony scene in the Romeo and Juliet movie that we also watched. Although it was in black and white, it was pretty good.
“I only have ten more minutes until my time is up. Because of the time constraints on this essay, it has been difficult to prove or disprove the statement about character or fate, although it will always be one of my favorite books that we read this year. I wish I had more time because there are so many wonderful references that should be brought up in this paper and I would if…..TIME.”
Lee St. John, a retired Coweta County high school English teacher, is the author of "She’s A Keeper! Cockamamie Memoirs from a Hot Southern Mess." She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org \