Phyllis who?

I think I might be a philistine—and a criminal:

BBC: Literary greats 'key to English'

A survey of thousands of teachers, pupils, parents, writers and advisers found great support for the classics.

Poet Laureate Andrew Motion said it was a "deep crime" never to have read key Shakespeare works, Paradise Lost or Great Expectations.

I've not read Paradise Lost, I've only read one of Shakespeare's so-called comedies (which wasn't in the least bit funny), and, although I have read Great Expectations, let's just say it didn't live up to its name.

I think Andrew Motion is wrong about the Shakespearean stuff. Shakespere wrote plays. Plays are supposed to be watched, not read. Reading A Midsummer Night's Dream at school was enough to put me off the Immoral Bard for years: You called one of your characters Bottom? Stop it, Bill, you're killing me! It wasn't until I got to see an open-air amateur production of A Comedy of Errors (which actually was quite funny), that I finally appreciated how Shakespeare should be experienced. I also won a tea-tray and a bottle of shampoo in the raffle, which was nice.

Can you imagine the fuss Andrew Motion would kick up if people claimed to understand Jane Austen because they had seen the latest film adaptation of Pride & Prejudice? Well then! Horses for courses, and all that. If it's a novel, read it; if it's a play, go and see it.

Actually, I might have quite enjoyed Great Expectations, had our English teacher not thrown a wobbly with us for not having read it already. He told us we had two days to cram-read it. How stupid was that? Mind you, I could never get into any other Dickens stuff. His idea of a funny name was on a par with Shakespeare's: Martin Chuzzlewit, my arse!

By Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.

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