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John Cleese on why he would like to play the part of Claudius in Hamlet (Guardian, 31 January, 1997)

"Why? Because my theory is that's what Hamlet is about; not this introspective little ****** whingeing on about his personal problem, but about the guy who is trying to run the ******* country, trying to keep the Norwegians out. I should love to play him as this high powered executive who just can't stand Hamlet.

Whereas most secondary pupils are or become aware that there are different ways of "reading" a play, I am less sure that they are aware that there are different ways of "reading" history. As the research of Lee, Ashby and Dickinson has pointed out, for some pupils, the past is simply "what happened", and that historical sources are a true and unproblematic record of the past: "Many stories are told, and they may contradict, compete with or complement one another, but this means that students should be equipped to deal with such relationships, not that any old story will do...... students who understand sources as information about the past are helpless when confronted by contradictory sources." (Lee and Ashby, 2000, Progression in historical understanding, 7-14, in P. Seixas, P. Stearns and S. Wineburg, Teaching, Knowing and Learning history, New York, New York University Press).)

This ties in with the requirement that pupils should be taught 'How and why historical events, people, situations and changes have been interpreted in different ways (KSU 3a), and 'to evaluate interpretations' (KSU 3b).

Further suggestions for approaching interpretations

Further suggestions for reading on interpretations

Examples for teaching interpretations

Becket and interpretations materials

Bonnie Prince Charlie materials

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