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Play me like a flute: how to use Shakespeare to promote critical thinking amongst university students – a drama-based workshop / Dr Adam Jagiełło-Rusiłowski

Drama creates a safe “no penalty zone” in which sensitive issues like manipulation, abuse of power or fear of uncertainty can be explored from the distance of roles and diverse perspectives. Young people need both direct and vicarious experiences of building trust but also criticism for interpersonal relationships in which they make choices, including the ones affecting the sense of integrity and agency. They need to differentiate when loyalty and group solidarity lead to managing uncertainty or creative problem solving and when they need to resist bullying and manipulation from those in power who demand obedience.
Shakespeare offers excellent material for exploration of the above issues, both in terms of roles, their power relations but also dramatic techniques like soliloquys or asides. His constructs are complex and demand grasping the bigger picture of any individual scene, therefore working with Shakespeare’s plays teachers the critical thinking and humanizes us as potential changemakers. The workshops have taken the participants step by step through the process of becoming a trusted community of learners ready to resist pressures and able to reflect critically on the power relations both in the Shakespeare’s and the modern world.

The text we used is from “Hamlet” (Act 3, Scene 2).