The English teacher who taught me how to love Shakespeare, and more....

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2015/06/25 15:11 +00:00, original URI:

In the past, I've spoken highly of James Todd King, the story who gave me an A- for my American literature paper about the allusion and symbolism of The Waste Land by TS Eliot. He also forgave me many years later for retyping the same paper and turning it in at another school for British literature due to interesting quirk that both countries take credit for Eliot.

In the end, two different teachers knowingly approved of a conspiracy to get credit for the same huge paper twice by taking advantage of this odd side effect of intellectual snobbery at the National level of two countries.

This blog post today is (ironically, given how long I've been blathering on now!) not about that paper, or either teacher. It is about an entirely different teacher, one who taught me about loving Shakespeare. And how to recast a story to make it's meaning more appropriate (to wit, by taking Taming of the Shrew and its morally ambiguous message in modern times and recasting it in the more modern story of Kiss Me Kate which has a more empowering message for women than The Bard could have ever shown himself during his lifetime.

It's about Mr. Fields. Mr. Mitchell Fields. English teacher and drama teacher, and now a drama consultant. Which I'm guessing might pay better than teaching... 😉

He also taught me that being dramatic and "effeminate" is not the same as being gay (since he probably wasn't given his longtime marriage and now adult children, and since it wouldn't have mattered if he were, since either identification is entirely reasonable and valid. And how Macbeth (along similar lines!) probably wasn't gay either, although it is way more fun of a story to play him that way for dramatic reasons.

I have no idea if Mitchell Fields even remembers me or that he taught me any of this with his dramatic and eccentric stylings. But he taught me over two decades before the SCOTUS is taking up the issue that how a person identifies themselves on the inside is what's relevant, not how people see them on the outside. I remember a classmate who was himself somewhat latently homophobic asking me in hushed tones after talking to the class about Macbeth going insane whether Mr. Fields was gay.

"I don't think so," I opted. "He just enjoys being dramatic because the characters play better that way. But I'm pretty sure his wife doesn't think so..." which gave him something to think about, something for both of us to think about.

Years later, as blogs and Reddit would argue about whether Macbeth was gay I'd feel like I had an advantage over people for having worked it out earlier. And a life of serial monogamy and a lesbian roommate after high school and a transgender friend years later have taught me that the opposite of being open minded is being close minded, and I am better than that. We are *all* better than that.

Thanks Mr. Fields!

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