As I discussed Antonio’s letter to Bassanio, expressing his need to see the latter one last time before he succumbed to Shylock’s malice, with two of the tenth grade students I was tutoring.
One of my boys burst forth, “Antonio had to be gay and in love with Bassanio, Ma’am!”
I looked up from the text amused and true to habit I said, “Justify that.”
“Who in their right mind would write such soppy stuff to another guy,” continued the 16 year old.
“Why only Antonio? Why not Bassanio?” I asked.
“Obviously Bassanio can’t be. He’s in love with Portia and is at Belmont to marry her,” drawled the other genius.
The argument had its merit and even though I was a bit apprehensive about what my students’ parents would think of my openly discussing homosexuality with their wards (I live in India where the topic is still taboo in certain homes) I let them continue.
“What do you think, Ma’am?” asked the perpetrator of this deliberation.
My honest reply to this query that I do not agree he was, was as you can guess met with adolescent derision.
“That’s because you are a grown up and do not want to tell us,” pat came the response.
Who could blame them, they had probably been around too many adults skirting the topic. But, not this one, “I respect your opinion, my only trouble young man is that you need to convince me of your view point.”
Teachers in a class full of adolescents, hard pressed for teaching time, steer clear of throwing the gauntlet to this argument hungry lot. But, since I only deal with a handful at a time I love this aspect of teaching the most. How these hungry minds develop an argument full of merit that expands their thinking is one of the pleasures that fuels my creativity as well.
So we argued back and forth.
Their reasoning seasoned with the outlook of their times was persuasive. A man in today’s time does not use the words “sweet Bassanio” and “if your love do not persuade you” and ask “give me your hand” as he prepares to face death, to another man. Who lays down their lives to pay another’s debt, and then beseeches the other for the sake of “my love withal.”
And mine on Courtly and formal language in the times of Shakespeare. The gentlemanly code of conduct and many others. In the end I did manage to get them around to understanding my view point and I accepted theirs. And we read on while I mentally rubbed my hands in glee, waiting, for the next thought that would trigger another break in my lesson and take us on another quest of discovery.