Girls need to be more like Shakespeares Cleopatra than Kim Kardashian says

first_imgTeenage girls need to be more like Shakespeare’s Cleopatra rather than reality star Kim Kardashian, a leading headmistress has said.Jane Lunnon, head of Wimbledon High School, argued girls today grapple with the same issues as female characters in Shakespeare’s novels – including issues around body image.Mrs Lunnon said girls should be aspire to be like other role models beyond the likes of Kim Kardashian, “who is a lot to do with inches – either column or physical”.Image and mythSpeaking at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) annual gathering, held in the Bard’s birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon, Mrs Lunnon said: “I think Shakespeare was saying with Cleopatra that you are allowed to be flawed and powerful and brilliant and still have enormous influence.”The thing about Cleopatra is it’s … about image and how she sells the myth of Cleopatra. Kim Kardashian is selling the myth about Kim Kardashian.”Shakespeare’s Cleopatra did the same thing … a lone female voice when all the other women in Antony And Cleopatra are basically powerless.”It sounds trite to say she had enormous self-confidence, but that’s what you would be getting kids to recognise – how I see myself and what I project.”Mrs Lunnon has launched a pilot scheme – known as Women of Will – at her school where pupils will study Shakespearean characters and re-imagine them in contemporary surroundings in an effort to channel some of their more desirable characteristics.Paucity of role modelsPupils at the all-girls school said they more likely to consider Kardashian, who was robbed of her jewelry in Paris this week, and pop star Taylor Swift to be their role models, rather than education campaigner Malala Yousafzai and US First Lady Michelle Obama.Mrs Lunnon, who has two teenage daughters, said: “I have nothing against them but I wonder to what extent Kim Kardashian as a role model is a lot to do with inches – either column or physical.”It”s well documented there is a paucity of role models that are speaking to girls at the moment in Western society and it made me think where else can we look for them? “As an English teacher I’m very used to using Shakespeare as a great source for intellectual stimulation and exploration – but really probing and using Shakespeare as a pastoral educational tool I thought was really interesting and, in particular, Shakespeare’s characters as role models.”Rosalind, Beatrice and ViolaPupils will now study protagonists from comedies As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night in an effort to learn from the way they deal with adversity.Mrs Lunnon said: “Look at Rosalind, look at Beatrice, look at Viola, the capacity in challenge and dilemma and pain, to love, to be vivacious, to be resourceful, to be resilient – they embody it so vividly, and that is a really powerful message.”It’s not that terrible things happen to them, it’s how they respond.”Jacqui O’Hanlon, director of education at the Royal Shakespeare Company, said: “You don’t have to work very hard to get young people to engage with the contemporary relevance of Shakespeare’s work.”As soon as you start putting them in the shoes of the characters and getting them to speak the text and think about the dilemmas those characters are in, there is automatically making reference to their own lives.”  Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img

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