This isn’t happening. The whole entire class is staring at me, while Anwar smirks. Thinks he’s all that because he lives in a big house on the golf estate thanks to his daddy’s computer business. But his ma grew up across the street from mine, and he’s no better. But the blabbermouth has announced to the entire English class that I’ve got Shakespeare quotes all over my house. Which he’s seen, thanks to him visiting his Grannie every Sunday.

“Do you like Shakespeare, Tazmin?” mam is saying.

“He’s fine,” I say. Which is better than the truth: I never want to read another line from Shakespeare again.

Mam looks thoughtful. “Maybe you know this one, ‘God hath given you one face, and you make yourself another.’ Can you tell us which play that is from?”

I sigh. I’d like to tell another lie, but given the preacher already thinks I’m going down like my sister, I need to keep my sins to a minimum. “Hamlet.”

She nods. “Impressive. And this one? ‘By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes.'”


Now Anwar’s got his fist shoved in his mouth, laughing. I hope he chokes.

“And this one?” she says. “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

“Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Now even the popular girls, the ones usually too busy writing notes in class to take notice, are smirking.

Kill me; kill me now.

“Tazmin, have you read his plays?” mam asks.

“Not really. My Grannie was the fan and she put up quotes around the house.”

“Its practically wallpaper, they’ve got so many,” howls Anwar.

May a golf ball smack him upside the head.

“Well,” says mam, “Sounds to me like you’re going to enjoy our next assignment.”

Not really, I don’t say.

Mam beams.

This is not good.

I don’t understand why we have to read a play by Shakespeare anyway. This is Africa. Don’t we have enough playwrights here without looking to Europe? And why Shakespeare? Not only has he been dead for years, but he can’t be that smart. He was an atrocious speller. I mean awful. The man couldn’t even spell his own name. I know, I googled it.

And these motivational sayings are not right with reality. Take this one from Twelfth Night: Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them. I mean, give me a break. Some of us are just trying to survive and maybe enjoy a little bit of life here and there. It isn’t that we don’t want to achieve, but sometimes life happens, you know?

Like my sister Justine. She was a good sister. She loved me and would tell me all that stuff I should know about being a woman that Ma was too busy to pass on. And even then, despite all Justine knew, she got pregnant and left. Maybe she could have been somebody special, once. But without her matric, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Then there is my daddy. He was a good man. Loved all of us. Never cheated on Ma, at least I don’t think he did. Certainly wasn’t drunk all the time, like a lot of the other men that live around here. Sure he liked a beer or two. But that was it and he made sure we always had money for groceries and electricity and water and school fees. And he never gave Ma a klap. That might not be much, but it’s something.

But Daddy is never going to be remembered in the history books as a great man, or even a man at all. Heck, when he died the newspaper article didn’t even print his name. He was just one of the many men under the headline “Fishermen Dead After Storm” and was part of two numbers: 6 for the number who died, 2 for the bodies never found.


Tell us: Do you think South African learners should have to read Shakespeare?