“Shakespeare” – it’s a word that can elicit one of 2 responses, in my experience. Either people love Shakespeare or they don’t. Both camps are passionate, too. Count me among the ‘lovers’ of Shakespeare.
“Shakespeare” also has a lot of loaded meaning in just that one word. Does it refer to the man? His plays? His place in history? The style of writing and speech? The implicit uppercrustiness of all of that?
There must be something to his works and his legacy, after all, if there is still an active interest in all things Shakespeare nearly 600 years after his first plays were performed. Before summer blockbusters, wizard & vampire series, dramedies and chick flicks, there was stage drama written for an often raucous public. Shakespeare and his contemporaries also had a Queen and her court to please.
It has always been about entertainment first and telling a message second.
N & I have worked out a compromise, and tonight was the test. He wants to get some superhero picture books that are way below his reading level (with his own money). I said OK but you need to balance that dumbed-down stuff with some Shakespeare. He agreed. So tonight was “Hamlet pt 1” … Some reading involved, some cartoons (!!!) and discussion. Pt 2 will be some videos showing performances and interviews on YouTube. I put together a basic outline of what to cover.
No surprise… I have my own hard copy of “Hamlet” but we only looked through that briefly. We looked at the cast of characters, “Dramatis Personae,” the structure of Acts, Scenes, stage directions and spoken lines. Since N is very interested in movies, this was interesting for both of us.
At the advice of a friend, I had purchased some Shakespearean books from Orchard Classics that are novellas for kids. One of the titles I’d bought was “Hamlet.” These books are great and definitely took the intimating factor completely out of the equation.
I’d done some research as well, and found a very good cartoon summary that appealed to my comic book loving kid – link here http://www.angelfire.com/oh/Pretzel/dogsummary.html
I have the videos all lined up to go tomorrow. We’ll be checking out “Kenneth Branagh – Discovering Hamlet” and the production starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart. I felt it would be more appealing for him if he saw actors that he was already familiar with. And, thanks to Harry Potter, Thor and Star Trek: The Next Generation, those clips will do the job well.
After a couple of hours of reading and discussing, I would say this is off to a great start. He has picked out the picture book he wants and now has a basic understanding of “Hamlet” and the Globe Theater.
He also wants a skull to talk to. Not sure how to compromise on that one.