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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: March ::
Re: Teaching: Acting Shakespeare and *Macbeth*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0167.  Monday, 6 March 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Dan T. M. How <
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        Date:   Sunday, 5 Mar 1995 14:45:30 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0166  Q: Teaching Acting Sh.
 
(2)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Saturday, 04 Mar 1995 22:25:37 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0164  Re: Teaching the Scottish Play
 
(3)     From:   Amy Ulen <
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        Date:   Saturday, 4 Mar 1995 22:26:21 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Teaching "Macbeth"
 
(4)     From:   Mary Tyler Knowles <
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        Date:   Sunday, 5 Mar 1995 10:54:48 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0164  Re: Teaching *Macbeth*
 
(5)     From:   Leslie Harris <
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        Date:   Sunday, Mar 5 21:51:10 EST 1995
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0164  Re: Teaching *Macbeth*
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dan T. M. How <
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Date:           Sunday, 5 Mar 1995 14:45:30 -0800
Subject: 6.0166  Q: Teaching Acting Sh.
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0166  Q: Teaching Acting Sh.
 
In response to Eric Grischkat...
 
The most helpful things for ME were learning about word history and looking up
words in the OED, learning about iambic pentameter and its foot variations,
learning sonnet structure, and learning basic tools of rhetoric.  Then,
writting sonnets, with set foot variations; writing sonnets "on-the-spot",
which forced us to think in the form.  Then, studying a monologue; its
structure, its irregularities, its language, its subtext and its context.
Then, doing actual work for a monologue to be performed, then a scene.  After
this, I BEGAN to understand Shakespeare, and was able to appreciate his works
more, which made me take more classes, which made me want to perform, which
made me...
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Saturday, 04 Mar 1995 22:25:37 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0164  Re: Teaching the Scottish Play
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0164  Re: Teaching the Scottish Play
 
If I were teaching the play to fourteen year olds, I'd emphasize the language.
Some years ago when Herb Coursen was giving a teaching seminar for high school
teachers and students in Akron, we all learned that high school students --
older than fourteen -- have a difficult time understanding the language. I'd
have my class do a great deal of reading aloud -- in unison to begin. Then I'd
have half the class read one line and have the other half of the class respond
with the next line.  (If this reminds you of Peggy O'Brien, it should.) I'd get
them to play with the words, until they were familiar with rhythms, etc.
 
Sadly enough I find that advanced English majors at Cincinnati have a difficult
time understanding Shakespeare's language. I've tried all the suggestions that
you all kindly gave me last year -- to no avail. I've just got done reading a
set of papers on WT 4.4, and I am sick at heart.
 
Yours, Bill
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Amy Ulen <
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Date:           Saturday, 4 Mar 1995 22:26:21 -0800 (PST)
Subject:        Teaching "Macbeth"
 
In response to Jennie Johnson's request for teaching ideas, I suggest the
Folger Library's "Shakespeare Set Free" series.  The key is to get kids on
their feet EXPERIENCING the language!
 
I teach at an alternative school for kids who have previously dropped-out or
have been kicked out of high school.  The age range is 13-21.  Thanks to the
folks at Shakespeare & Company and the NEH's National Institute on Teaching
Shakespeare, my kids are truly experiencing Shakespeare!  So far this school
year, I have taught "Midsummer," "Macbeth," "Hamlet," and "Much Ado."  I didn't
start any of these plays at Act I, scene i.  By the end of the play, each
student had memorized and performed scenes and/or monologues.
 
Most of my students hated Shakespeare before we began the year.  By
experiencing the plays through "performance," they have a new appreciation for
the Bard.  Prime example -- yesterday (Friday) they begged me to show the movie
"Henry V."  I think that is pretty amazing coming from a bunch of kids who use
drugs and alcohol to escape.  They are starting to think!  Thank you,
Shakespeare!
 
Amy Ulen
Lead Teacher
Moscow Alternative School Center
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Tyler Knowles <
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Date:           Sunday, 5 Mar 1995 10:54:48 -0500
Subject: 6.0164  Re: Teaching *Macbeth*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0164  Re: Teaching *Macbeth*
 
I've taught *Macbeth* for a very long time to our ninth graders.  I cannot
remember when they have not loved it. One piece of information that they find
fascinating is that of the Elizabethan *chain of being* for then they are able
to see disruption at every level, from the most psychological to the most
cosmic, from the animal kingdom to the human kingdom. I also ask my students
each to be in charge of a particular kind of image (clothing, for example) and
at the end, having collected ALL the images of this type and their associated
images, to produce a ten minute oral report.  They become much more scrupulous
readers as a result and also begin to connect image to theme. I also enjoy
having them stage the banquet scene. As a preliminary step, I ask them to write
directions for each speech's delivery (and for each part of each speech that
needs direction) and to indicate the blocking for the scene. They must have
reasons why they choose to have the characters move and speak as they do,
reasons that relate to their concept of the play and concept of the characters.
These reasons must also be explained. Then I devote several class periods to
the *hands on* part, the actual directing of other classmates.  It's
interesting to watch as each one has come up with her (it's an all-girls
school) own dramatic interpretation yet is asked to be part of someone else's.
Hope these thoughts are helpful. I LOVE to teach *Macbeth*.
 
--
Mary Tyler Knowles
Head, English Dept.
The Winsor School
Boston, MA (
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(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Leslie Harris <
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Date:           Sunday, Mar 5 21:51:10 EST 1995
Subject: 6.0164  Re: Teaching *Macbeth*
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0164  Re: Teaching *Macbeth*
 
> Most often, my students have a problem thinking of Macbeth as anything but
> an examplum of the judiciousness of the "three strikes and you're out"
> policy. I have found it quite useful, however, to suggest a slightly
> different context for the play. Without too much embarrassment, I suggest
> that they should regard this play, in part, from the perspective of a
> Klingon ideology in the various _Star Treks_. I don't press this idea too
> far, of course, but students seem to understand quite readily the ethos of a
> character such as Worf and transfer that to the play. Klingons are bloody,
> bold, and resolute in the battle because that is precisely what they are
> supposed to be. They are this also when it comes to leadership aspirations.
> They are not, however, as Macbeth is not, merely homicidal thugs. The same
> method also works very well for the Roman plays.
 
Wow--and I thought I was the only eccentric who used _Star Trek_ and _Star
Trek: The Next Generation_ to explain Shakespeare.
 
I like to compare the system of feuding families in _Romeo and Juliet_ to the
similar system in the Klingon world.  For a Capulet and a Montague (at least
until R&J hook up), as for a Klingon, personal and familial honor is
everything.  Any affront to that honor must be answered by a challenge to
combat.  Death is answered by a similar mortal challenge (as Worf challenges
Duras when Worf's betrothed is killed by Duras).  Both are warrior cultures
and display the aggressive values of that culture.
 
I hope these comparisons illuminate the plays for my students, although I've
found (much to my chagrin) that almost none of my students have watched the
original _Star Trek_, and precious few (perhaps one or two per class) were
fans of the _Next Generation_.  Now, either I have uninteresting students, or
there's just no accounting for taste.
 
Live long and prosper!
 
Leslie Harris

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