Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: July ::
Re: Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0650  Tuesday, 14 July 1998.

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 13 Jul 1998 11:19:32 -0700
        Subj:   Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Geralyn Horton <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 13 Jul 1998 15:57:58 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare

[3]     From:   Simon Malloch <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 14 Jul 1998 12:20:43 +0800
        Subj:   Re: Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare

[4]     From:   Lisa Hopkins <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 14 Jul 1998 10:11:00 +0100
        Subj:   Children and Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 13 Jul 1998 11:19:32 -0700
Subject:        Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare

Someone, can't remember who, wrote:

>For example,  Bloom says that "Shakespeare really is beyond children",
>though he does recommend Charles and Mary Lamb's *Tales from
>Shakespeare*: "[it's] a wonderful retelling of Shakespeare, wonderfully
>faithful to the ethos and spirit of the plays, and wonderfully well
>written."

Then Billy Houck wrote:

>The statement that "Shakespeare is really beyond children" is certainly
>not borne out by my experience. Maybe he means "Children could never
>appreciate Shakespeare as well as I do" or "Children could never write
>a thesis on Shakespeare as I have."

> Sounds like snobbery to me.

> This kind of thinking is death to art.

Woah, Billy, let's slow down.  Is Bloom writing about watching or
reading Shakespeare?  I don't know.  If it is watching, I agree with
you.  If it is reading, I do not.

I have heard of some children who could read Shakespeare at an early
age.  I couldn't and believe most can't.  I have learned to read him
with fluidity, but it was hard work at first.

Even now some passages in King Lear-particularly the storm scene- and
bits of Love's Labour's Lost are still difficult.  I know how to look up
obscure words and phrases.  I can make sense of these texts, though some
meanings seem lost forever.  If Bloom means that reading Shakespeare
with good comprehension is beyond most children, I'd have to agree.

Let's think this through for a mili-second: Is an typical child's
reading level the same as an adult's?  No.  Is Shakespeare more
challenging to read than most books?  Yes.  When I was in college, my
professor spent time teaching us how to read Shakespeare, much as
another professor taught us how to read Chaucer.  That was a great
experience.

That is not the death of art.  It is common sense.

Everything changes in the theater.  I do suspect children have less
comprehension there, but an actor who know what the words mean can
deliver the meaning to the audience, even if the audience does not know
the meaning of every word.  That is a major barrier down.  Besides,
Shakespeare is wonderfully entertaining.  Why wouldn't a child enjoy a
production of a play?

I like what my friend Michael Morrison does.  His three year old enjoys
comic book versions of Shakespeare and is rewarded when he says, "A
cookie, a cookie, my kingdom for a cookie."

Besides Love's Labour's Lost and Love's Labour's Won, can anyone think
of a title with two apostrophes?

All the best,
Mike Jensen

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 13 Jul 1998 15:57:58 -0400
Subject:        Re: Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare

Just to add to the pro-kid chorus:  I have been in love with Shakespeare
for a half-century now, because my parents ignored people who told them
I was too young to enjoy Shakespeare and took me to a college production
of "Othello" when I was five years old.  My own daughter is not as
devoted as I am, but she, too, was absorbed by Shakespearean
performance  at a very tender age.  She played the Bloody Child at age
6, in a production of the Scottish Play where I was Lady M.  Years later
she revealed that the experience gave her nightmares-but that certainly
wasn't due to a lack or interest or understanding!  We still enjoy going
to productions together whenever we can.

G.L.Horton <http://www.tiac.net/users/ghorton>

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Simon Malloch <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 14 Jul 1998 12:20:43 +0800
Subject:        Re: Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare

Two responses to my post recommending Bloom's "Western Canon, Jr" seem
to have missed the point entirely.

Billy Houck <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 > states...

> The statement that "Shakespeare is really beyond children" is certainly
> not borne out by my experience. Maybe he means "Children could never
> appreciate Shakespeare as well as I do" or "Children could never write a
> thesis on Shakespeare as I have."
>
> Sounds like snobbery to me.
>
> This kind of thinking is death to art.

This,  Mr Houck, is how you may well like Bloom's comments to appear.
Such hysterical distortion will not do, however.  Bloom is referring to
the *reading* of Shakespeare, the difficulty of which may be
insurmountable to some children.  Clearly, he is not denying
Shakespeare's appeal to children, nor is he denying that children could
appreciate him.  Rather,  Bloom is giving them Shakespeare through the
medium of Lamb's *Tales*,  rather than say,  as has been suggested
elsewhere in this thread, theatre, comic books, videos and cartoons.

If others are suggesting such media,  just as Bloom suggests Lamb, as an
introduction to Shakespeare, rather than the text of the plays,  is that
"snobbery",  too?

As for this being the "death of art" I find quite surprising, given that
Bloom would be the last critic guilty of urging this kind of thing.
There are many other practioners in the academy to whom you should look
first.  And how can your comment be applied to one who urges Lamb as an
introduction to Shakespeare? Others on this list have done so.
Perhaps,  in your effort to retain the integrity of art,  you will
advise cartoons and comics?

Cora Lee Wolfe states ...

> Simon Malloch says he agrees with Bloom who thinks that "Shakespeare
> really is beyond children."

Again,  this is not entirely correct, and I would ask Mrs Wolfe to show
me where I "state" my agreement.  To begin with, I merely recommended
the web-site,  and said that it was a good read.  I then quoted a
comment of Bloom's on Shakespeare,  since it was relevant to the topic.
I left it to the peruser to make his judgement.

However, I must again clarify Bloom's comment: in this "Western Canon,
Jr" Bloom is referring *specifically* to *reading* - and I stated this
several times in the course of my post explaining the website
("...getting kids to read", "Bloom's reading guide for youngesters").
Consequently,  when Bloom says that Shakespeare is beyond children, he
means the "reading of the plays themselves" not the idea of Shakespeare
in general.

Mrs Wolfe continues with an example, to counter Bloom's statement,
concerning the effectiveness of the theatre. Although it is another good
testimony of Shakespeare's general appeal, it is not relevant to Bloom's
comment about *reading* Shakespeare.

I respect Mrs Wolfe's input,  but merely wish to reinforce that here
Bloom is talking of reading only.  If he thinks that reading Shakespeare
is beyond children, then so be it; that is his opinion. Others will no
doubt have different experiences with their own, or other, children.

Simon Malloch.

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lisa Hopkins <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 14 Jul 1998 10:11:00 +0100
Subject:        Children and Shakespeare

It makes my blood boil to think of all children being supposed to be
unable to like or understand Shakespeare.  When I was five, my parents
took me to see _The Tempest_ in the Governor's Garden in Malta, where
we then lived.  Ariel swung from an orange tree, and I was enchanted.  I
have never forgotten it, and _The Tempest_ has always retained its magic
for me.  I'm also sure that the cultural importance of Shakespeare is
such that even when children are not apparently 'exposed' to him, they
are nevertheless being constantly made aware of him.  My own son is now
five and I have been very anxious not to forcefeed him Shakespeare, but
of course he has heard my husband and me talking about what we are
working on, and his passion for cartoons (particularly, though by no
means exclusively, Scooby-Doo) means that he has seen endless skits and
reworkings of _Hamlet_ and _Romeo and Juliet_ (these two plays being
staple fare for cartoons, it seems), and at an early age he christened
one of his toy knights 'Hamlet's Father'.  If he wishes, there will be
no shortage of things to prompt an interest in Shakespeare.
Interestingly, the other two figures that he seems to know all about
without ever having been explicitly told are Frankenstein and Dracula,
who must work in similar ways in our collective cultural consciousness!

Lisa Hopkins
Sheffield Hallam University

 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.