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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: July ::
Re: Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0668  Friday, 17 July 1998.

[1]     From:   Simon Malloch <
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        Date:   Friday, 17 Jul 1998 11:54:12 +0800
        Subj:   Re: Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Joe Conlon <
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        Date:   Friday, 17 Jul 1998 09:11:18 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Simon Malloch <
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Date:           Friday, 17 Jul 1998 11:54:12 +0800
Subject:        Re: Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare

Henry Griffy wrote...

> Nevertheless, while reading everyone else's responses, I noticed a
> dialectic emerging:  the general consensus seems to be that children
> like to play; therefore, those of us who would infect them with our
> lifelong obsession should present them with the PLAYS of William
> Shakespeare, as opposed to the WORKS of William Shakespeare (these
> latter being best left to scholars).
>
> Perhaps this word-pair will help resolve some of the mounting
> disagreement over Dr. Bloom's assertions?

No, I think that you are only complicating the issue further.  Your
category of the "Works" of Shakespeare is, I believe, quite foreign to
the discussion thus far.  No one - including Bloom - has suggested
leaving the reading of the plays to scholars.  Bloom would say that
reading the plays - the texts of the plays - may be beyond the call of
children,  he does not say "leave text of Shakespeare to the academics."

Others on this list have preferred to present children with Shakespeare
through the experience of theatre, films, cartoons or comics.  None of
them have advised against adults or teenagers, or anyone outside of the
academy,  reading Shakespeare.  In the majority of cases of children
being introduced via the theatre and so on,  the natural progression
would be perhaps from a visual experience of Shakespeare to a reading
appreciation of Shakespeare.  Others, however,  may have had a different
experience.

The most popular introduction to Shakespeare seen in this thread thus
far, described just above,  may best be called a "visual" introduction.
That may be more faithful to the discussion than your "Plays" which
seems to cover everybody who has a passionate interest in Shakespeare,
and who is willing to pass that on (which would probably cover everybody
on this list) - which would, of course, include Bloom.

The distinction that then remains is between the child's capacity to
appreciate and understand Shakespeare from "reading" the plays (which
Bloom doubts, and others question), and the child's capacity to
appreciate and understand Shakespeare *in general* or,  if you wish,
more specifically,  from the "visual" experience of the theatre, cinema,
or lounge-room (the success of which has been amply demonstrated by this
thread).

Simon Malloch.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joe Conlon <
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Date:           Friday, 17 Jul 1998 09:11:18 -0500
Subject:        Re: Getting Children Interested in Shakespeare

I'd like to add my thoughts to this thread.  I know a wonderful
elementary teacher in Stratford, Ontario, Canada.  Each year her second
grade students (aged 7-8) read, study, play a Shakespeare play.  They
then write a book and mount a production and travel throughout the
continent with their production.  Their books are published by Firefly
Press and are absolutely delightful and have sold quite well I
understand.  To date they have done books on Shakespeare's Life,
Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet
(that I know of) and I've bought them all.  I visited Lois' classroom
last year and met some of the kids.  Their understanding of the plays is
quite profound.  The kids have done radio interviews and in one funny
story Lois told me the girl playing Lady Macbeth in a quite gentle
manner showed her understanding was much deeper than the "famous
personality" who was interviewing her.  Her students are normal, active
kids and not part of some special "program".  I think the difference is
their teacher and the "play" approach she uses.

I was a child of the '50's and grew up with a love of reading anything I
could get my hands on-often times Classics Illustrated comic books.  At
the end of each book would be a little blurb which basically said, "If
you liked this Classics Illustrated story, go to your local library to
get the complete book."  At about eight years old I discovered _The
Iliad_ and loved the comic and went to the library.  Mrs. Earhardt (a
neighbor who knew me well) was the children's librarian.  I asked her if
she had this book by some guy named Homer Somebody about the Trojan War
named _The Iliad_  (I mispronounced it).  She told me they had it, but
it was in the adult section.  She then looked around conspiratorily and
whispered to me that if I'd keep it a secret, she'd let me check it out
anyway.  For the next two weeks I read the book under my covers by the
light of a flashlight.  I hid it under my mattress and I lived and
breathed the Trojan War.  No one told me it was too hard to read, so I
loved it.  When I took it back, Mrs.  Earhardt asked me what I'd thought
about it and could tell I had understood it.  When I asked if that Homer
guy had written anything else, she told me of the Odyssey and I was off
on another adventure.  All that summer the kids in my neighborhood
reenacted the Trojan War.  Several years later in ninth grade we studied
the Odyssey in school and that was when I discovered that sometimes you
got to read "neat" books in English class.  That was the same year I
discovered _Romeo and Juliet_ and became hooked on Shakespeare.  I think
the classics are classics for a reason .... They tell good stories, and
all children love good stories and love to reenact them.  Children are
natural "players" and it is through their love of acting the parts that
Shakespeare will grab them.

Joe Conlon, Warsaw, IN, USA
 

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