The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2169 Tuesday, 7 December 1999.
From: Geralyn Horton <
Date: Monday, 06 Dec 1999 17:30:26 -0500
Subject: 10.2150 Re: Age of Awareness
Comment: Re: SHK 10.2150 Re: Age of Awareness
>In the music of the language and the force of
>the emotions conveyed by the actors, very young children often get
>meaning that cannot be congnitive. In 1977 ...I took my four-year-old
>daughter. .She sat there enthralled by a play she could not possibly have understood in cognitive >ways. She laughed and wept quietly
My early acquaintance with WS's plays came about because there was no
sitter to leave me with, and rather than give up a rare night out, my
parents took me along to "Othello". They knew that I was likely to sit
quietly, because they and my grandmother had taken me to children's
theatre and puppet shows before. I suppose they expected that I would
watch for a while and then fall asleep.
My response at 5 was the same as your daughter's at 4: enthrallment,
laughter, weeping. My parents, cool rationalists, doubted that I had
understood what I had seen, and assumed that I was picking up the
emotional responses of the audience and exaggerating them: what does a 5
year old know about jealousy, lies, manipulation, betrayal? But when
they quizzed me on details, they were astonished by how much I "got",
and could describe accurately. My family accepted that I "loved"
Shakespeare, and took me to see the plays whenever possible. They
attributed my enjoyment to precocity-I had begun to read at age 3-- but
I think it the normal response of a child who has not been schooled to
distrust her own powers of apprehension.
Musical sensitivity, and sensitivity to the poet's word-music, is one of
those powers: a form of cognition particularly important in educating
what has lately been called "emotional intelligence". Recent research
indicates that perfect pitch occurs within a narrow window-if it is not
attained by about age 5, it can not be learned. Perhaps poetry isn't
like that: but just in case it is, I read poetry to my children and
grandchildren, and I take them to performances of Shakespeare as soon as
they are willing to sit and listen.
As W.S. says
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treason, stratagems, and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus;
Let no such man be trusted.
Geralyn Horton, Playwright
Newton, Mass. 02460