We have teachers ask us all the time how to introduce Shakespeare’s language in a way that’s engaging to students.
One possible approach: young adult novels that weave the Bard’s words along with the kind of dialogue familiar to students.
“That Shakespeare Kid,” by Folger Education’s senior consultant Michael LoMonico, presents just this combination.
Fourteen-year-old Emma narrates the story of her friend Peter, who, after a bump to the head, finds himself able to speak only by using the words of Shakespeare.
What a pickle!
This excerpt picks up the story the day after the accident, when Emma sees Peter at the bus stop and finds his conversation much altered:
I went right over to Peter. “Hey,” I said. “I was so worried about you. Are you feeling better today?”
Peter hesitated a while and before he could stop himself, he found himself saying, “Methinks I see these things with parted eye.”
“What are you talking about? I said.
“But soft, methinks I scent the morning air,” he said.
“Huh? Start making sense,” I said.
“All the world is cheered by the sun,” Peter answered.
“Very funny,” I said. “Methinks you’re an idiot.”
“Go Rot!” said Peter.
“What’s with you and this stupid way of talking?” I asked.
“I never was so bethumped with words,” said Peter. “Tis my occupation to be plain.”
“Listen, Peter,” I said. “You’re really starting to get on my nerves.”
“Alack,” was all he said.
Just then the bus pulled up.
“Well, methinks that I’ll be sitting as far away from you as I can on the bus. You’re really creeping me out.”
Peter avoided all conversations on the bus, which wasn’t very hard because, as I said, except for me, he really didn’t have many friends. I always thought Peter was a bit odd, and I found his oddness kind of fun. But that morning I just wasn’t in the mood for this latest goofiness, so I sat next to my friend Melanie, and Peter sat in the back seat—alone.
He wasn’t quite sure why he was speaking so funny, he told me later. “My thinking seems pretty normal,” he thought to himself. “But each time I open my mouth, these strange words come out. Until I figure this out, I better try to say as little as possible.”
Peter got into school with the decision to keep quiet until he could figure out why he could no longer speak a simple sentence. He just shook his head when Mr. Scott, his math teacher, asked him if he did his homework. Of course he had done his homework, but he knew if he had said yes, he’d blurt out something like, “Shall we go draw our numbers and set on?” He did the same thing in Social Studies because if Ms. Delaney asked him a question, he might say, “To be or not to be. That is the question.”
He wasn’t the kind of student to just sit in the back and keep quiet, so he felt frustrated all morning. He was sitting alone in study hall when I came in and sat across from him. “You don’t look too good,” I said. “Are you feeling alright?”
“I am not merry.”
“Well that’s OK, but I hope you’re still not talking that dumb way you were this morning. I don’t know what you were trying to prove.”
“Why ‘tis good to be sad and say nothing.”
“Huh? Not again,” I said. “Why are you acting so lame? What do you have to be sad about?”
“In sooth, I know not why I am so sad. I have this while with leaden thoughts been pressed.”
“So you don’t know why you’re talking so funny and you don’t know why you’re depressed,” I said. “Well if you ask me, start talking like a normal person and see if that helps.”
“Say, why is this? Wherefore? What should we do?”
I shook my head and walked away, despite Peter’s desperate cry, “Anon!”