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Posts Tagged ‘introducing Shakespeare’

 

As you probably know, April 23 is Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, and the Folger Education staff wants to get everyone involved in the celebration. So we are hosting a Balcony Scene Flash Mob Festival. It’s simple. It’s fun.  And it will get a lot of people speaking Shakespeare.

UNCWe hope to get groups from all across the country to take part.

So please join us!

All you have to do is use this Edited Balcony Scene, divide your group into Romeos and Juliets, and read the scene chorally.  As shown in the photo to the right (performed at the University of Northern Colorado in February), the definition of a balcony is very loose. It can be a stage in the school auditorium, the top row of the bleachers, the roof of a building, chairs in the cafeteria, or what you will. The photo below was taken at the Folger Library’s Flash Mob during the April 6 birthday bash and open house.

Folger flash

We will be posting all the submitted videos on our own YouTube page. While this is not strictly a competition, we will acknowledge and award entries in a variety of categories such as most creative or unusual setting, best costumes, most passionate or whatever else we think of at the time.

Just be creative and have fun!

Here are the rules:

  • You need to use the Official Edited Script of the Balcony Scene from Romeo and Juliet that we’ve posted here. It takes about 3 1/2 minutes to perform.
  • The scene needs to be performed chorally–all the Romeos must speak together and all the Juliets must reply together.
  • Have the Juliets elevated somewhere and the Romeos standing below them.
  • Record the scene on video and upload it to YouTube.
  • Send the YouTube link by April 30 to EducationGroup@folger.edu.
A scene from Romeo and Juliet. By John Massey Wright. Folger Shakespeare Library.

A scene from Romeo and Juliet. By John Massey Wright. Folger Shakespeare Library.

In an earlier post we wrote about the Balcony Scene Flash Mob in Boston that broke the record previously held by the University of Northern Colorado.

We’re hoping some group will break the record of 160 “actors” this month, so consider this a challenge.

But even if your “mob” consists of 20 fifth-grade students or a group of senior citizens at the local assisted living center or a class of theater kids at the local mall, we want to see it. And if you can get any local media to cover your mob event, let us know that too.

Any questions? If so, contact me at Mlomonico@Folger.edu

And be sure to check out our Romeo and Juliet board on Pinterest for a collection of beautiful images and famous quotations from the play.

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A while back I wrote Shakespeare in Other Words citing the reasons teachers should avoid using “No Fear” or “Made Easy” or any other parallel text edition in their classroom. Needless to say, it generated over 40 comments, including some from an author of “The Shakespeare Novels.”

But now I realize that simply dismissing those books wasn’t enough. What should teachers do, who not only find it difficult to teach the real stuff, but who may struggle with the language themselves? So here are a few suggestions:

  1. Since students can access the No Fear versions online for free, why not suggest or even encourage them to read them at home. And then read and teach the real text in class.
  2. Start with “baby steps.”
  3. Begin with a 15 Minute Play. There are eight of them on the Folger site.
  4. Pull out 30 juicy lines from the play you’ll be studying, put each line on a 3×5 note card, and give one to each student. Then they find a partner, come up with a scene using only the words on the cards, and perform the scene for the class.
  5. Instead of Made Easy texts, create a Made Shorter text. Using the Folger Digital Texts, copy a scene, paste it into a Word file, and edit it to a version that your students can handle.
  6. If you want to teach Iambic Pentameter, watch the video called Living Iambic Pentameter, but DO NOT SHOW IT TO YOUR CLASS. Instead, do your own version in class. No kid wants to watch other kids having fun.

Those are just a few ways to get past the fear and teach Shakespeare for Real. Post your comments below with other suggestions.

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Image~by Emily DenBleyker

The Taming of the Shrew came first, when I was 7 or 8 – a community theatre production in their tiny theatre in the middle of a cornfield. Then, when I was 9 and bored with the 4th grade reading list, my teacher gave me special permission to read Romeo and Juliet for a book report. My mom and I read it together: first the story from Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, then the actual play, side by side on the couch, trading roles, talking through each scene, playing with the language.

My mother started buying every Shakespeare DVD she could find – filmed theatre productions, movies, specials about Shakespeare – and we would watch them together on quiet nights. I would watch them by myself in my free time or while I was doing homework, internalizing Juliet’s “Wherefore art thou,” and Beatrice’s “What fire is in mine ears?”

I’ve spent this semester as an intern in the Education Division of the Folger, and I’m finding myself more in love with these words than ever before – both how and what they say. It would be cliché to extol the magnificence of Shakespeare’s metaphors and the intricacies of his characterizations, but what I’m marveling over are the lessons and truths he could convey.

At the Secondary School Festival, I saw students who had found the sweetness in the lines years before and I saw students discovering the language for the first time. No matter how new they were to this crazy world we call the theatre, they learned what it feels like to stand in front of a few hundred people and say centuries-old lines that still apply to today. The costumes and the details are a little different, but these stories are told everyday in real life: people lie, fall in love, pretend to be something they’re not.

The biggest thing I’ve learned these past few months is this: to be able to teach these lessons, we have to learn them ourselves. Not literally – I’m not advocating usurping your brother’s dukedom just so you can learn how it feels to be reunited.  In the broader sense, if you look for Shakespeare’s stories in everyday life, you will find them. The words will come alive on the page and your life will be that much more dramatic (in a good way). 

Emily DenBleyker is a junior at Gordon College in Massachusetts. She is spending this semester in Washington DC with the American Studies Program and interning with the Education Division of the Folger Shakespeare Library. After graduating next May, Emily hopes to work in theatre education. Or literature. Or film criticism. Or marketing. 

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    There may be snow on the ground, but Spring is in the air at the Folger.  As the Cherry Blossoms in Washington prepare to bloom, so do our local budding Bards as they prepare for the student festivals right around the corner. While the high school students will stomp the boards in just a couple of weeks at our annual Secondary School Festival, their younger comrades in the elementary grades will give them a run for their money in mid-May during our 34th Annual Children’s Festival. The work of all of these youngsters in their grappling of the text, their connections to the intricate characters and relationships in Shakespeare’s plays is sometimes inconceivable and without a doubt exciting.

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 On the heels of our Children’s Festival is the equally exciting Conference on Teaching Shakespeare in the Elementary Classroom. So for all of those who would like to know what this work looks like, now is your chance to join the movement. We are excited to host both local and national educators as we experience the incredible work being done with primary level students and Shakespeare.

   As we share our stories, we’ll also experience and hear the stories behind two newly published books that should be welcomed additions to your Shakespeare for kids library.

Internationally acclaimed playwright Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor, Crazy for You) joins us as our keynote speaker. Adding author to his long list of accomplishments, Ken will talk and give a demonstration from his newly published book How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare (available June 11). We’ll also be joined by Daeshin Kim, writer and composer of the picture book and CD, A Horse with Wings: Songs for Children Sung by Characters from Shakespeare. Hear about Daeshin’s journey to re-creating the stories of Shakespeare’s characters through music and the voice of a child.  

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To see a full list of our conference presenters and to register, check out http://www.folger.edu/eec. 

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Why are there so many “modern” versions of Shakespeare’s plays?

There are plenty of great books that don’t need translated versions. We don’t look for easier versions of Dickens, Hawthorne, Melville, or Fitzgerald (or at least, I hope we don’t.) But re-doing Shakespeare seems to be a favorite sport of publishers.

In a way, we can trace it back to Nahum Tate in the 1680′s and Thomas Bowdler in 1818, but they had totally different agendas than today’s creators. Tate wanted happy endings and Bowdler wanted to clean up the naughty bits.[I'll talk about them in my next post.]

We at the Folger have a standard answer when someone asks us what we think of “modern” versions of Shakespeare’s texts:

“IF YOU’RE NOT GOING TO USE SHAKESPEARE’S WORDS, DON’T DO SHAKESPEARE.”

Why dumb down all those beautiful words and images for the sake of making it easier? We’ve found that if you’re teaching Shakespeare in an active, performance-based approach, the language becomes less of on obstacle.

It’s the words that matter. Here’s an example of a passage from R&J which I’ve written with an interlinear version with the No Fear version:


Shakespeare: Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!

No Fear: Oh, she shows the torches how to burn bright!

Shakespeare: It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night

No Fear: She stands out against the darkness

Shakespeare: Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear,

No Fear: like a jeweled earring hanging against the cheek of an African.

Shakespeare: Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear.

No Fear: Her beauty is too good for this world; she’s too beautiful to die and be buried.

Shakespeare:  So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows As yonder lady o’er her fellows shows.

No Fear: She outshines the other women like a white dove in the middle of a flock of crows.

Shakespeare: The measure done, I’ll watch her place of stand,

No Fear: When this dance is over, I’ll see where she stands

Shakespeare: And, touching hers, make blessèd my rude hand.

No Fear: and then I’ll touch her hand with my rough and ugly one.

Shakespeare: Did my heart love till now?

No Fear: Did my heart ever love anyone before this moment?

Shakespeare: Forswear it, sight!

No Fear: My eyes were liars, then

Shakespeare: For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.

No Fear: because I never saw true beauty before tonight.

See the difference? Post your comments below as to the effect of the translation.

I almost hesitate to mention more of these, but they are worth discussing here. The following are for the print empaired student:

But back to print. Here are the candidates:

  • Kent Richmond has created what he calls “verse translations” of several plays and shows why his versions are superior to what he calls the “dumbed down prose versions.”  Here’s his translation of the Prologue from R&J.
  • No Fear Shakespeare is part of Spark Notes. Here’s their parallel-text version of the same Prologue.
  • Barrons have moved on from their Shakespeare Made Easy series with the death of  their author, Alan Durband. They now have a series called Simply Shakespeare which seems equally bad.
  • There’s also a series of Shakespeare Novels by Paul Illidge.  Here’s the opening line from Macbeth: “A summer storm moves on over the barren and deserted countryside of Scotland during the Middle Ages, leaving the rain-soaked fields cloaked in clouds of fog.” Oh my.

I won’t get into the manga and graphic versions of the plays, most of which retain the original language and are quite good.

One of my students recently said to me, “You have some strong opinions.” Yes, I do, but if you feel that there’s room for these translations in your class, I encourage you to post your comments below.

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I’m a big fan of BBC America and one of their latest shows is State of Play. But on Episode Three  last night, Idris Elba, (you may remember him as Stringer Bell on The Wire), the host on what the network refers to Dramaville, introduced that episode by saying, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive! and attributed it to Shakespeare. Wrong! It was actually Sir Walter Scott in his epic poem, Marmion.

Shame on you, BBC America.

So that got me thinking of other quotes falsely attributed to Shakespeare. Here are just a few:

“No man is an island.” - John Donne Meditation 17

“Come live with me and be my love.”- Christopher Marlowe  The Passionate Shepherd to his Love

“For you suffer fools gladly, seeing yourself as wise.” - II Corinthians 11:19.

“Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” – Tennyson In Memoriam

“For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.” - 14th-Century proverb

“Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast.”  William Congreve The Mourning Bride

“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned,
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”
 - William Congreve The Mourning Bride

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach.”
 - Elizabeth Barrett Browning Sonnets from the Portuguese

Can you think of any more? If so, please add a comment below.

But since today–December 22–is the first day of Winter, here are a few things Shakespeare had to say about that season:


Thou knowest, winter tames man, woman, and beast. The Taming of the Shrew

Thus sometimes hath the brightest day a cloud;
And after summer evermore succeeds
Barren winter, with his wrathful nipping cold:
So cares and joys abound, as seasons fleet.  2 Henry 6

Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The seasons’ difference, as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind,
Which, when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile. As You Like It

What freezings I have felt, what dark days seen,
What old December’s bareness everywhere! Sonnet 97

Winter’s not gone yet, if the wild geese fly that way.  King Lear

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This summer my nieces and nephews have been to dance, cheerleading , basketball, science, and EVEN computer animation camps!  They play acting too, singing/dancing playing pretend, etc (my nephew played the son in The Winter’s Tale at school through Shakespeare Steps Out!). 

BUT AS A FAMILY spending a Saturday morning during the summer at the librarywas not something she thought would go over well until I told her about our family series, Shake Up Your Saturdays!

The girls anticipate learning an Elizabethan dance, the boys look forward to their First Folio scavenger hunt, and my sister is enthusiastic AND encouraged. It’s free! :)

Join us this Saturday, August 6, for a Folger family program on Shakespeare and the First Folio. It’s from 10am – 11am and geared towards kids ages 6 – 12. To reserve your spot, call 202.675.0395 or e-mail educate@folger.edu.

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The first of April, some do say
Is set apart for All Fool’s Day;
But why the people call it so
Nor I, nor they themselves, do know,
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment. – Anonymous

What better day to discuss Shakespeare’s Fools than April 1. So here are some of the fools that appear in the plays:

Bottom and Puck  in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing
Touchstone in As You Like It
The Fool in King Lear
Trinculo in The Tempest
Costard in Love’s Labours Lost
Feste in Twelfth Night
Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice
Lavache in All’s Well That Ends Well
The Gravediggers (and Yorick) in Hamlet
A Fool in Timon of Athens
Thersites in Troilus and Cressida
Clown in Othello
Dromio of Syracuse and Dromio of Ephesus in The Comedy of Errors
Launce and Speed in Two Gentlemen of Verona
Citizen in Julius Caesar
Pompey in Measure for Measure
Clown in The Winter’s Tale
Grumio in The Taming of the Shrew
The Porter in Macbeth

 It also seems that the word fool appears in every play. Here are a sampling:

  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Lord, what fools these mortals be!
  • All’s Well That Ends Well: Go to, thou art a witty fool.
  • Antony and Cleopatra: Out, fool! I forgive thee for a witch.
  • As You Like It: ‘The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.’
  • Hamlet: Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!
  • Julius Caesar: What should the wars do with these jigging fools?
  • King Lear: Dost thou know the difference, my boy, between a bitter fool and a sweet fool?
  • Macbeth: Why should I play the Roman fool, and die on mine own sword?
  • Othello: Thus do I ever make my fool my purse.
  • Romeo and Juliet: O, I am fortune’s fool!
  • The Taming of the Shrew: Away, you three-inch fool! I am no beast.
  • The Tempest: Was I, to take this drunkard for a god and worship this dull fool!

And finally, in Twelfth Night, where the word “Fool” appears 53 times, Viola says:

This fellow is wise enough to play the fool;
And to do that well craves a kind of wit:
He must observe their mood on whom he jests,
The quality of persons, and the time,
And, like the haggard, cheque at every feather
That comes before his eye. This is a practise
As full of labour as a wise man’s art
For folly that he wisely shows is fit;
But wise men, folly-fall’n, quite taint their wit.

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In addition to teaching Shakespeare as part of school curriculum, teachers sometimes find themselves working with the Bard outside of class. I recently received an inquiry from a teacher who works with students in grades 6 and 7 who has been assigned the task of creating a Shakespeare club – the catch is that not all of the students will be volunteering to join; some will be required to participate in the club. 

We have several resources that can help make the study of Shakespeare fun and rewarding, and might even turn reluctant students into enthusiastic learners. The key is to approach the subject with an active, curious, and open mind – look at the experience as a way to share the learning process with your students.

1. Make it about them. When students have ownership of the process and the work, their creativity has an opportunity to shine. Interpreting Character is one example of an effective exercise to get students actively thinking about characters and motivation. It’s also an excellent technique for introducing a play, and you don’t have to start with Act 1, Scene 1.

2. Make it unexpected. Surprise your students by asking them to create podcasts or short videos as part of their Shakespeare study, or to present their own version of a key scene.  Technology and being asked to do something new and different can often win over students who aren’t sure that they like literature. Remixing Shakespeare shows you how to make audio mashups with your students.  

3. Make it participatory. We believe that the best way to learn Shakespeare is to do Shakespeare. Our Shakespeare for Kids webpages have proven very successful with teachers, so that’s a good place to start.  You’ll find activities, games, and ready-to-use scripts, as well as other resources about Shakespeare and the Folger Shakespeare Library. 

And now, I open the floor to other suggestions.  If you have a Shakespeare Club that you are currently advising, what suggestions do you have for getting a club off the ground and hooking students from a variety of backgrounds into the wonders of the Bard?

- Bob Young

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