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Posts Tagged ‘Romeo and Juliet’

 

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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Guest post by Michael Klein

It didn’t take me long to rethink how to look at Shakespeare texts after listening to Dr. Ann Cook Calhoun compare them to a musical score.

“Reading texts sitting at a desk is like looking at musical notations without hearing the instruments” she said during the English-Speaking Union’s Shakespeare Teacher Intensive two-day, low-cost, non-residential institutes for teachers.

She went on to explain the performative nature of Shakespeare texts, which essentially serve as scripts. The idea behind the intensive institutes is to present a unique teaching methodology designed to help teachers put students “inside the texts, and get the words up on their feet.”  Dr. Calhoun’s message was clear, not only did I need to “play” the “music” in front of me, but also its meanings and beauty would be much louder and clearer with other “musicians” around to discuss the meaning, and then perform the score.

The workshops aren’t just lectures presenting nifty ideas either. The English-Speaking Union has partnered with the Folger Shakespeare Library, which provides a master teacher to present curriculum ideas using a variety of methods, most of which are included in the Shakespeare Set Free Toolkit teachers can take home with them. The Toolkit includes a flash drive with handouts, cut scenes, images from the Folger collection, 10-30 minute performance-ready versions of some of the plays, and a copy of Shakespeare Set Free, Teaching Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Macbeth.

Courtesy of English-Speaking Union

Courtesy of English-Speaking Union

Not only does the workshop create a collegial atmosphere among the teachers in attendance–sure everyone is there voluntarily, even paid to be there–but the workshop also allows a teacher to recreate the collegial atmosphere with students in his or her own classroom on two levels – scholarly and practically.

One scholarly lesson I employ in my classroom comes directly from a lecture from Gail Kern Paster, former director of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Her lecture dealt with the Humours – the Elizabethan physiological understanding of the bodily fluids and how their balance affects human emotional states. Her lecture has allowed me to address, naturally and in context of the play, Elizabethan belief systems as they come up in the texts; Hamlet, for example, when his “melancholy” is addressed. I am now able to enlighten my students to questions they bring up themselves instead of forcing information on them which only I may find interesting. When students see their peers engaging the text and asking questions and getting answers, they tend to be more responsive as well as inquisitive, providing a far more logical approach to teaching students about Elizabethan England.

Courtesy of English-Speaking Union

Courtesy of English-Speaking Union

Over the two days, I worked and performed with teachers from around the country, of different levels and from both public and private schools. We worked together first in cutting, then performing our scenes to the group. It wasn’t just two days of lectures; I was given access to lessons and exercises I could apply immediately and confidently in my classroom. It was two days of learning how we can make Shakespeare far less intimidating and far more fun in our classrooms every time we pass out a text to our students. Since I attended the workshop, I’ve frequently heard from my students “I never had so much fun learning Shakespeare before” and “Hamlet was my favorite work we did this year.” I always smile, because it never gets old hearing it.

This summer the Folger Shakespeare Library and the English-Speaking Union will be changing these programs somewhat by focusing on a single play: Romeo and Juliet. The ESU is hosting these 2-day Intensives on Romeo and Juliet at several locales:

For more information and registration you can go to the ESU’s Website.

Michael Klein teaches twelfth grade honors and AP Literature at Sachem High School North on Long Island in Lake Ronkonkoma, NY. He is a 2008 Teaching Shakespeare Institute (TSI) alum and has been involved in the FSL/ESU Shakespeare Set Free workshops since 2010. He teaches four Shakespeare plays a year – Hamlet, King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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Novels can help engage students not only with Shakespeare’s language (as we discussed in Tuesday’s blog post about That Shakespeare Kid) but also with his characters and stories.

With spring break coming up, maybe your students will be interested in a little light reading that also keeps them thinking about the Bard.

Reading the Folger Shakespeare edition of Hamlet. Photo by Chris Hartlove.

Drawing on some suggestions that first appeared in Folger Magazine, here are a few of the books out there:

The Dream of Perpetual Motion

By Dexter Palmer

“Prospero, Miranda, and other characters from Shakespeare’s The Tempest resurface in this darkly imaginative novel set in a steampunk universe. The Dream of Perpetual Motion is the story of islands—both paradises and prisons—and the hero’s dream of redemption through impossible love.”

Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs

By Ron Koertge

“In this charming and clever sequel to Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, fourteen-year-old protagonist Kevin Boland explores baseball and poetry with equal enthusiasm. A novel in verse form, the book reads like the journal entries of a sharp and observant teen—funny, self-reflective, and disarmingly honest.”

The Fool’s Girl

By Celia Rees

“Forced to flee Illyria in disguise with only her fool for company, young Violetta embarks on a dangerous mission to regain her kingdom. This historical tale weaves together plot twists from Twelfth Night with vivid scenes from Shakespeare’s London into an engaging tale of a gutsy heroine’s quest for justice.”

Here are two blog posts from our archives with even more book suggestions:

Extra Credit: Romeo & Juliet

Extra Credit: Hamlet

Tell us: What books do you recommend to your students? What are some of your favorite Shakespeare-inspired novels for teens?

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Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet

Drawing by John Austen for an edition of Hamlet (ART Box A933 no.2), 1890 painting by Ludovic Marchetti of Romeo and Juliet (ART Vol. f220). Folger Shakespeare Library.

Last week, we took a reader poll to ask which Shakespeare plays were being taught this semester. Top of the list (as of this writing): Romeo and Juliet, with more than 25 percent of the vote.

Macbeth took second place with 22 percent, and Hamlet third with 10 percent. Our write-in option was also quite popular, with Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing making multiple appearances.

Good news! We have a wealth of resources for teaching each of these plays. Here are a few highlights:

  • Romeo and Juliet – In December, Folger Education recorded an hour-long master class for teaching Romeo and Juliet. You can watch the archived version online, broken down into video segments on scholarship, performance, and the classroom.
  • Macbeth – Folger educators talk about surefire ways for successfully introducing students to the Scottish play in this podcast, Macbeth: The Teacher’s Edition.
  • Hamlet – Watch the Insider’s Guide to Hamlet. These videos highlight the play’s themes, characters, and plot—perfect for students encountering Hamlet for the first time.

Find more resources by downloading a curriculum guide for each of these popular plays. The guides include a brief synopsis, two lesson plans, famous quotes from the play, prompts for teachers, links to podcasts and videos, and a list of suggested additional resources.

Want even more? Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Hamlet are all included in our Shakespeare Set Free books, a series written by Folger Education’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute faculty and participants. (Today’s your last chance to apply for this year’s TSI, by the way!) Each book is packed with practical, specific ideas to use in the classroom.

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On Thursday, we hosted our first Folger “office hours” – a digital opportunity for you to bring your questions about teaching Shakespeare. And we got some good ones! The theme was Romeo and Juliet, but we also had some lively discussion going about more general topics, like iambic pentameter.

If you’re interested in seeing all the tweets from “office hours,” just search for #folgerofficehours on Twitter.

We tried to give what answers we could (in the moment and with the restriction of 140 characters), but we’d like to expand on some those answers here.

“Abridge” can mean changing Shakespeare’s words, or cutting the lines.  If you mean changing the language—using modern language instead of Shakespeare’s text–take a deep breath and don’t change the language.  Lots of material in Shakespeare Set Free gives you and your students the path to and through Shakespeare’s language.  And then your students won’t be deprived of  the opportunity–and the thrill–of experiencing and conquering Shakespeare’s language.

However, if you mean cutting lines to make a speech or a scene shorter–this is something that has been done since the very beginning with his plays, and is done all the time now by directors and actors.  We know, for example, that certain lines from Richard II offended Queen Elizabeth I and were outlawed during her lifetime.  And we know that Hamlet performed uncut would keep you in the theatre for four hours or more.  So judiciously cutting the plays is a part of almost every Shakespeare experience.  You do it too.

Knowing and understanding these plays is not just about reading every single line.  Students who experience the language in meaningful ways are likely to have a better experience and gain greater understanding than students who are made to slog through every line.

Here’s our cheat sheet. It helps if you say what’s quoted and bold out loud. Put the stress on the words in all caps.

a beat = a syllable = “da” in “da DUM” (just like your heartbeat)

foot/feet = the combination of two beats, one strong stress and the other weak = “DA dum” or “da DUM”

iamb = a foot that has an unaccented syllable followed by a accented syllable = da DUM”

pentameter = five iambic feet = “da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM”

————————————————————————————————————

Thanks to everyone who participated!

Keep an eye out for our next Folger Office Hours.

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Folger Master Class Teaching Romeo and JulietLast month, Folger Education streamed a live master class on Teaching Romeo and Juliet.

Hundreds of teachers participated, and afterward we asked for your feedback. The response was so positive!

Many of the teachers surveyed said they appreciated the well-rounded approach embodied by our three video segments on scholarship, performance, and the classroom.

Here’s a sampling of what we heard back:

“I had no clue what to expect, but by ten minutes in I was wishing that the class was more than an hour. There were so many things packed into the time that I could not wait to start studying with my students.”

“Yes – the interviews, clips, and examples of actual classroom work gave a direct, personal-involvement feel. I felt more engaged than I have had with some live professional development! ( not the Folger’s, of course!)”

“I think it was very helpful to learn directly from the experts who are closely tied to the content that we ourselves only re-visit one month out of the year. Even though I’ve taught R+J to at least 14 different classes, I enjoyed the detailed glance into several different perspectives of the play.”

Also, here’s what we’re hearing from you about what you’d like to see in future master classes:

  • more examples of in-classroom techniques and activities
  • more lesson planning ideas, both things that worked and things that did not
  • teaching strategies that could be used across multiple Shakespeare plays

It’s great to get this kind of feedback from you. Teachers are the rockstars in our book, and our job is to help you do what you do best. We’re on it!

And if you didn’t get a chance to participate in the master class live, you can watch a recorded version online. Happy teaching!

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We’re truly sorry if you missed our flash mob balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, at the NCTE annual convention in Boston last month. It was a blast! To console those who couldn’t be there, and to offer a happy remembrance to those who participated, we present these videos for your enjoyment.

Our goal was to gather as many people as possible, to perform in unison an edited version of Act 2, Scene 2.

“But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?” begin the Romeos.

“Parting is such sweet sorrow That I shall say “Good night” till it be morrow,” chorus the Juliets at the end of the scene.

Yes, the image is a bit dark, but what counts is the audio – which certainly comes through loud and clear! The second video gives you a view from above.

And now this has us thinking, what other scenes from Shakespeare would make for fun flash mobs? If you’ve got ideas, we want to hear from you! Please share in the comments below.

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As you’re probably well aware, there are bazillions of versions of Romeo and Juliet on film. From the silent era through the present day, the pair has inspired countless adaptations from the faithful to the fun-house.  Below I’m listing a few of my favorites, but please share your favorites in the comments!

R&J Animated

When I was growing up, one of my favorite tapes to rent from Video Scene was the BBC Animated Romeo and Juliet featuring several famous voices and gorgeous animation by Christmasfilms. Using an abridgment of Shakespeare’s text, adapter Leon Garfield unfolded the tragic tale in under 30 minutes. It’s available on DVD, now, but preview it on YouTube!

The BBC Television Shakespeare series from the 1970′s might not be the most engaging to watch in its entirety, but if you’ve ever wanted to see a young Alan Rickman in tights as Tybalt, well, this version is a treat! No matter which scene you want to focus on, this full-text version is sure to have it, too. Keeping with the traditionally set, Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film is still held in high regard. It’s authenticity of setting and the leads’ ages, as well as the wonderful performances by the entire cast make it infinitely watchable, even today. (Though, of course, with at least one scene post-wedding edited out for classrooms!)

Romeo+JulietSome modern-setting versions have kept the original text, as well, most famously in Baz Luhrman’s 1996 version set in Verona Beach. Even while it pokes fun (the guns are named “Dagger” and “Longsword,” for example), the story, edited from Shakespeare’s text, moves with an intense urgency. Additionally, the independently conceived and filmed Private Romeo uses Shakespeare’s text with a group of army-school cadets left alone at their campus. While it falters in places, it’s beautiful to see these young men using Shakespeare’s words to express themselves.

Finally, there are some wonderful new stories inspired by Shakespeare’s inspiration to re-tell the timeless cautionary tale of two warring groups whose youthful innocents fall in love with each other. West Side Story is the most familiar along these lines, and is a theatrical hallmark in its own right. Comparing this musical to Shakespeare’s play when I was a kid is what led me to be so interested in adaptation as an art form. Potentially less-inspiring, however, it’s worth noting that both The Lion King II and Gnomeo and Juliet are also inspired by these themes, though with happier endings for their young audience.

Shakespeare in LoveThere’s not much room to mention Shakespeare in Love, but I’m going to have to. It’s a funny and touching imagining of how young Will Shakespeare was inspired to write this famous play from his own romantic experience . It’s totally laughably historically inaccurate, of course, but it does not claim to be so and is, instead, a whimsical love-letter to the Bard.

This could go on and on, of course. There are ballets, operas, TV mini-series, anime series, and so many other milieus into which this play has been re-imagined. Sometimes these adaptations illuminate different facets of Shakespeare’s play for consideration the next time we study it. Do these examples fit the bill? Not always, but at least we can enjoy the ride. What is your favorite example of Romeo and Juliet on the big screen?

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Well, that’s a disappoinment.

A closer watch of the trailer for the upcoming Romeo and Juliet adapted by Julian Fellowes reveals that the play has not only been adapted as a screenplay (which is all well and good), but has also had its language adapted. Sneakily, too, it took awhile for the differences from the lines used in the trailer to sink in.

And it wouldn’t be such a disappointment if it weren’t being advertised as:

R&J Trailer Still

R&J Trailer Still 2

Adaptation is a fine thing – it can illuminate the play in ways we never expected. Luhrman’s Romeo+Juliet, while garish and dizzying, gave us a new context for the play and a feeling of vitality and importance though we’ve all known the outcome of the story forever. I honestly cannot see the point of an adaptation in which little to none of the original text is used and it’s set in an all-too-familiar setting. It looks exactly like the lavish Italian set of the famous Zeffirelli film, yet the language is ever-so-slightly (and not-so slightly) tweaked. And why? For time? For clarity? What is the purpose of these textual edits? And why, then, advertise it as Shakespeare’s?

I went through the trailer and picked out the lines used, then looked up what I believed to be their equivalents in the Folger Digital Texts to compare what’s being said. For some, it’s a simple word that’s been changed. For others, it’s an entire phrase that’s been re-edited for some reason.

“On honor of my blood, I’ll strike him dead”
vs “Now, by the stock and honor of my kin, To strike him dead I hold it not a sin.”

“I would not let any harm beset him in my house.”
vs: I would not for the wealth of all this town Here in my house do him disparagement.

“Juliet, if your heart like mine is full then tell the joy that weights us this night,”
“I cannot tell of what is limitless.”
vs: “My bounty as boundless as the sea, My love as deep. The more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite”

“These violent passions can have violent ends.”
vs: “These violent delights have violent ends.”

“Then you are mine no more, so help me God.”
vs: “An you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend. An you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets, For, by my soul, I’ll ne’er acknowledge thee, Nor what is mine shall never do thee good. Trust to ’t; bethink you. I’ll not be forsworn.”

“What have I done but murdered my tomorrow?”
vs: “O, I am Fortune’s fool!”

“There is no world beyond this city’s walls. Just purgatory… Heaven is here where Juliet lives. Every unworthy thing may look on her but Romeo may not.”
vs: “There is no world without Verona walls But purgatory, torture, hell itself… Heaven is here Where Juliet lives, and every cat and dog And little mouse, every unworthy thing, Live here in heaven and may look on her, But Romeo may not.”

“A greater power than we can contradict has thwarted all our plans.”
vs “A greater power than we can contradict Hath thwarted our intents.”
(not too bad, but is Friar Lawrence really saying that to Romeo? That’s supposed to be his line to Juliet in the tomb.)

“O, Furtune Fortune, send him back to me.”
vs: “O Fortune, Fortune, all men call thee fickle. If thou art fickle, what dost thou with him That is renowned for faith? Be fickle, Fortune, For then I hope thou wilt not keep him long, But send him back.”

“Take this vial… and drink through the last drop… and there will be no sign of life within you.”
vs: “Take thou this vial… And this distilling liquor drink thou off… No warmth, no breath shall testify thou livest.”

“Give me my Romeo. And when he shall die, cut him out in little stars. He will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night.”
vs:
“Give me my Romeo, and when I shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the face of heaven so fine That all the world will be in love with night.”

This is a topic we keep coming back to:

“Bless thee, Thou Art Translated”
“Shakespeare… in Other Words”
“All Students Deserve Shakespeare”
“More to Fear from No Fear”

And it was addressed in our May 14th Webinar, of which you can watch an archived recording: Shakespeare in Other Words.

What do you think? What could the purpose of this sly translation be? What is lost or gained by these edits? How could it affect the way the audience perceives Shakespeare?

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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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