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Archive for the ‘Folger Library’ Category

By Folger Education

 

We’re lucky to have four fabulous summer interns with us at Folger Education—not just because they’re working hard to support our gazillion projects, but because they’re making sharp observations about their time here and the future of teaching and learning. We thought you should hear what they have to say, so we asked them some big questions and are sharing their responses.

Folger Education Interns: Jareema Hylton, Henry Newton, Jack Ludwig and Emma Remsberg. (Image: Folger Library)

Folger Education Interns: Jareema Hylton, Henry Newton, Jack Ludwig and Emma Remsberg. (Image: Folger Library)

 

Q.     When did the Shakespeare bug bite you?

Jareema:      “My love of Shakespeare started in my freshman year of high school. I was required to read Julius Caesar, and I was fully prepared to shrug off the great Shakespeare. But the language, the characters, and the rich history were more than formidable opponents for my cynicism. I fell in love, consumed by reciting soliloquies on the bus, in my house, and inevitably in the classroom. When I read The Taming of the Shrew that same year, I was absolutely smitten. And, on those terms, I learned a thing or two about love. Following a study of Shakespeare’s poetry, Bro. Martin, my then English teacher, slapped the table and uttered in his signature deadpan, “Ladies, don’t ever be with a man unless he can write you a sonnet.” Extreme…maybe. Still, it was that kind of passion that made me especially fond of the comedy and the tragedy this playwright is capable of cultivating, inside and outside of his pages.”

Henry:      “The Shakespeare bug bit me in about eighth grade when I had my first real Shakespeare experience with the text. Before that, I’d read some Shakespeare and been taught it in English class, but the experience of focusing on nothing but Shakespeare for a month was truly enlightening. I had the chance to learn from an exceptional teacher in Mr. Craig MacDougall who really brought Romeo and Juliet to life in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. Through impromptu performances (which I, admittedly, was hesitant to participate in at first) and creative activities that exposed to me the beauty of Shakespeare’s language, I was hooked.”

 

Q.     What is the coolest thing you’ve seen or done so far at the Folger? 

Jack:      “Sifting through the Folger Editions of Shakespeare’s plays searching for scenes for teacher workshops. I know it doesn’t sound very exciting, but is there anything better than reading Shakespeare all day?”

Emma:      “Interning at the Folger means that I get to combine my interest in museums and education with my love of Shakespeare. Since I started last week, I’ve geeked out nearly every day: when I saw a First Folio, when I glimpsed a preview of next year’s exhibits (they’re super exciting), etc, etc. Even when I’m just at my desk, the work is fun – I had a great time yesterday hunting down quotes.”

Henry:      “The coolest thing that I’ve done at the Folger during my internship here has been my work on the Teaching Modules available for teachers to use in their classrooms. This was most interesting thing that I’ve done here because it provided a tangible link to the educational experience of so many students that could find the same passion and form the same connections that I did, for through similar materials, I myself found my Shakespearean passion.”

 

Q.     What’s one thing you want your peers to know about the Folger?

Emma:      “One thing that I think is important with regards to my generation is to not let Shakespeare be written off as old, dull, and dusty (as I have seen several of my peers do) – I think that everyone has a capacity for appreciating Shakespeare.”

Jareema:      “While this may sound silly, I want my peers (and everyone) to know that the Folger is free! It is such an amazing institution comprised of many parts (museum, reading room, theatre, etc.), which happens to be conveniently located in our nation’s capital. So many other major cities are home to wonderful museums and observatories that charge hefty entrance fees. But here, Shakespeare is available to the public at no cost. There is no reason not to visit and share in this wonderful experience!”

Henry:      “The one thing that I would like my peers to know about the Folger is that it’s not just that place that you stopped by on your eight-grade trip to Washington D.C. It’s a diverse and fascinating collection of important Shakespearean materials that is truly important, even today. “

 

Q.     What’s one big way you expect your generation to contribute to the teaching and learning of Shakespeare?

Jareema:      “I expect my generation to contribute a more culturally and socially diverse way of teaching and learning Shakespeare. As public opinion and society changes on various issues of equality and personal freedom, literary interpretations can only grow in parallel richness.”

Jack:      “I am determined to be a member of my generation who will completely revolutionize the ways future generations will learn about Shakespeare.”
Check back later for more insights from these engaged young people!

 

Jareema Hylton serves as the Teaching Shakespeare Intern. Currently, she assists in organizing the Summer Academy 2015, gathering school data, and conducting research in the Folger’s digital archives. She is a senior honors English major at Swarthmore College.

Henry Newton is a Folger Education Intern who is a junior at the Hotchkiss School. Henry has been reading Shakespeare since sixth grade and is a talented athlete.

Jack Ludwig is a rising freshman at Haverford College. Jack currently lives in Washington, DC, and has three pets: a bird, dog, and a cat. Jack also is a Helen Hayes Award nominee for Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol, a children’s adaptation of the Dickens classic, which he co-authored with his father, Ken Ludwig. 

Emma Remsberg is the Museum Programs Intern at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She studies Greek, Latin, and Medieval Studies at Swarthmore College. She just started dabbling in paleography.

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By Michael LoMonico

 

I recently interviewed Russ McDonald, professor of English at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Russ was a resident scholar at the Folger’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute from 1985-Bedford - LoMo1986, and served as the head scholar from 1988-1994. He is the author of The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare: An Introduction with Documents and the recent Bedford Shakespeare.

Below is an excerpt from our conversation.


 

ML:  At the Teaching Shakespeare Institute in 1988, you lectured about the tragic flaw, and wrote an essay about it called “The Flaw in the Flaw” which appears in the first volume of Shakespeare Set Free.  I suspect that many teachers aren’t teaching the tragic flaw when they teach Shakespeare but some still are. Can you explain why they shouldn’t?

RUSS:  I have to attribute a lot of this to an article by Phyllis Rose.  She wrote an article in the New York Times in the 1980s that I responded to immediately on this very problem, which is that the idea of a flaw that brings down the heroic/tragic character is just too easy a way of addressing a really complicated representation of human experience.  That is, if you simply say, ” Hamlet delays.  Hamlet cannot make up his mind.”  I mean, the beginning of the Olivier film says, “This is the story of a man who could not make up his mind.”  Well, no, it’s not.

ML: Please explain.

RUSS: Throughout the middle of the 20th century, that seems to be a common way of addressing the tragic experience for teachers and the problem with it is that it reduces to a kind of formula something that is much more complicated and much more interesting.  I don’t think we’d still be watching these plays or reading them with the fervor that we still do if it were as simple as that formula of the tragic flaw seems to make it.  Hamlet, for example, that it’s just a problem of procrastination.  Hamlet can’t make up his mind.  He delays. And the same with Othello.  You know, Othello’s just jealous.  If he weren’t so jealous, everything would be fine.

Bedford 2 - LoMoThe problem is first, it simplifies matters too much.  And second, it implies a kind of moral or ethical superiority on the part of the reader or the audience.  That is, “I’m okay, Hamlet’s not.  If I had been there to tell him to get with the program, then he wouldn’t have had that problem at all.”  And so what it means is that it allows us to feel superior to the character when, in fact, of course, what is important is that we be involved with the experience of the character.

I tend to think of the tragic figure or I try to get my students to think of the tragic figure as a kind of naïve idealist.  That’s one way of thinking about most of the tragic figures.  King Lear, for example, is naïve in that he’s 80 years old, but he’s an innocent in a way.  He thinks that words and meanings match each other, so when his daughter says, “I love you more than eyesight, more than words can wield the matter,” he thinks she means it.  And his belief that people do mean what they say is an admirable and beautiful principle.  But it’s flawed.  I mean, I hate to use the word “flaw,” but it’s a problem.

ML: How is it a problem?

RUSS:  It’s a good problem.  The world would be better if things were that way.  But that’s Lear’s particular problem.  The same thing with Hamlet.  Hamlet wants to know the truth and he wants to act ethically, rightly, on that truth.  And the world keeps putting baffles in front of him.  That’s exactly the problem.  The world will not allow the tragic character to proceed as he or she wishes to do.  Antigone is really the great example of this.  Antigone works so well in thinking about this, because she’s not flawed.  She wants to give a burial to her brothers.

ML:  Right; so Macbeth is just ambitious.

RUSS:  That man’s ambitious.  Exactly.

 

Michael LoMonico taught English for 33 years. He is currently the National Education Consultant for Folger Education and the author or That Shakespeare Kid.

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By Folger Education

 

According to students at Phelps Architecture, Construction, and Engineering High School, a lot.

When Ashley Bessicks’ students finished their Hamlet unit, her 10th grade students at Phelps ACE High School, a DC public school, were on fire for Shakespeare. They wanted to know more about this play and the man who wrote it, so we worked with Ashley, who studied here last summer, to arrange for a special field trip. On June 8th, the students visited the Folger, where they took a tour of the historic building and its current exhibition, performed on our stage, and—this is pretty extraordinary—got up close with some rare books from the collection: Paul Robeson’s promptbook for Othello, versions of Hamlet from 1603, 1604/5, and 1623, John Barrymore’s promptbook for Hamlet, Ortellius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, and more.

Here’s what the Phelps students—who are pretty extraordinary themselves—had to say about studying Shakespeare at school and at the Folger this year. We feel so honored to have worked with Ashley and her impressive students!

Damola:

The Hamlet play in class and the trip to the Folger Library was a great experience for me that I believe strongly helped me in numerous ways, from the Hamlet essay I had to write for class to the finals. The play we performed in class gave me a better and clearer understanding of the whole story because I played the role of Hamlet in my scene, and the collaboration with my group team helped me to feel and actually understand the real story.  I was able to portray the character of Hamlet in my scene to the best of my knowledge and that helped me understand most of his emotional problems he had and how he made the poor decisions to expose his family’s secrets and to confront his mom.

The trip to the Folger Library gave me another view of Shakespeare and why he chose to write his plays and other literary poems the way he did. I learned about Mr. and Mrs. Folger and how their love for Shakespeare encouraged the building of a library and importing different works that he wrote. Finally the whole experience which included the acting, reading, and trip was so fantastic that it made me develop a love for Shakespeare too.

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Anika:

Hamlet was an interesting play. It included drama, comedy and heart clenching events. It was remarkable. Not only this, but I’ve learned a valuable lesson from Hamlet. I learned that adversities can either make you stronger or make you weak. When facing adversities true colors are revealed based on how you react to what’s going on. In Hamlet’s case, he became crazy.

In addition, learning how to act for a play was an unforgettable experience.  We engaged in multiple activities and games. We did this to get prepared, and to put on our acting shoes. This was great, especially for someone like me. I’ve never been to a play or acted in one, and to be involved in a famous play and learn techniques to help me act and understand stage actions were amazing. I am glad I had the chance to act out the play Hamlet.

Chelsea:

My experience with working with the play Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, in Mrs. Bessicks’ class was fun and informational.  When we divided up the scenes and started working in groups to pick our setting and our costumes we got into the mind Shakespeare and the characters he created. It makes you think where the scene would take place. And how it would affect the character/s. It opens your mind and gives you a measureless understanding of how each character is feeling and why they are feeling that way.

I would recommend that when it comes to teaching plays in high school that working with them like the way we did with Hamlet would benefit all students. Learning this way gave us a chance to be the character and analyze how that character became the person that they are in a specific scene, which in the end then causes us to be more interested in what we are learning. I believe that working with Hamlet this way helped me have a deeper understanding of the play even though I had read it before.

 

Ashley Bessicks is an English teacher in DC Public Schools and an alum of the Teaching Shakespeare Institute 2014.

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We had so much fun at last week’s 2015 Emily Jordan Folger Children’s Shakespeare Festival we wanted to share more images of the kids and the great day they had at the Folger.

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By Diana Darwin and Nancy Howard

 

Imagine children, not much taller than yardsticks, clearly and passionately performing lines from Romeo and Juliet. Simply dressed in blue T-shirts for the Montagues, red T-shirts for the Capulets, and yellow tees for the Prince and his family (a few wore mustaches and many carried swords), they projected proudly as they enacted an abbreviated version of this play.  They were energized—and energizing—nine-year-old children from a public charter school here in DC. At the end of the day, we asked their teacher how the students came to own the language. He replied, “Practice, lots of it.”

 

This is the kind of magic behind the Emily Jordan Folger Shakespeare Children’s Festival: elementary students speaking Shakespeare’s language as if it were written for them (and we believe it was!).

 

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Children understand and enjoy Shakespeare when given the chance to perform it! The comedic spirit of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was alive and well presented by a cast of students who were having so much fun the audience couldn’t resist. Young Pyramus understood the humor in taking such a long time to die…and the audience responded with happy laughter and applause. The community of learners in the Folger Theatre inspired and supported each other, demonstrating throughout the week the value of the arts and humanities.

 

It seems to me that perhaps the most important lessons learned from the arduous preparation made by all these students is their ability to do things they thought were hard. Their work learning lines and presenting characters demands that children stretch beyond the familiar and risk trying new things. We believe that the growth that we witness in these young people is only a glimpse of an unlimited future ahead.

 

Nancy Howard and Diana Darwin both taught Eighth Grade Language Arts and produced/directed theatrical productions at George Washington Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia.  After retiring in 2006, they  became docents at Folger Shakespeare Library.

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By Corinne Viglietta

Which poem is in your pocket ? (Source: F. Nivelon, The rudiments of genteel behavior, 1737. Folger Collection. )

Which poem is in your pocket ? (Source: F. Nivelon, The rudiments of genteel behavior, 1737. Folger Collection. )

Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day, everyone! We’re taking a little break from our Teaching Twelfth Night with Technology series to celebrate the power of verse with you.

If you’d like some ideas for engaging students and colleagues in this national poetry fest, or if your pocket is without a poem (gasp!), keep reading.

When I was teaching high school English, today was my favorite day of the year—and a big community day for our school. A few weeks before Poem in Your Pocket Day, the faculty and staff—STEM teachers, humanities teachers, support staff, administrators, librarians, you name it—would select which poem they’d be carrying on this day. (Awesome colleagues, right?)

Then, the English teachers would get together and use those poems to create school-wide Poem in Your Pocket scavenger hunts for all of our students. For instance, students might have to recite the first line of Ms. Jackson’s poem (“We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks) or reflect on the anaphora in Mr. Williams’ favorite poem (“If” by Rudyard Kipling).

Or they’d have to share their favorite words from one of the many wonderful Billy Collins picks among the adults.  And there were always two key rules for students: 1) you must ask the adult to read the poem out loud before you ask your scavenger hunt question, and 2) poetry should be buzzing in every corner of school during breaks, passing periods, and lunch—and even during class time, as long as your teacher allows!

By the end of Poem in Your Pocket Day, we grown-ups had gotten to read some of our favorite poems out loud, dozens of times. More importantly, though, students had gotten to hear their teachers and principals and coaches—most of whom were not English teachers—speak some verse and talk about what poetry means to them. I loved one 11th grader’s excuse for being woefully late to lunch: she was asking the Spanish teacher about the finer points of translating a Neruda sonnet.

Speaking of sonnets, you might think that they’re the only way to go if you want to carry Shakespeare in your pocket today. Not true. Shakespeare’s plays are full of poetry, and here are just two of the many examples. Feel free to carry one of these in your pocket today!

Poem #1:

From Romeo and Juliet, 1.5

 

ROMEO, [taking Juliet’s hand]
If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
JULIET
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.
ROMEO
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
JULIET
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
ROMEO
O then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do.
They pray: grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
JULIET
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.
ROMEO
Then move not while my prayer’s effect I take.
[He kisses her.]

 

Poem #2:

From A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 5.1

ROBIN

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearnèd luck
Now to ’scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long.
Else the Puck a liar call.
So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
[He exits.]

 

Corinne Viglietta is Assistant Director of Education at the Folger. She has taught English in DC, Maryland, and France.

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By Gillian Drutchas

***We’re thrilled to bring you another series of teacher-created videos from the Teaching Shakespeare Institute 2014. Last month, teachers shared ideas for a Romeo and Juliet unit. This time around, we invite you to watch—and read—their strategies for teaching Twelfth Night with digital technology. Up first: Michigan teacher Gillian Drutchas…***

 

BEFORE YOU WATCH

For many of my students, beginning any new text is daunting, and Shakespeare’s works cause even more anxiety.  Not only is the language a challenge, but so are the names of many characters.  After all, how many Orsinos and Malvolios have you had in class?  This activity is designed to help students make sense of who the characters are and how they are related to one another.   Furthermore, not only does this activity help students delve into the play, but it also gives them a document that they can use as a reference as they continue their study of the play.

THE VIDEO

 

AFTER YOU WATCH

Although I haven’t had the opportunity to use this activity with Twelfth Night, my 9th graders made a similar infographic using the characters from Romeo and Juliet.  It not only helped them to sort the Montagues from the Capulets, but also made them think carefully about the position (both physically and metaphorically) of characters who did not easily fit into one family or another, such as Mercutio and Paris.

Because I am always a little leery of mandating students to use technology that can be time consuming and more trouble than it’s worth, I also gave them the option of creating their infographic on paper or using another digital program.  While some took me up on the offer, many chose to use easl.ly.

As I so often am, I was surprised by the insightful approaches many students brought to the assignment.  Here are a few:

  • Several students chose pictures of familiar celebrities and television characters whose personalities mimic traits of Shakespeare’s characters as their images. For example, Ryan Gosling was a popular choice for Romeo as my 15 year-old girls felt Gosling epitomized Romeo’s romantic, yet brooding nature.
  • Others created color coded boxes for each character, using various shades to depict how entrenched a particular character was with each family.  For example, while Benvolio may have been a bright red, someone like Mercutio may have been pink to show that although he hangs out with the Montagues, he’s not actually a Montague.
  • A few students chose to use another Web 2.0 tool, bubbl.us to create the text of their infographic. However, this tool did not allow them include pictures. So after organizing the characters on bubbl.us, the students printed their creation and added their own images.

A few of my AP English Language students did get to use this activity in a colleague’s Women in Literature course, and their feedback highlighted the importance of having students support their ideas with actual text from they play.  They found that identifying the key quotations to describe each character was particularly helpful.  One student reported that “although we read the play in class, finding the quotes made me look deeper into the characters and remember who was who.”

Feel free to send me any thoughts, suggestions or ideas you might have on Twitter (@missdrutchas).

 

Gillian Drutchas teaches English 9 and AP English at Marian High School, an all-girls, Catholic high school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.  She received a B.A. in English and Psychology from Mount Holyoke College and an M.A. in Educational Studies from the University of Michigan.  She is also a 2014 alumna of the Folger’s Teaching Shakespeare Institute.

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