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By Corinne Viglietta

 

Shakespeare was a maker (39 plays, 154 sonnets, lots of new words, and more), and he wrote about making things, too. In Shakespeare we meet makers of all kinds: noisemakers, grave-makers, jig-makers, hornmakers, peacemakers, ballad-makers, ropemakers, gallows-makers, shoemakers, cuckold-makers, card-makers, widow-makers, sailmakers, and makers of manners.

Fast-forward four centuries. There’s buzz around the Maker Movement in education, and students all over seem to be tinkering, creating, hacking, and working on maker projects that cross—and disrupt—traditional subject areas. As a result, experts say, students are becoming skilled innovators and problem-solvers who feel confident and excited about new challenges.

When we think of today’s (and tomorrow’s) brave new makers, we might picture 3-D printers, gadgets, and design labs. That makes sense, but doesn’t it also make sense to talk about making in the English classroom?

 

"Making"

What does “making” look like in the English classroom? And where does Shakespeare fit in? (Photo credit: Corinne Viglietta)

 

According to Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager, a good maker project can happen almost anywhere. It simply must engage students in the creative process and have these 8 elements.

Does making language, making meaning, count? Was Shakespeare a maker in today’s sense of the word? Can—and should—English classes make other stuff, too? What lessons can we learn from hands-on makerspaces? How can making be assessed? Tell us what you think—and show us what making looks like in your classroom.

 

Are your students makers? How does making play a part in your teaching of Shakespeare and other texts?

 

 

Let’s start a conversation! We’re collecting your responses and sharing them on Twitter. Tweet us (@FolgerEd) your stories and images, or email them to me at cviglietta@folger.edu.

 

 

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

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by Chris Lavold

A speech or communications class can be the perfect setting for a small dose of Shakespeare to get the students comfortable with being in front of their peers and completing a close reading of a text.  When my class begins persuasive speaking, I try to make time to spend a day or two with Shakespeare’s language.  There is a great lesson plan on the ReadWriteThink  that challenges the students to analyze famous speeches using the rhetorical triangle. As I read the objectives for this lesson, my mind began racing towards Act 3, scene 2 of Julius Caesar.  Here they are straight from the lesson plan: (more…)

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Folger Library Exterior: Bas relief: Julius Caesar

by Gina Voskov

One of the courses I teach at my school is 6th grade Humanities, and next up in our year’s curriculum plan is learning about Ancient Greece and Rome. I’m excited about getting the kids up and out of their seats for this class, and the best way I can do that is by getting them to interact with Shakespeare.

For this unit, I’ll be giving them some Julius Caesar, the Cinna the Poet scene in particular. This scene never fails to get all kids speaking, thinking, and moving. It’s also just about the easiest scene in the books with respect to language–there’s none of that stuff that turns so many kids away–the thee‘s and thine‘s and whatnot. I love giving this scene to groups of kids at the start of the year because it’s a great way to build community. But now that we are 3/4ths of the way through the year, I’m going to open our unit with performance. This scene will definitely have them asking questions about history, which is what we teachers hope for, right? (more…)

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I was speaking with Folger Theatre’s resident Dramaturg, Michele Osherow, this morning as she prepared for an on-camera interview. While catching up, I mentioned that my husband would be working on a performance of Measure for Measure during his first year of graduate school – one of my least favorite plays. Michele replied that Measure for Measure is one of her favorites because it is so messy and unsettling, the same reasons I don’t like it.

Isabella (Karen Peakes), Mark Zeisler (Duke), Measure for Measure, Folger Theatre, 2006. Directed by Aaron Posner. Carol Pratt.

Isabella (Karen Peakes), Mark Zeisler (Duke), Measure for Measure, Folger Theatre, 2006. Directed by Aaron Posner. Carol Pratt.

Michele went on to point out that while her college students express distaste for Measure for Measure or Troilus and Cressida during her class, those complicated and uncomfortable plays are the ones they return to explore in their final papers and presentations. They’re the plays that stick in their minds because there’s so much to explore even as it discomfits us.

My favorite plays tend to contain comic banter. I like how the words intersect and dance around each other, especially out loud, in plays like Much AdoTwelfth Night, and Romeo and Juliet (before it becomes a tragedy). I also enjoy the bumbling comic characters in Midsummer, as you already know, because I feel so close to Shakespeare as a player in those scenes. I enjoy talking about the use of language and the playing with the several meanings of words in performance.

Kate Eastwood Norris (Beatrice), P.J. Sosko (Benedick), Much Ado About Nothing, Folger Theatre, 2005. Directed by Nick Hutchison. Photo: Carol Pratt. Carol Pratt.

Kate Eastwood Norris (Beatrice), P.J. Sosko (Benedick), Much Ado About Nothing, Folger Theatre, 2005. Directed by Nick Hutchison. Photo: Carol Pratt. Carol Pratt.

For Michele, those complicated plays are very close in nature to modern theatrical experiences. They make us question how we feel and what we think about the world we live in – just as Shakespeare’s audience must have felt and thought. Is marriage a reward or a punishment? Is your best friend a good or bad person – are you? Who do you relate to: the villain or the hero – or is there a character you can identify as either role?

This reminded me of several videos in our Teacher to Teacher series – especially ‘Beauty in Difficulty‘ from Kristyn Rosen on plays that will challenge her students. Additionally, there is a whole section of videos related to teachers responding to the question “What is your favorite Shakespeare play to teach?” They cite relatability, good discussions, fun, and playable moments as their best reasons for one play or another.

What is your favorite play to read, see, teach, or talk about?

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It all started with a Blog entry I posted here last week called Shakespeare in Other Words.  Suddenly,  Howard Sherman @HESherman and Peter Marks @petermarksdrama took that post to a new direction and began a heated  session on Twitter about the use of modern translations in Shakespeare productions. Before I knew it, Sherman organized a Tweet Convocation:“Soul of Shakespeare: Plot vs Language” #pmdhes for today at 2:30 with w/guest tweep Michael Kahn from DC’s Shakespeare Theater.

The confab lasted well over an hour and lots of folks joined in. Here are just a random few of the Tweets:

“Soul of Shakespeare” twitter convo arises from unplanned debate over whether it’s still Shakespeare when language is altered.

Above all, let’s have fun. After all, how many opportunities r there for live national multi-participant discussions of Shakespeare?

Doing our finger stretches, getting ready for today’s  Twitter conversation at 2:30.

@mikelomo was writing abt Shax in classrooms, not on stage, but it’s led to fascinating convo.

I am not bothered by some language changes. Murder, instead of murther, for example.

You don’t call Shakes ‘Ovid & Holinshead altered’ so why would you call very-much altered Shakes ‘Shakes’

But, if you change Mamet’s words is it still Mamet? No one argues he’s a poet not a playwright.

The depth of character in Shakes comes from what they SAY about what they feel & do

Aren’t we talking ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ of Shakespeare? Yes, language was distinct, but so was his vision, scope, style collusion etc

Have all the conceptual productions and severe cutting of text made it too ok to change language?

Greatest approach to teaching #Shakespeare at any age and especially in high school – GET THEM ON THEIR FEET AS THEY READ!!

But I don’t think ppl go to Shakespeare to see the same production that they had seen at another time. At least I hope not.

In schools, are students given free rein to imagine different settings, concepts? Would that help them “relate” better?

That’s what we do in schools. They produce their own scenes in any style they want, using the words.

“Where would you put this scene?” “What situation does this sound like to you?” imagination/relatability is key

Yes, good teachers allow that sort of higher-level thinking.

When productions modernize a play, etc., but keep the language – does the audience relate more?

My parents has Lambs’ TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE,. Suggested I always read before going to see when I was young.

When I was 5, my Russian immigrant mother read me the real Shakes. I fell in love w/it like you did with the Lambs.

I resisted the Lambs’ summaries completely. Stodgy, dull and I wanted to discover the stories for myself.

In my Shakespeare class in college I felt like we were discouraged from taking risks. Stick with the safe, they said.

I had BBC Shakespeare: Animated Tales after finding R&J at 8yo. Devotee ever since. All orig. lang.

In high school…only a handful of the plays are in most curriculums? Does that limit appeal?

I just don’t think Shakespeare is FOR everyone. And I think there are (a few) langauge barriers that cannot be overcome.

Any and all textual changes are GAME ON. As long as there’s transparency.

Make a good production & Shakespeare automatically is accessible. Concept should illuminate, not be used to “dumb down.”

many prods say they put lang center. alas, few really do

I knew director who watched all rehearsals from balcony w/ eyes closed to “listen to language. but it’s not a radio play

I love some plays, dislike others, avoid yet others entirely. But I don’t need to rewrite them.

I think it’s outrageous when Shakespeare is watered down. It’s outrageous when any author is paraphrased.

Why not go back to all male actors if we want to be extra faithful? (said w/ a wink)

Soliloquies are subtext made verbal.

I really have no problem with non-English additions. It’s the watered-down English I deplore.

Yay for us geeks!

Good god, was that an hour? Thanks @HESherman @petermarksdrama @ShakespeareinDC for the lovely confab!

You can go to Twitter and search #pmdhes to see the rest. But the discussion raised lots of questions. Feel free to answer some of them in the comments section below.

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Recently, we’ve gotten a few requests from teachers looking for an ideal Shakespeare dictionary or lexicon.  There are several excellent resources available, but before I list them, I do want to point out that in order to teach a play, it is generally not necessary to know the meaning of every word.

We know for certain that the audience at the Globe Theatre in Shakespeare’s lifetime (especially the Groundlings) didn’t know the meaning of every word. There are examples in some of his plays, of Shakespeare defining some words for the groundlings.  My favorite is from Macbeth 2.2 when Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth about his blood-stained hands:

Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.

Since “my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine” might (literally) go over the heads of the groundlings, the actor playing Macbeth might have then looked down to the perplexed groundlings and said, “Making the green ones red.”

When students are simply reading the play along with you, the teacher, it’s perfectly fine to skip over some words. When we attend a live performance or a film of a Shakespeare play, we can usually follow all the action without the need for footnotes or a glossary. But if you are having your students perform scenes (and we strongly suggest that you do), it’s a good idea to have several reference books available for them to determine how a line is to be delivered.

So here they are, in no particular order and in the case of the first two, have been somewhat revised and updated:

  • A Shakespeare Glossary (originally published in 1911) by C. T. Onions is a needed reference aid for anyone studying the works of William Shakespeare. This handy book helps to define or explain those words or phrases that are unfamiliar to the modern reader. Author C. T. Onions was one of the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary.
  • Shakespeare Lexicon and Quotation Dictionary (originally published in 1874) by Alexander Schmidt was produced by a leading nineteenth-century Shakespeare scholar and lexicographer. This massive two-volume work is a standard in the field, providing full definitions, locations, and meaning to the words in Shakespeare’’s plays and poems.
  • Shakespeare’s Words: A Glossary and Language Companion (2001) by David and Ben Crystal is the most recent glossary and it can also be found online at www.Shakespeareswords.com.  The book is a great classroom resource, but Website integrates the full text of the plays and poems with the entire Glossary database, allowing you to search for any word or phrase in Shakespeare’s works. David Crystal even has a video on YouTube in which he reads excerpts of his “play” written mostly with Shakespeare’s Idioms.

So please leave comments and tell us what resources you use in your classroom and how you use them.

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