Jump to content

Recommended Posts

I have just read an interesting article in The Daily Telegraph (sorry I am not able to make a link) stating that children should be introduced to Shakespeare as young as four years old, i.e. 'before they are intimidated by the language'. Okay, so it's a report issued by the RSC, but I think it is an interesting concept.

 

From my own personal experience, having been exposed to the Bard at the age of 8 when the whole class was taken to see Julius Caesar at the local cinema, I can confirm that as far as I was concerned it certainly held no fears for me and I just loved the poetry and drama as it unfolded. I have been in love with his work ever since.

 

P.S. Thought this was the best place for this item.

Link to post
Share on other sites
What positive impact is seen as a result of teaching Shakespeare in schools at any age, let alone 4yos?

 

A provocative question that, you know as well as anyone, Royal Rother, nobody can answer. It's a matter of faith (or belief) that Shakespeare belongs to everyone at any age, that he has created marvellously memorable characters with intensely human problems - never mind the poetry for the moment. Surely, four-year-olds need to become acquainted with Hamlet and his ghostly father, Caesar and his deserved or undeserved sticky end. I'd say they are as important as Jesus, Moses, Cinderella or the Big Bad Wolf.

 

The problem with teaching Shakespeare in schools is that it is usually too much, too late. It's a big ask to have struggle through, say, Romeo and Juliet at age 14 when you could be watching Spiderman or James Bond. Only the fittest will survive. It's definitely not the way to do it. The baby should take in Shakespeare with his or her mother's milk, the mother crooning Desdemona's or Ophelia's slow sad songs or something jaunty from 12th Night.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Provocative maybe, but one that is worth addressing.

 

For me, education is about expanding the mind to accumulate knowledge and skills that are of value and relevance to the world in which we live, and to develop the ability to analyse, scrutinise and summarise one's own interpretations about material and data presented.

 

I am all for the classics but as the use of the traditional /classic / wonderful English language becomes less and less relevant I wonder whether Shakespeare's relevance to children's minds is being eroded.

 

I give it about another 20 years at most...

 

(And I am not saying that I support any of this.)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I caught this news item in The Guardian this morning, immediately suspicious of where it originates from, but the language barrier isn't really the only problem in making these plays available to young people. Most of them deal with themes that go over young'uns heads. Clearly, they don't want to start the kids on in depth lit crit, but even a basic grasp of plot is surely going to require some 'adult' knowledge?

 

I have noticed for a while that The Book People sell 12 of the plays re-worked for a younger audience - but I am not sure what 're-worked' means. If they have translated them into plain English, then that kind of defeats the point.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have not seen The Book People's versions, but I think I mentioned the Leon Garfield books on the Poetry and Drama thread Hazel. He 'reworks' the plays into modern prose, but includes many direct quotes from the dramas that give a mixture that is both informative, tantilizing and accessible to children. My son was given his first one age 10 and loved reading Hamlet then taking it to school and discussing it with his then teacher.

 

Surely there is an argument that if young children are introduced to these older styles of the use of English early in life, they will be more open to studying them later in their school life in a more detailed way. I still see the themes contained within them relevant to today's society. Yes, the language may be less relevant now and in years to come, but I personally would like to see it preserved, understood and enjoyed for its own sake. I believe the mind needs to be nurtured emotionally as well as filled with facts and data.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't know about Shakespeare for 4 yr olds, but it's sad that people often express such an aversion to doing his stuff with teenagers. I've had great responses to Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream...

 

I'm sure I've mentioned this on BGO before, but it bears repeating. The first time I taught Shakespeare, I asked the class - of 14 yr olds - what they thought he had done to stay popular for so long. They came up with what I expected - good storylines, memorable characters ... then one boy said something that blew me away.

"There are only two things that motivate people", he said, "Love and Power. That's what Shakespeare wrote about, and that hasn't changed."

 

I still use his line today!

 

(He hadn't even read any of the plays at this point, and he wasn't a high flyer. But he had a wisdom about him.)

 

The way I was taught Shakespeare certainly put me off - plummy RSC performances on LP, while we all fell asleep, with no teacher direction. But it's so easy to bring to life. Last year, I had Juliet sitting on the filing cabinet for the balcony scene. And I hype it up like a film - what would you do? Who do you think should appear now? It's not rocket science. An absolute must is getting the kids reading it aloud. It stops being scary very quickly.

Link to post
Share on other sites

How right you are Minx Minnie! I love teaching Shakespeare to teenagers and they are happiest when they are given a chance to act it out and perform. As I have said on a previous thread, one of m yr nine set three boys told me that Shakespeare is 'dutty'. Enough said.

 

As to younger pupils there is no reason why you can't introduce 5yrs olds to some lines from shakespeare- the witches chant from Macbeth is very popular and often used as part of a halloween scheme of work, similarly you could use some of the fairy sections from MSND. The younger the mind the easier to mould!!! ;)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I survived Shakespeare. I think we were introduced to him in the 3rd year, but it might have been the 4th. I claimed to like him at the time because I thought it would make me look more intelligent. I even read a couple of his plays in my own time to keep up the pose.

 

Now, I can say that I thought his plays were long and rather dull. There were some memorable lines, but they are quoted so often that it is hard t tell whether it is the quality of the line that makes it quotable or whether it is the frequency of quotation that makes the line great. Some of the characters did have their attractions (Coriolanus, in particular) but I wonder whether this is any different from a character in The Bill. Certainly, the language never really appealed.

 

I can see now that the fault lies with my schooling. If I had been raised on Shakespeare, I would love it. In much the same way that I love vegetables, being cold and black & white films now.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think 4 year old is a bit young for shakespeare however saying that young children learn easier so it probibly would halp the languae barrier. However a lot of shakespeare work has mature content and themes a child would have difficulty in understanding so i dont think its a wise idea but i can see the bases for it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have to declare my bias before contributing to this thread - I am a bardolator of the highest order. I haven't room in this thread to explain completely why. Harold Bloom in his book Shakespeare; the Invention of the Human does.

 

I can't be the only English lit student who ever sat silently seething through lectures dwelling on Freudian interpretations of Shakespeare only to virtually cheer when Bloom - finally someone with the authority to publish it - announced that we would be better off writing Shakespearean interpretations of Freud. After all, it's all fiction, but Shakespeare understood us better and also, he understood us first.

 

Read Marlow, Jonson, go back reader Chaucer, go back to the Greeks. Go to the sources whose material Shakespeare shamelessly plundered and look for a model of Hamlet's agonised introspection, his uncertainty and sublime self-consciousness, look for the inner motivations of Lear and the thing is, you won't find it. There is no model. It is the introduction of so-very-nearly real characters into literature that forms Shakespeare's absolute centrality to the Western Canon (sorry, quoting another of Bloom's books) independently of the sublimity of his writing. And yes, I do think 4 year olds should be introduced to Shakespeare. I don't think they should be nailed to their seats during a performance but really, his works aren't hard to understand. They really aren't. Anything that can get people over the idea that they are is a good idea.

 

(During the ...er... three months of my teaching career I had to teach a year 7 'media studies' unit. We spent a double lesson discussing the advertising of Kenneth Brannagh's Henry V. At the end, the children wanted to see it. So media studies isn't always a complete waste of time.)

Link to post
Share on other sites
Harold Bloom in his book Shakespeare; the Invention of the Human does.

 

Bloom - finally someone with the authority to publish it - announced that we would be better off writing Shakespearean interpretations of Freud. After all, it's all fiction, but Shakespeare understood us better and also, he understood us first.

 

Kimberley, is that ever true.

Link to post
Share on other sites

And yes, I do think 4 year olds should be introduced to Shakespeare. I don't think they should be nailed to their seats during a performance but really, his works aren't hard to understand.

 

Begin with film clips or a live performance. Graduate into Penguin Simplified Readers (Shakespeare: His Life and Plays; More Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb, retold and simplified). Act out one or two scenes, not necessarily using the textbook, depending on ability. And let not atheists shun the good old Bible stories. These are our heritage and, though an unfashionable view at the moment, it's our duty to pass it on.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I had to watch Roman Polanski's Macbeth yesterday, and to my surprise both boys, who were watching Indiana Jones in the kitchen, came through and watched it with me. They were utterly engrossed in the film and I didn't explain anything to either of them, or tell them who the characters were, and the eldest said to me "Why are those witches making that man kill people?" 6 years old people - maybe it isn't too young for them to be introduced to Shakey. They both watched it to the end without budging.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting - we're not supposed to show Polanski's Macbeth to our 4th yrs because it's a 15, and some of them don't turn 15 until Christmas. I've been thinking that's a bit cautious, but I'm scared of a parent complaining that we showed their delicate 14yr old flower a film with heads bouncing down the stairs.

 

I went to pick up a friend last night for a night out and found her 7 yr old reading a prose version of Romeo and Juliet.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Iwe're not supposed to show Polanski's Macbeth to our 4th yrs because it's a 15, and some of them don't turn 15 until Christmas. I've been thinking that's a bit cautious, but I'm scared of a parent complaining that we showed their delicate 14yr old flower a film with heads bouncing down the stairs.
Ah, but that's other peoples' children - what you do with your own is an entirely different matter. Anyway, both my boys liked it and after I explained a little the 6 year old thought it was a very good story.

 

I went to pick up a friend last night for a night out and found her 7 yr old reading a prose version of Romeo and Juliet.
Well, that sounds like a good thing doesn't it? Maybe I should get the boys the prose version to read.
Link to post
Share on other sites

I certainly think an early introduction to Shakespeare is a good thing because it's quite true that the later you leave it the more it starts to build up a negative association in kids' minds. Some good practical work, acting things out, is key to getting them engaged, as well as more easily accessible text such as the witches' chants. Above all, of course, actually seeing the plays in performance - there are plenty of companies that come to schools which can offer tailored versions that with careful preparation and introduction can work well.

 

Of course, my fear as always with these things is that they become systematised and regularised in tick-box fashion and progressively lose their point.

 

The issue of film certificates is an interesting one. The schools I was in all used the Polanski version at GCSE and a blind eye was turned to it, but perhaps even in the years since I left concerns over such legalities will have changed this. After all, strictly speaking none of the films we had should have been shown to any pupil because of copyright restrictions! ;)

Link to post
Share on other sites
Ah, but that's other peoples' children - what you do with your own is an entirely different matter. Anyway, both my boys liked it and after I explained a little the 6 year old thought it was a very good story.

 

I didn't mean my comment to come across as a criticism, Hazel - more a reflection on how super-cautious we often are. And you do get parents who are a bit precious about such things, I suppose. One woman didn't want her 15 yr old daughter going to see The Crucible because it was about witchcraft.

 

However, beware. The 7yr old I mentioned used to love watching Zeffirelii's R+J with her wee sister - they were then about 2 and 5. One morning, they were late getting ready. My friend went up to get them, to find them both naked in bed. The wee one popped her head above the covers and announced "I'm Romeo!"

:D

Link to post
Share on other sites

...The wee one popped her head above the covers and announced "I'm Romeo!"

:D

 

Just as well they hadn't been watching Macbeth! ;)

 

I know exactly what you mean about parents, MM. I've certainly been aware of complaints before about Year 7s, for instance, reading The Ghost of Thomas Kempe because it was about a ghost! :rolleyes:

Link to post
Share on other sites
I didn't mean my comment to come across as a criticism, Hazel - more a reflection on how super-cautious we often are.
I didn't take it as one MM. I am definitely not a parent you could super-cautious about what I let my boys see! I think I am still the talk of the Mothers & Toddlers after they found out that eldest watched CSI. They themselves, wouldn't dream of letting their young 'uns watch Pingu because of its mischeviousness.

 

The wee one popped her head above the covers and announced "I'm Romeo!"

Brilliant!

 

I remember watching some C4 doc about a radical English teacher that took some failing and untouchable teens to a summer school to turn them around. He took them to a field to shout lines from Shakespeare at the cows. It all seemed a bit silly, but it really brought out the aggression of the lines and dispelled the fears that these kids had of Shakespeare. It really worked and I was mightily impressed. Though I can't see many school investing in dairy cows for the same tuition.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I had to watch Roman Polanski's Macbeth yesterday, and to my surprise both boys, who were watching Indiana Jones in the kitchen, came through and watched it with me. They were utterly engrossed in the film and I didn't explain anything to either of them, or tell them who the characters were, and the eldest said to me "Why are those witches making that man kill people?" 6 years old people - maybe it isn't too young for them to be introduced to Shakey. They both watched it to the end without budging.
This reminded me of one of one of my highlights of motherhood. My eldest was studying Macbeth for his Higher English and so, along with two of his friends, we were sitting watching the Polanski version at home because it was not available in school. The younger son (then 14) was also watching in case he had to study it the next year. As the film progressed several of their friends called at the house and one by one they all joined them watching the film. By the end of the film there were ten teenagers, all fully attentive and full of questions at the end.

 

Obviously not as forward as your sons Hazel, but this was such a satisfying moment I treasure it always.

Link to post
Share on other sites
By the end of the film there were ten teenagers, all fully attentive and full of questions at the end.
That's excellent!

 

When hubby returned on Sunday night from being away, my eldest told him all about the film and despite a few confusion, had pretty much grasped the story. I was quite impressed, and especially as I said earlier in this thread that I didn't think young children could grasp the storylines.

 

What I particularly liked about the Polanski version was the added end scene with Donalbain encountering the witches...must add this to the Macbeth thread!

Link to post
Share on other sites

We throw caution to the wind and show the Polanski version regardless. As I have said earlier Shakespeare's language, themes and ideas often deal with issues that would be considered very risky if they were actually written in modern prose. Try explaining the preamble to the fight scene in Rome and Juliet

 

MERCUTIO

And but one word with one of us? couple it with

something; make it a word and a blow.

 

TYBALT

You shall find me apt enough to that, sir, an you

will give me occasion.

 

MERCUTIO

Could you not take some occasion without giving?

 

TYBALT

Mercutio, thou consort'st with Romeo,--

 

MERCUTIO

Consort! what, dost thou make us minstrels? an

thou make minstrels of us, look to hear nothing but

discords: here's my fiddlestick; here's that shall

make you dance. 'Zounds, consort

 

or the conversation earlier between the nurse and Mercutio

 

Nurse

God ye good morrow, gentlemen.

 

MERCUTIO

God ye good den, fair gentlewoman.

 

Nurse

Is it good den?

 

MERCUTIO

'Tis no less, I tell you, for the bawdy hand of the

dial is now upon the prick of noon.

 

Nurse

Out upon you! what a man are you!

 

ROMEO

One, gentlewoman, that God hath made for himself to

mar

 

 

or where in Much Ado Beatrice calls Benedick 'Signor Mountanto'.

 

I could go on.....

 

Shakespeare had the impossible job of trying to write to please all, young and old, rich and poor, educated and uneducated. That is why it is possible for all ages to enjoy him if they are given the chance.

 

One teacher in my school has them sword fighting on the field. And I know many who have done a variation of the shouting shakespearian insults to cows, usually by dividing the class up and getting them to shout at each other - many enjoy that so much they carry it on through the day!

 

The problem arises when we are expected to test children on Shakespeare. That is, in my experience, what totally kills their enjoyment..... :(

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...