Learning to Love Shakespeare

Where to Begin

Before you begin one of Shakespeare’s plays, read a synopsis or an illustrated children’s version. This is helpful for adults too. That way, you will have a good idea of what the play is all about when you start to tackle the old English in which the play is written. Also, be sure to get a copy that has excellent footnotes or a modernized translation on the side.

Just Don’t Get it?

When we start to read Shakespeare, it may seem like a foreign language. If you feel this way, you are definitely not alone. Do not be discouraged if you do not immediately “get it.” It is important to remember that we no longer speak Shakespearean English. In Shakespeare’s day, people were used to speaking in the language in which his plays were written. They alsounderstood the references he used and got all his jokes because they were taken from the common culture ofhis day.Shakespeare has been reprinted with footnotes and translations for this very reason. If you keep at it, you will certainly crack the code. Even very young children can read Shakespeare in no time if they desire to do so and have a little help. The more you understand, Shakespeare, the more fun (and funny) his works become.

Enjoy it Live

Shakespeare’s plays were, well, plays. They were written to be acted out on a stage rather than read silently. (This is not to say that reading them is not extremely enjoyable.) There is nothing like live Shakespeare! The Bard’s plays are often performed for free outdoors in summertime. And you are quite likely to find some of Shakespeare’s plays on DVD in the fine arts section of your local library. Some truly highqualityperformances of Shakespeare’s plays can also be viewed on YouTube as well.

Create a Shakespeare Club

Shakespeare is more fun with friends — after all, his plays are meant to be acted out! If you do not want to memorize all the lines and formally act it out, you can easily assign the roles and read the plays aloud with a group of friends Most plays can be read aloud in one sitting. You could break the read through into two or more sittings and follow the reading portion of your meeting with viewing a portion of the play on DVD.

King Lear:

The Blackfriars are available to perform “King Lear,” a full-length Shakespeare play (run time: 2 hours), at your school orother venuethroughout the 2016-2017 school year. Another option is to invite usfora shorter program, such as a lesson on Shakespeare, hislifeand legacy of language, along with scenes from the play. The actors and/or director are available after performances for Q&A with your students.

Young Readers Shakespeareby Adam McKeown

Written by Adam McKeown, these beautifully illustrated books retain much of the original language and are accessible to young children as a stepping stone to Shakespeare’s original works.

The Children’s Shakespeareby E. Nesbit

E. Nesbit has created an excellent introduction to stories that will pique kids’ interest about Shakespeare’s plays.

Shakespeare’s Storiesby Beverley Birch

Beverley Birch has written a series of kid-sized volumes to tell the tales of Shakespeare’s great works. There are three in total: Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies.

No Fear Shakespeareby SparkNotes

Many of Shakespeare’s plays have been printed in these student copies which boast the original Shakespearean language on the left pages and full modernized translations directly on the right-facing pages. A basic understanding of Shakespeare’s plays is now accessible to kids of almost any age. [Parental discretion advised — some Shakespeare plots do contain adult themes.]