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Happy Birthday William Shakespeare

April 23, 2009

I didn’t even know today was Shakespeare’s birthday until I was reading email this morning instead of taking a shower. 

I never did take a shower.  Hmmm…

Didn’t Mark Twain say about classics, they are “something everyone wants to have read but no one wants actually to read.”  I kind of feel that way about Shakespeare.  I want to love Shakespeare.  I want to have read and studied Shakespeare.  I have the complete works of Shakespeare sitting on my shelf.  But boy am I intimidated by it!  I mean, look at it!


That’s the compact edition.

Henry V is on my reading list for this year and I’m scared to even open it at this point.

I consider myself a Shakespeare novice.  I vaguely remember reading through Romeo and Juliet in 9th grade English class with everyone taking different parts.  It was uninspiring at best.  10th grade was even worse.  We went through Julius Caesar by listening to it (on a record) and I got nothing out of it.  There was no drama, there was no excitement.  I don’t remember an 11th grade Shakespeare experience, but in AP English we studied Macbeth, and it is still my favorite Shakespeare play.  I think we did Hamlet in history of civilization at BYU, but as I recall, I was much more concerned about my sophomore cello recital that semester.  Hamlet failed to make an impression on me.

Now granted, plays are meant to be seen, not just read.  So I do have to give credit to my parents for taking me to the Utah Shakespearean Festival a couple of times, at least until I started being the babysitter for my brothers and sisters.  I don’t remember what we saw, but I remember I loved it.  My parents still go every summer and see several plays and I really want to start doing that again.  It’s a whole different experience to see Shakespeare performed.  And in fact we are planning a trip down in August!

If we hadn’t gotten behind on history over the course of the last seven months, we probably would have been studying Shakespeare about now.  As it is, we won’t get to that chapter of Story of the World until next month, but no matter, we decided today was a great day for jumping into Shakespeare.  Eventually we’ll get around to finding out more about the man.  Today though, we tackled A Midsummer Night’s Dream (AMND because I don’t want to type it out again.) 

I was inspired by a discussion on the WTM board last week on how to get kids into Shakespeare.  I need to go back and print out all the great ideas, but I did pick up a few books at the library on Monday.  I own Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare already, but it’s just a pictureless paperback, so we read AMND from The Random House Book of Shakespeare Stories.  The boys were enthralled.  We also have AMND for Kids to read later from the Shakespeare Can Be Fun series by Lois Burdett, simplified versions written in rhyming couplets complete with children’s artwork.


I was going to just show them a bit of the Animated Tales of Shakespeare, but they were loving it so much we had to watch the entire thing (although we thought the fairies were very weird looking and should have been much more beautiful.)

Later on we listened to AMND overture by Mendelssohn, our composer this month.  All in all, it was a great introduction to Shakespeare.  I can’t wait for more!

Great Shakespeare resources:

9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 24, 2009 12:10 am

    Years ago we purchased Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet. My oldest son fell in love with the movie and watched it many many times. I remember one time, shortly after we purchased it, we were visiting my parents. My mom came out the door all excited and told the boys, “we just bought Rudolf The Red Nose Reindeer, come in and watch it.” My son, all of 9 years old, rolled his eyes and said, “Do you have Hamlet?”

    I’m glad you are making the Festival part of your lives again! Last year was our first year, and we are looking forward to this years performances! Can we treat you to dinner?

    • April 24, 2009 12:20 am

      My husband just reminded me that it was the Mel Gibson version that we owned and enjoyed! ;o) He also reminded me that my son was 6 not 9 when the “Reindeer” incident occurred. I really should be in bed rather than commenting! ;o)

  2. April 24, 2009 12:16 am

    I just remembered. Another work I recommend is Much Ado About Nothing. There are two scenes you’ll want to edit, but the plot is easy to pick out and I bet you’ll have at least your oldest laughing out loud! Again, the Kenneth Branagh version is fabulous!

  3. April 24, 2009 8:27 am

    We do the chapter on Shakepeare next week. We have already read through AMSND when it came up in “Ballet Shoes”, which was our read aloud awhile back. But I found copies of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth in storybook form at the library which we are going to give a try next week. I too have the Lamb tales but my young kids need pictures.

    I have actually recently read more Shakespeare. I have read through Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, and Pericles. I was surprised that I could actually read them and enjoy them this time around. I think doing them for school really ruined them in my mind. I was able to make it through one of the plays rather quickly which made it more enjoyable rather than the way we used to pick our way through the plays and analyze every little detail. It is true to see them performed is the best way to do Shakespeare. I wish I lived where they had a Shakespeare festival.

  4. April 25, 2009 8:03 am

    Give Romeo and Juliet another try. I hated it as a teenager, but there is so much more once you are an adult. I’m not sure teenagers should read it – better to stick to Hamlet. I’m a Shakespeare novice, too, but we like to go to the free Shakespeare festival here in Houston. I think the best way to enjoy Shakespeare is definitely to go see a few plays. They aren’t nearly as good in movies for some reason. The comedies are a great way to start to love Shakespeare. Oh, Twefth Night was made into a good movie.

    I found out about a book I want to get that might be fun for kids in relation to AMSND – Puck of Pook’s Hill by Rudyard Kipling. I think this is the idea: some kids see AMSND performed and that night meet Puck who brings characters from English history to life to tell their stories. I haven’t bought it. I don’t know when I will, but it’s a thought. There is also a sequel. I think these started as bedtime stories for his kids. I’m glad you wrote this post because now I’m thinking about that again.

    • cellista permalink*
      April 25, 2009 3:23 pm

      Sometime, probably jr. high, I read through a stories from Shakespeare book, so I know a lot of the stories already. I’ve always loved Romeo and Juliet, tragic though it is. I’m pretty sure that was the first one I saw at the Utah Shakespearean Festival. I’ve seen it as an opera as well. Its modern retelling in West Side Story is one of my favorite all-time musicals too. I should reread the original though.

      I wish we had a free festival, we’d be there! As it is though, since I’ve had it on the brain, I’ve noticed several plays coming up in local theaters soon.

  5. April 26, 2009 8:57 am

    I’m a geek. I love Shakespeare. All of it. An English teacher told me once that King James gave Shakespeare a little ‘shout-out’ in his bible translation, something to do with 4:23. Can’t remember what it was, but if any of your commenters or Shakespearean pals know, drop me an e-mail!

    p.s. In my ‘real’ life, I play the cello. I also have long beautiful hair. So I guess in my real life, I’m you! Darn this backordered life!

  6. April 26, 2009 11:15 am

    We’ve been reading a bit of Shakespeare this month too. Thank you for the resources. They look fun!

    My husband and I have been reading King Lear. Wow…it’s heavy. In a good way. 🙂

  7. April 26, 2009 6:15 pm

    Wow! I did not know that Shakespeare’s birthday was April 23rd. I own Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare. My older son is reading it and it is fun to read.

    All of those books that you have mentioned, my sons have read through the library. I use to study acting in high school. So, I read a lot of Shakespeare as a teenager. I want to tell you that Shakespeare is something that you have to read out loud because it is like you are reading the King James Version of the Bible. It has to be read aloud. I find that it is like translating another language. It is sooo wonderful to read Shakespeare.


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