I had so much fun reading this book. If you always have loved the writing of Shakespeare, or, better yet, wanted to love it but just didn’t get it, this is the book for you!
How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare is by an acclaimed playwright who hopes to provide you with the tools to help you and your children make Shakespeare a part of your lives. He shows you how to make Shakespeare both informative and fun. He writes:
“Shakespeare should not be an occasional visitor. He should be a permanent houseguest, living in that spare room down the hall, ready to join you for a meal or an evening whenever you crave his company. Better yet, he should feel like a part of your family…”
With passion and enthusiasm, he sets out to convince you how to do just that, providing plenty of guidance.
I don’t know how well this book would work on kids, but it certainly helped me to understand Shakespeare better than I ever did, and I studied Shakespeare extensively in college.
He goes through many passages adding “translations,” as in this example:
“I have of late [recently],
but wherefore [why] I know not,
lost all my mirth [cheerfulness]”
If the speech might be particularly abstruse for modern audiences, he uses two columns, with Shakespeare’s words on the left, and a summary of their meaning on the right. He also explains the imagery and importance of the passages, and why they are considered so masterful. For instance, in discussing Hamlet, he observes:
“The Ghost fills Hamlet’s ear with the details of his own murder the way Claudius filled King Hamlet’s ear with poison. This paradox underscores an important question: Is the Ghost lying or telling the truth? Are his words reliable or poisonous? This is something that Hamlet will spend the next two acts of the play trying to find out.”
I loved too how he demonstrates the ways in which Shakespeare manipulated word length and alliteration to slow down or speed up delivery of lines for dramatic effect.
He even provides ideas for entertaining ways to encourage your children to incorporate some of Shakespeare’s bot mots into your own lives. For example, here is how the author’s daughter echoes Falstaff from Henry IV, Part I:
“Our daughter, Olivia, stays up past her bedtime and her mother catches her in bed with her computer.
Olivia, what do you think you’re doing?
Why, Mom, ‘tis my vocation, Mom. ‘Tis no sin for a girl to labor in her vocation.’”
As he explains at the outset, in answer to the question “Why Shakespeare?”:
“…Shakespeare isn’t just one of the many great authors in the English language; Shakespeare is, indisputably, one of the two great bedrocks of Western civilization in English. (The other is the King James translation of the Bible.) Not only do Shakespeare’s plays themselves contain the finest writing of the past 450 years, but most of the best novels, plays, poetry, and films in the English language produced since Shakespeare’s death in 1616 – from Jane Austen to Charles Dickens, from Ulysses to The Godfather – are heavily influenced by Shakespeare’s stories, characters, language, and themes.”
Evaluation: I truly enjoyed this book; it gave me so many new insights into the wonderful world of Shakespeare, and allowed me to enjoy his work in an entirely new way. Highly recommended even without any potential pupils besides yourself!
Published by Crown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., 2013