I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention we are in the middle of Shakespeare Week. Shakespeare Week is a new national, annual celebration to bring Shakespeare to life vividly for millions of primary school children. I found out about it on Twitter (where else) because the Globe Theater is dedicated this week to the education of children. Most of the celebration is taking place in the UK, but I thought it would be fun to do a quick review of different ways everyone worldwide can introduce or be introduced to Shakespeare. After all, young or old, we can all be students of Shakespeare!
It is never too early to teach children about Shakespeare. Ehren (from the wonderful podcast, Chop Bard) & Judy Ziegler and Shanon Sneedse gives parents an opportunity to teach their children the alphabet through an imaginative use of Shakespeare’s characters. The Shakespeare Alphabet Book is a delight. The picture book goes through the alphabet in short rhyming sentences.
A is for Ariel, waiting to be released. B is for Bottom, turned into a beast!
The pictures are so masterfully done that when I first opened I was kinda sad. I almost wanted another baby just so I could decorate a nursery based on the pictures. Oh to be a child again and know this was my introduction to words, words, words!
Shakespeare for Kids is a wonderful site dedicated to helping teachers and parents introduce the plays to kids 6 to 17. Besides having a very fun interactive site (yes, I’ve spent a lot of time here) they offer a series of books, “Playing with the plays”. I haven’t spent anytime with the books, but from the reviews, they are a big hit with educators.
For the middle schooler who says he doesn’t like to read, Conor McCreery and Anthony del Col has written the comic book series, Kill Shakespeare, sure to change his mind! I blogged about this a couple of years ago https://theviewfromsarisworld.com//?s=Kill+Shakespeare&search=Go on National Comic Book Day.
The idea behind the series is to write a story that pits many of the heroes and villains of Shakespeare against each other when King Richard dupes Hamlet into hunting down and killing a man named William Shakespeare. McCreery and del Col came up with the idea while watching Kill Bill. I don’t read a lot of comics anymore, yet I am hooked on this series! It is hard to find back issues, so if you want to introduce your student to the series you will have to buy the compendium. It may not be a “purist” (a word my friends use to describe me re Shakespeare) take on the plays, rather it can be used to introduce characters and themes to those who are a little afraid to take on the Bard. It is a fine way to enter his world.
The other day one of my friends who calls me a purist, teased me and said, “Hey did you see that a book is coming out, titled “William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back?”. I laughed and said, “ This is the second book in a trilogy. I have the first, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars”. In fact, I did a blog review a while back. This is not Shakespearean (or is it?) but it is a great introduction to how to read Shakespeare:
C-3PO- Now is the summer of our happiness
Made winter by this sudden, fierce attack!
Our ship is under siege, I know not how.
O hast thou heard? The main reactor fails!
We shall most surely be destroy’d by this.
I’ll warrant madness lies herein!
As you can see, the books are based on the Star Wars stories, written in a way that can be used to teach students how to appreciate the words of Shakespeare. For those who are familiar with Shakespeare’s plays, it’s fun to pick out the satirical use of some of the Bard’s more famous quotes.
But let’s say your student has to read Shakespeare for the first time and is freaking out. The No Fear Shakespeare series is the best way to pull him or her off the ceiling. Each page of the play is followed by a modern rendition. One your student feels a little better about how to read the plays, I would follow this up with a Folgers or Arden copy. Both of these publishers offer detailed explanations for lesser known words and offers quick synopses of each scene.
If your student has an iPad, they are in for a treat! Shakespeare at Play is starting to offer a wonderful iBooks series that so far, is really impressive. Each book contains the play and a video of it. The acting is amazing! You can follow the play by scrolling down the pages. For some it may be hard to read and listen at the same time, yet it is easy to see how this would be of value to students. The acting makes the words come alive so that they make more sense to those who are struggling to understand what they are reading. So far I have enjoyed MacBeth, and next will download Hamlet (my favorite). I wish Shakespeare at Play great success!
Speaking of seeing the plays, did you know Amazon Prime offers a lot of them for free? I was dismayed to find that Netflix stopped offering their streaming Shakespeare plays, at one time they had quite a few. The other day I wanted to see The Merry Wives of Windsor (my least favorite) and stumbled across it on Amazon Prime.
If you find your student learns to love Shakespeare and cannot get enough, may I suggest downloading the podcast Chop Bard? Ehren is the ultimate Shakespeare geek, and tackles the plays from an actor and historian’s point of view. Chop Bard is my favorite Shakespeare podcast, though iTunes U offers some good lectures too.
So there you have it my friends! My picks for some of the best ways to celebrate Shakespeare Week. What did I leave out?
If you want to know more about Shakespeare and why he is important, just enter his name in my search bar. You will find I have a lot to say about the world’s greatest playwright.