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23 January 2016

Maybe Shakespeare?

I've noticed that, among the many amazing Mother-Educators in the Charlotte Mason tradition, there are a ton of very smart women who hold Shakespeare in very high regard, but I've never cared enough about Shakespeare enough even to dislike him. None of his works I've been exposed to was at all interesting; they have been uniformly dull.

Part of this comes from appallingly bad teaching. In eighth grade, when we "did" Shakespeare, the teacher had been a remedial teacher, but, he regretfully informed us, they had gradually taken his remedial classes away from him, and so he was teaching us. (I always felt so sorry for the struggling learners with no escape, and no inspiration to love learning from a man like that.) He waxed poetic about the value of watching the play, then showed us the same 5 minutes 5 days running, and no more. I think we might have read a few lines, too, but can't remember for sure. I was so painfully bored in that class that I often would watch the second hand go around the clock, noting the time each time it passed 12. For the whole hour. Because watching the second hand was more interesting than the class. So that's how we did Act I. Then he told us that nothing of importance happened in the middle, and we skipped to the end, which he butchered in precisely the same fashion he had used on Act I. 

This did nothing to endear the Bard to me, and if we did any other plays in school, I don't remember it.

But the Ambleside ladies insist that he's worth reading, repeatedly, and they are, particularly collectively, very, very smart, so we're giving him a shot. The Ambleside Online schedule has Taming of the Shrew on their list for this year, so that's what we started with.

First, the boys and I read the Lamb's Shakespeare for Children version. And we liked it.

Then, the consensus being that Shakespeare is meant to be watched, not read, we watched the movie. The boys loved it. I was not so sure, and went back to the Ambleside ladies and grumbled a bit, and asked for more encouragement, which they very kindly gave.

So we printed out a copy of the frame story's script, and we looked up some of the hard words, and read through it, using stuffed animals on a blanket "stage" to help us follow the action. That was kind of fun. Hero and I did all the reading, but Dragon and Peanut both participated too - I helped them to say a few lines each. (Don't you love the Jedi suit? It was his Halloween costume, but he wears it all the time.)

Then, we watched the play again. This time, I liked it lots more than the time before. I'd understood the words the first time -- but not the puns and plays on words. And, with the additional context from the frame story (which the movie version skipped), the whole thing was just funny. Hero's favorite part is the part where Patrucio kisses away Katherine's refusal to marry, and my favorite is where Luccencio's dad shows up, and he's almost the only person not pretending to be someone else, but nobody believes him!

The ladies on Ambleside say that Much Ado About nothing is a good play for beginners, so I think that's going to be the next one that we do. Because maybe Shakespeare is worth a little effort!

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