On Sunday evening, we visited a Shakespeare playhouse in our town to see Macbeth (that is, the Scottish Play). This was a first-time event for all of us in one way or another. Himself and I had never seen this particular play, and the girls had never seen Shakespeare on stage. So we were all excited. Plus, this theatre serves food -- really good food, as we discovered -- so we were extra excited.
I'm of the mind that Shakespeare should be seen and experienced, not read. Reading Shakespeare plays is boring. I know; I've read more than my fair share. And there's a perfectly good reason that the plays are boring to read: they are plays. Shakespeare wrote them to be performed on the stage. That's the whole point.
Shakespeare comes to life on stage. The actors of course give life to a mere character. But in an even greater sense, the words come alive. What looks archaic and foreign and impenetrable on the page becomes clear in real life.
We talked about the story on our drive home, and I was greatly pleased by how much the girls understood. But if I'd read the play aloud to them or, worse yet, handed it to them and said, "Read Act One, Scene One, and get back to me," the results would have been far worse. Never mind the huge resistance I would have faced!
That being said, once you've seen the play, it might interest you to read it. Now you have a "movie in your mind" to go along with the words on the play. When you read "Exeunt," you'll recall that the players thundered off the stage, swords glinting, in that particular scene. Or you may remember Lady Macbeth speaking the phrase "the milk of human kindness," and, since you recognize it as an idiom, you can read her soliloquy and further explore its use.
On the flip side, you might want to read a play to prepare yourself for seeing it. Shakespeare's minor characters are often not named in the play itself. To keep yourself from wondering, "Now who's this guy?" during the play, bone up a bit first. But even in this case, I advise reading a No Fear Shakespeare version (or another modern English translation) or even a story version, such as Edith Nesbit's or the Lambs' adaptations.
We all had a fabulous time. The girls are still talking about their favorite parts. They can't wait to see another Shakespeare play and are already planning which to see. Much Ado About Nothing and The Tempest are high on the list.
How great is that?
P.S. Jimmie has written a most wonderful Squidoo lens, Shakespeare for Children, packed with tons of resources and ideas. Don't miss it.
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