I’m curious why there’s so little Shakespeare covered in SCM? Only 6 plays for the entire high school education? That really surprised me.
IMHO, while studying Shakespeare is a great way to increase one’s literary skills, I don’t think the content of many of his plays are appropriate for my children to study. A lot of them involve racial prejudice, sexual connotations, bawdy lines, and witchcraft. So I tried to select the six that I thought would be appropriate — enough to give them a “feel” for Shakespeare and to challenge their literary skills — but not enough that they soak in his worldview.
Of course, every mom is free to make that choice for her own family. Those are just the guidelines that my conscience dictated, so I used those guidelines in my recommendations. You can easily add more plays throughout the years as desired.
I have to side with Sonya here. I was once on a program to read many, many more plays, some of which I only dimly remembered myself or were totally unfamiliar to me. We’d all begin them, and then I’d start blushing and coughing and saying “Uhhhm, let’s skip to the next scene” so often, I just gave up. I am going to try to do one play a year, repeating if need be, and I am vetting each play carefully first! I’ve even taken the liberty to remove a few lines from the copies of the plays my children read from. I didn’t remember all of this from when I was young, or perhaps I just had no reason to worry about it, but I am NOT reading some of those lines with my babies, even if they have no idea what they mean!
I also have decided that in most cases, I am NOT allowing my children to have in hand copies of plays that define and interpret lots of lines, as it seems to me that they make some of Shakespeare’s lines go from risque to rated R. If they don’t understand a part I’ll be the one to decide how much they need to know. One of my children had a Folger Library copy with “explanations” in it, and he did not understand the main lines, so looked up the explanation, and did not understand it either, but I did, and I nearly died! And one of the most vulgar is the No Fear series. Yikes!
So anyway, having been “burned” I am much, much, much more cautious now and like not feeling “pressured” to read nearly every play.
I’m glad to finally find someone else who feels the same way about Shakespeare as I do. I’ve struggled with including him in our schooling for years!
I agree, you can always add in more if there isn’t enough for you.
Interesting. My kids are loving the Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare. I decided to start with the comedies, per Karen Andreola’s recommendations. We skipped The Tempest, but they really enjoyed Twelfth Night, Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Winter’s Tale (gave a whole new understanding to the sin of jealousy), and Two Gentlemen from Verona (we all thought the love octagon was really funny- a common theme of Shakespeare’s, my 9dd noted). They have really enjoyed acting them out together. Since I have 6 at home, they all get at least one role, even the toddlers. When we acted out Twelfth Night, my 3 yo was Olivia, “doted on” by big brother Isaac. They had so much fun with it.
Bruce Coville’s retellings of Shakespeare are also very child-friendly, while not dumbed down.
I’ve also tried to read Shakespeare with the children and have been surprised by some of the content. I think sticking to a children’s version is helpful. That’s what I’m doing right now. I’m scared to death of watching the plays on DVD, because there are so many versions that are totally inappropriate. I’m thankful Sonya has taken to the time to choose some plays with appropriate content.
I have felt like a weirdo because I couldn’t get into so many of the types of books that were “acclaimed” as classics. It is freeing to let go of some of this and just be led by the Lord in these decisions (and our husbands). Sonya’s guidance is helpful too!
We are reading The Taming of the Shrew (Lamb’s version) at our CM Fine Arts Co-op and the kids and adults are all getting a big kick out of it. So funny! I can’t believe what all I missed out on attending public school!
So, in light of your comments, Sonya, is there any reason I would not want to read Much Ado About Nothing to my children?
The one thing I didn’t like about Much Ado was that the plot revolves around someone’s supposed indiscretions. You can read the summary of the plot on Wikipedia.
I began to read Tales from Shakespeare by Usborne last year. I read the first act of Midsummer Nights Dream (the recommended play and age group), and my daughter (8yo) was so thoroughly confused with all the characters that I gave up! Any advice on how to keep all of the characters straight in that play? Or any of Shakespeare’s plays, for that matter. I loved reading it and it’s one of my favorites, but even I got lost a few times. Help!
We read “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” this year, my 10 yo dd and I, she really liked it. To help us keep the characters straight we got a large posterboard, you can use whatever you like, and made a “family tree” type chart of the characters. The heroine for example was connected to the hero, her father, and the young man who wanted to marry her. The hero was connected to the young lady who wanted to marry him. The thwarted lovers were connected to each other because that’s how they were orginally before he dumped her for the heroine. Does this make sense? We planned to do this fall all the Shakesperean plays we read…and I only plan to read the ones recommended here.
That’s a great idea! I started to do that on a piece of scrap paper just to make it through the chapter. I will definitely try it again with more structure.
We did something really similar to Cheryl, but used a whiteboard with markers of different colors so we could remember who USED to love each other, who NOW thought they loved each other, etc. This came in handy with A Comedy of Errors, too.
Some of the people on the Ambleside list once described making some kind of paper dolls for keeping everyone straight, but I was afraid that wouldn’t go over big with all the boys here. :-)
One really nice addition if you are reading an entire play–if possible, get dh’s involved. We do Shakespeare in the evening so dh can participate. The boys LOVE having daddy involved and dh really has fun. We often give him silly roles to see if he comes up with a goofy voice or something.
The paper doll idea is fantastic! In case you don’t know, I have 2 DDs, 8 and 4. We could make the dolls or buy some cheap ones. I love it! I’ll let you know how it goes when I try it.
I’ve tried to get DH involved, but he is either always on the go or exhausted from the previous. Maybe one day…
This is our first year of reading Shakespeare and as someone already suggested, I am reading the kids Bruce Coville’s version of A Midnight Summer’s Dream. The illustrations are wonderful. And if you look at the front of the book, where it points out all of the characters–the people that belong together has the same color hair. So that helps my children keep it straight.
Thanks for bringing this topic up, I was wondering why myself there was only 6 plays for the durations. Thanks for being considerate with your choices!
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