Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Short Shakespeareans

"Who's behind the mask?" Gemma-Rose whispers, trying not to interrupt the movie while trying to understand what's going.
It's Benedict," someone else whispers back. "Watch what happens next."
And so we sit in our armchairs, snuggled under our furry blankets, watching our favourite Shakespeare play. Finally, the end credits roll over the screen and we all sigh.

"Well, what did you think of that version?" Mum asks as we pack up from the morning's work and start making lunch.
"Well, it was ok, but I liked Kenneth Branagh's version better," Charlotte says.
Lunch is made, the table and lunch is served while we discuss the differences between the productions, which was more faithful, what made one better than the other, and which characters were played well, or otherwise.

"You know," some puts in later, "Shakespeare's plays were performed for the common people. And they understood it all. Imagine normal people watching it today. They wouldn't understand it half so well."

"I understand it," Gemma-Rose protests.
"But you've been watching and listening to it for years," we explain. "Most people don't study Shakespeare like we do."

It's a pity too. We've always enjoyed reading Shakespeare's plays, making sense of the unusual words as we go. The numerous battered copies of various plays that litter our shelves bears witness to our love of the subject. Unlike most teenagers I know, no one has to force me to read them.

Last September at a homeschooling camp, one of the mothers decided to teach the teenagers a Shakespeare play that they would perform for the rest of the camp. The initial reaction was groans and complaints. I on the other hand was rejoicing. What an opportunity!

Throughout the week we rehearsed the play, an abbreviated version of Macbeth. As the others got into the play I could tell that they were enjoying it. Gone were the bored looks, the murmuring in the corners. Instead it was replaces by enthusiasm and enjoyment. Everyone worked hard, two and a half days isn't very long to prepare a play in.

The performance went well on stage. Behind the scenes we were rushing around like headless chooks, trying to get the right people into position for the next scenes. But despite the jostling, everyone was smiling. At the end, when it was all over, I overheard one of the boys saying, "I really enjoyed that. I hope we can do another one. But a comedy next time."

I believe that Shakespeare is for everyone, not just dusty old scholars sitting in their musty rooms. Anyone can understand and enjoy Shakespeare's plays, no matter what age they are. I mean, if a seven year old can watch them and enjoy them, anyone can.


  1. You must have read my mind, Immy. We're off to the video shop to borrow a Kenneth Branagh Shakespeare, tomorrow. I expect it will be Henry something number;)

  2. I am reading Macbeth in a summer lit class. It's even more disturbing than I always knew it was, but it's still fun to read... that is, if one isn't compelled to read the weird sisters, which is kind of funny...

  3. Kenneth Branagh's 'Henry V' is really good. I like it better than any of the other versions I've seen. I hope you enjoy it Aunty Vicky.

    JT, Macbeth has always been very thought provoking and quite disturbing in some parts. But it's one of the best to study and discuss.

    It's funny, but the play we performed at the camp was actually 'Macbeth'. I played one of the weird sisters myself.

  4. Thank you so so much!

  5. Great post! I've wanted to read "Macbeth" for a while now, but I haven't gotten around to finding a copy of it yet. I haven't read a ton of Shakespeare, granted, but so far my favorite is "Julius Caesar".

    I also think you've made a great point with the whole "Shakespeare audience" concept. The age or reputation of a work shouldn't prevent people from reading it -- and if someone really wanted to read it, those things wouldn't hold them back.

  6. You're welcome Romi.

    Julius Caesar is definitely a good play. I love the weird signs that appear and Brutus' struggles with himself. I hope you get to read Macbeth soon. Thank you so much for coming to visit my blog Jenna.

  7. Hi Imogen.
    I have your blog button.

    From Melanie

  8. Thank you for taking it Melanie.

    Jenna, I meant to say in my last comment to you, that I was glad to see that my opinion that Shakespeare is for everyone, was obvious. I'm even more glad to find that you agree with me.