Dun. Dun. Dun.
Wait, wait! Don’t get scared. We’re reading “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. This is a comedy, not a tragedy. (Do you want to know the difference between Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies? Count how many main characters die. More than ten, it’s probably a tragedy).
We first discussed the history of Shakespeare. He lived in from 1565 – 1616, and this was a very tumultuous time politically. As a playwright, Shakespeare was able to get away with jabs at different political parties, although no one knows where Shakespeare stood politically. We also went through a brief overview of the play to make sure everyone was on the same page. Shakespeare’s language can be difficult to understand, but if you take it nice and slow it’s easier to get into the swing of things.
One thing that makes William Shakespeare’s work more difficult is the fact that words had different connotations when he was writing. For example, when you think of “Desperate” what comes to mind? I think of a crazed person willing to do anything for what they desire. During the sixteen hundreds, “desperate” actually just meant “determined”. A “rival” was a “partner”, and the word “eager” meant “sour”. This lends to confusion when reading Shakespeare’s plays!
We only had a few discussion questions for this week:
1) Do you find this play funny?
2) Why do you think Shakespeare is so revered?
3) Do you think Shakespeare’s works should be required reading? (Most of the students agreed that one of his plays is plenty).
Our writing activity this week was hilarious! All of the students had to choose a story to transcribe into “Shakespeare Language”. Do you know what a nursery rhythm would sound like in Old English? How about “Winnie the Pooh”, or “Little Red Riding Hood”? The responses were so creative, and very funny! Major props to everyone!
The other game we played took Shakespearian words such as “Hugger Mugger” (secrecy) and students had to slip them casually into conversation, earning candy. If you want to play, check out the “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” page. I have a resource there with an entire dictionary of Old English!
Is Shakespeare really that bad after all?
Check out the video clips below to see how “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is portrayed on stage and in films.