So I’m thinking it’s time to introduce the kiddles (6, 4 and 2, and although the 2 doesn’t really count yet…) to a new Shakespeare play. Thus far we’ve done:
- The Tempest. They love it. I’ve told them the story, I’ve read them “children’s” versions, I’ve shown them picture books, we’ve discussed details, and they’ve seen a production.
- Romeo and Juliet, edited. They know a version with a happy ending where everybody wakes up. They have a movie, Sealed With A Kiss, which is an animated feature about two warring families of seals. It’s surprisingly good once you adjust your expectations. I choose not to expose them to the real ending yet. My 6yr old knows about it in theory, but based on her questions she’s not ready to see it for real yet.
- As You Like It. I read a children’s version of this one to them in preparation for the Boston production this summer, but they did not seem to really get it like they got Tempest. Perhaps it was because I read it directly from a book with few pictures, where I did the Tempest from memory?
- Midsummer Night’s Dream. I tried to explain this one to my 6yr old, but she got confused too fast.
- King Lear, edited. They know a very slimmed down version of King Lear which reads much like Cinderella. Namely, “two bad sisters who treat their father poorly, and one good sister who comes back to rescue him from the forest.” I realize it’s not even close to the real thing, but I like the idea of my 4yr old daughter naming her dolls Ariel, Genevieve, Cordelia, Regan and Goneril.
- Macbeth, aborted. My 6yr old tried to read one of my Macbeth graphic novels and gave up because it was far too violent.
So I’m wondering what to tackle next. I would like to make progress with Midsummer, but clearly trying to tell it like a bedtime story does not work very well. I’m toying with the idea of using their Legos and other dolls to illustrate who is who. I don’t think they’d get much out of Much Ado, the themes are a bit too grown up. Likewise with Shrew. What else? I think the common theme is that they like little to no violence (even in Romeo and Juliet the confrontations are limited to stuff like “Romeo got mad because the Prince made Mercutio fall off the cliff, so Romeo pushed the prince off the cliff” where everybody lands in the water and survives), and mistaken identity makes it too confusing (As You Like It, Dream). I’m not as familiar with the late plays (Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, etc…) as I should be. Is there anything in there that I could translate down to kidspeak? What is it about The Tempest that is so different from the other plays, and where did Shakespeare repeat those themes?