Teaching With Shakespeare : A Game

Ok, for this game you are stranded on a desert island with a young child, and it is now your job to provide an education for this child.  For maximum points you must meaningfully introduce as many subjects as you can to your student.

Here’s the catch – the only book you have to teach with is a First Folio.  You are allowed to supplement with visual aids, but only to the extent that you could create them with whatever rudimentary means might be at your disposal, such as scratching in the sand with a stick.  Nothing too complicated.

Easy example : You can teach poetry, by showing multiple examples of meter and rhyme scheme.

Harder example : Geography.   You could do a pretty good job of plotting where Prospero’s island is, simply by looking at the description of the ship’s return from Claribel’s wedding in Tunisia.  (This is where I see no way around having to draw out a globe and start pointing to various places.)  There’s actually an island that claims to have been Shakespeare’s inspiration, based entirely on this method (given that there’s no way Shakespeare could have ever been there).

What else can you come up with?  How about math?  Other than the dividing up of King Lear’s soldiers I’m trying to think of how many math problems Shakespeare may have written out for us.

Science?  Given how much science has changed in 400 years this would be a tricky one, and it’s not Shakespeare’s fault.

History?  The case of Julius Caesar is probably the most well known.  How many kids graduate from high school never truly knowing what facts about Caesar’s assassination are true, and which were created by Shakespeare?

How about spelling, or for that matter reading in the first place?  That would be interesting.  I bet with some study you could make a good list of words that are spelled in multiple different ways, and then use that to work on a basic phonetics lesson.

You are also welcome to make the case for more advanced classes such as “debating”, “politics”, “psychology” and so on.

7 thoughts on “Teaching With Shakespeare : A Game

  1. This might be interesting to teach division. What goes inside what how many parts go into a whole, and what is bigger/smaller in quantity.

    Thereby to see the minutes how they run,
    How many make the hour full complete;
    How many hours bring about the day;
    How many days will finish up the year;
    How many years a mortal man may live.
    When this is known, then to divide the times:
    So many hours must I tend my flock;
    So many hours must I take my rest;
    So many hours must I contemplate;
    So many hours must I sport myself;
    So many days my ewes have been with young;
    So many weeks ere the poor fools will ean:
    So many years ere I shall shear the fleece:
    So minutes, hours, days, months, and years,
    Pass'd over to the end they were created,
    Would bring white hairs unto a quiet grave.

  2. Many of the plays happen all over Europe or mention places or cities all over the globe, so that could easily give you another Geography lesson.

    Math… Hmm… I'll have to look into that… I truthfully don't know if Shakespeare has every mentioned math. Maybe something with averages? Like the average number of lines or characters?

    History you could probably also teach the English histories or talk about cultural differences and stuff between Shakespeare's time and ours.

    For Politics you could study trials in plays, like Shylock's/ Antonio's trial.

    In Psychology you could go in depth on themes like depression or jealousy and take a good look at plays that are very psychological(?) like King Lear or Hamlet or Macbeth.

  3. I'm not sure if this would count since it's not a "lesson" that's directly in Shakespeare, but for teaching math, you could certainly make up word problems. (yay word problems!)

    The Friar's potion puts Juliet to sleep for 42 hours. If Balthazar leaves for Mantua 24 hours after she drinks it, and Romeo arrives back in Verona just before she awakens (allowing 1 hour detour for the Apothecary), how long does it take to travel between the two cities?

    The Forest of Arden contains 1250 trees. If Orlando wants to post an ode to Rosalind on 30% of them, how many notes must he write? If it takes him 10 minutes to write each poem, how long will it take him to write them all?

    hmmm… this is almost fun. ; )

  4. You could do a course on revision–on the reworking of the mundane into the transcendent. The course would begin by talking through the ways that Shakespeare took what was already extant–plots from the classical world, theatrical practices from the church–and refashioned them into what we find in the folio. Things would then move into a practical realm where the desert island and all its resources (both physical and aesthetic) become the raw material of new inventions. The child could be asked to build edifices, ranging from the architectural to the literary, from the stuff of her everyday existence.

  5. Home Economics, i.e. a lesson in cooking:

    "Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
    Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
    Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
    Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing —
    For a charm of powerful trouble,
    Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."

  6. If you're allowed to take a pipe or a recorder with you, there's a basic lesson written out in Hamlet: "Govern these ventages with your finger and thumb, give it breath with your mouth, and it will discourse eloquent music. Look you, here are the stops." You could also compose tunes to the many, many songs found in various plays, and you've got a music course. (I know this doesn't quite fit with the rest of the subjects here.)

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