Game : Shakespeare Survivor

I have more ideas than I have opportunities to try them out, so if you ever see something here you want to try with your own kids, you go right ahead. Then report back how it went.

Tomorrow I have to entertain a bunch of 7yr olds on the subject of Shakespeare.  I’ve already got plenty of ideas (see my “scenes from a hat” post earlier today).  But here’s another one:

Shakespeare Survivor

1) Pick a tragedy. We’ll assume Hamlet.

2) Every student is given a name tag identifying them as a character from the play.

3) Everybody stands up.

4) Teacher walks through the play, “character introduction by character introduction,” so the students know who they are supposed to be.  Example:  One student has the nametag “King Hamlet.”  Teacher responds, “You are the previous king of Denmark.  When the play starts, you’re already dead.  Sit down.”

5) As each character dies, they are told the method of their demise (“You’re hiding behind the curtains and Hamlet stabs you.”)  It’s important to go back and inform the ghost of old king Hamlet how he died, so he doesn’t feel ripped off that he died so early :).

6) Any student left standing has survived!

I figure it wins on two levels.  Most of the kids get to die, and it’s always cool to die a gruesome death when you’re seven.  Those that don’t get a gruesome death at least get to come away with the “victory” that they survived the play.

If I have time I’m going to write up those cards and bring them with me.  Not sure yet if we’ll try to play that or the scenes from a hat game.  Problem with this game is that there’s like 22 students in the class and I don’t have a play that has that many characters, so I’d have to do it twice (Hamlet and Macbeth?) and then it starts to get too long and kids argue about who went twice and blah blah blah.

P.S. – Did I write up this game once?  I’m getting a weird dejavu over it, but I can’t find evidence that I wrote it up previously.  I could swear we talked about ….. I know what it was!  Shakespeare Death Bingo!  Ok, now I feel better that I’m not repeating myself.  Similar concept, different execution.

What Will You Do With Your Shakespeare Minute?

I was introduced this morning to a new Shakespeare Day Project call 450 Minute Shakespeare. Here’s the gimmick:  it’s Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.  It also works out quite nicely that 450minutes is about a full “work day” worth of time (7 1/2 hours).  So this group is looking for people to fill up 450 minutes worth of Shakespeare performance, one minute or more at a time, so that they can present it throughout the day on April 23.

This is a fundraising event setup by a group in Taunton, Somerset who are trying to reopen their local theatre and show that Stratford’s not the only place in England that appreciates their Shakespeare.  You contribute by “buying” your minute (or minutes), then you’re welcome to record whatever performance you choose (many examples on their site ranging from “perform a sonnet” to “bake Shakespeare-shaped cookies and give them to your neighbor”).  I love that they encourage variety.  Seven hours of people reciting Sonnet 18 and the opening to Richard III would get a little tiresome. Groups of all sizes are more than welcome, and they seem quite flexible in determining how much they expect you to pay to take part. It’s quite obvious that they’re doing it to raise money, not make a profit. There’s a big difference.
More details at the link.  The site is not fully functional yet but the FAQs are pretty detailed.

What will you do with your Shakespeare minute?

Need Your Short, Awesome Lines

There’s a scene in Dead Poet’s Society (cover your ears bardfilm) where Robin Williams gives each student a card with a snippet of poetry on it while they’re standing in a line outside.  They’re supposed to shout the line, then kick a soccer ball.

Later this week I’m going to do some Shakespeare with seven year olds, and I was thinking about doing some material with them.  But since I won’t have nearly the time to explain significant scenes, I thought I could do more “lines from a hat” where any student who’s willing would draw a famous quote and have to stand up and deliver it to the class.

As such, I need variety.  I’m looking for lines that are short and simple enough that a 7yr old could read it, but have also got a little something behind them so they’ll sound cool when projected across the room.  You know, the kind of stuff that gives us all spine tingles when we hear it.

If I get enough material I’ll bring along the longer version of each quote (for context) and depending on how much they get into it we can do longer passages. So I’m focusing at first on something short and punchy that even the most shy student could still recite.

So far on my list I’ve got:

“O for a muse of fire that would ascend the greatest heaven of invention!”

“Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona where we lay our scene.”

“When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning or in rain?”

“If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended, that you have but slumbered here.”

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears! I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!”

“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio.”

I’m avoiding the easy “To be or not to be” both because it’s too cliche, but also because they won’t have the capacity to understand the deeper meaning behind it.

What else have you got for me?  We may not even get to do this project, but I feel like I missed an opportunity recently with my fourth graders and I want to have some sort of performance/recitation project in my back pocket (literally!) in case I can swing the crowd that way.

Shakespeare’s Most Shareable Quotes

I hope you’re all enjoying ShakeShare, our mobile app that combines a database of Shakespeare quotes with all the original material from here on the blog (think #hashtag games and @Bardfilm’s famous lists), rendering them on top of a wide variety of background images (or your own photos!), suitable for sharing with your friends.  The mission here has always been, “Proving that Shakespeare makes life better,” and the app is just one more tool for making that happen.  Make an image that makes you happy, and share it with somebody.

I’ve recently compiled my statistics about how people have been using the app, and I’m happy to present the top 5 most shared quotes of all.  Just please, nobody tell bardfilm that none of his jokes made the list, he’ll be devastated. 😉

#5) “To you I give myself, for I am yours.”  How romantic! This one plays a big role in my book as well.
#4) “Strong reasons make strong actions.” I’m aware that I’ve put a King John quote on an image of Lady Macbeth, but I think it still works. They certainly thought their strong reasons justified their strong actions!

#3) “Fight till the last gasp.” People sure seem to like their motivational Shakespeare!
#2) “Be great in act, as you have been in thought.” Funny that two of the most shareable quotes come from a play most people have never seen. 

And the most shareable Shakespeare quote is…

#1) “How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” Ok, tell the truth, how many people think “Willy Wonka” when they hear this quote?

Like any of these images? Even if you don’t have or can’t get the app, you can still share Shakespeare. See those little buttons right below this post (buttons only appear on post, not on blog homepage)? Go ahead and share it on Pinterest or Facebook or whichever social network you love most.  Thanks!

The Lyfe of Arthure?

So I’ve been poking around Henslowe’s diary because I think my kids would find it cool that part of their inventory included an invisibility cloak (“a robe for to goo invisibell”).  Along the way I spotted this:

Which, if I translate it correctly, says that Henslowe lent money to Thomas Dowton (on May 2) to buy a robe to play “the lyfe of arthure.”  As in King Arthur?

We had a discussion once upon a time about why Shakespeare never wrote about King Arthur, and who else might have been writing about that legend at the time. I don’t see this play (or playwright?) mentioned.

Just thought it curious.  This excerpt has even more detail about that particular play:

I just noticed that right before the “lyfe of arthure” payment there is a full payment to Mr. Hathaway for the “booke of Kyng Arthore”.  Neat stuff!

To A Nunnery, Go

Watching bits and pieces of Olivier’s Hamlet this afternoon, just like I said I was going to do. I happened upon the “Get thee to a nunnery” scene.  As I write this I hear “To be or not to be” in the background so I’m forced to assume that Olivier flipped these scenes?

Anyway, back to Ophelia. This is quite possibly my favorite scene of the play, at least as far as dissecting Hamlet’s madness. I once collected every video interpretation of this scene I could find, to see how differently it has been played.  (Unfortunately some of the links in that post have been removed, just so you know.)

What is Hamlet’s relationship to Ophelia at this moment? Is he thinking that she’s turned on him as well? That she’s just a pawn being manipulated by her father? Is he putting on a show for the men behind the curtain, or does he mean what he’s saying? How far do his feelings for his mother at this moment extend toward all women (“Frailty thy name is woman?”) and thus toward Ophelia?

My title comes from the last line of the scene, as Olivier delivers it.  Ophelia is on the floor (where he’s thrown her), weeping inconsolably.  He leans over, kisses her hair, and says “To a nunnery, go,” and exits.  It almost sounds like, “The world is full of horrible horrible people doing horrible things, and you above all others I’d want to protect from that.” That’s most certainly not said for the benefit of Claudius and Polonius, and it doesn’t sound like it’s coming from someone “who loved her not.”

Mercutio, Kinsman to the Prince

I was thinking today about how often people accidentally lump Mercutio in with the Montagues, since he’s a friend of Romeo and doesn’t hold much love for Tybalt. That’s of course not true, otherwise his “A plague on both your houses!” would make no sense.

Casual audiences forget that Mercutio is actually a kinsman to the Prince himself. It’s pretty easy to forget, because … tell me again how it plays into the story?

I was trying to figure this out. Mercutio needs to be neither Montague nor Capulet, that’s clear. But Shakespeare could have just given him no affiliation. He doesn’t have to be related to the Prince, does he?

What about Romeo’s banishment? The Prince walks in to the bloodbath that was Tybalt/Mercutio/Romeo. He’s told that his kinsmen Mercutio is dead, murdered by Tybalt. Tybalt, likewise, is murdered by Romeo. Romeo’s gone.

The Prince, despite having promised execution for anybody that disturbs the streets again, decides on banishment for Romeo. How much do we think this decision has to do with the fact that it’s Mercutio we’re talking about? If Tybalt had murdered, say, Benvolio…then what? Does the Prince still call for banishment, or Romeo’s head?

This is the only place I can think of where the relationship between Mercutio and the Prince might have played into the story. Is there another one?

Shakespearean Anecdotes

I don’t know why this article exists – it has neither header nor footer telling me, and the headline is merely “Shakespeare” – but the author provides a bullet list of nothing but a bunch of anecdotes about actors performing Shakespeare.

Some favorites:

  • While working with Sir Donald Wolfit, Eric Porter ran into a problem at a school matinee performance of “Macbeth.” Wolfit disliked schoolchildren’s giggling during a performance, so he told the schoolchildren before the play started that there was absolutely no reason to laugh during “Macbeth.” However, Porter was playing the porter, who is a humorous character, and he said afterwards, “I had to stand on my head, practically, before I could raise a giggle!”
  • While performing Shakespeare in the open air in Africa during the late 1960s, actress Judi Dench received a scare one night. She looked at the audience, saw the silhouette of a figure with horns, and thought, “The Devil’s here!” The horned figure turned out to be a goat that had wandered into the audience.
  • Fred Astaire was not a reader. He once asked his son-in-law about the story of “Romeo and Juliet.” His son-in-law explained that it was like “West Side Story.”

No idea if they’re all true or what, I’m just fascinated by the random compilation that I stumbled across.

Star-Crossed : The Television Series?

I had no idea about this one. The CW Network has a new series “Star-Crossed” which looks to be a sci-fi spin on Shakespeare?

At 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 17, The CW takes a new swing at the “Romeo and Juliet” idea with the sci-fi drama “Star-Crossed.” Aimee Teegarden (“Friday Night Lights”) and Matt Lanter (“90210”) star as Emery and Roman, a human teen and an alien teen who share a childhood bond … and perhaps more. When Emery was 6, an alien spaceship crash-landed in her small town. Not willing to assume that visitors from another world who suddenly show up are there to cure cancer and promote world peace, the indigenous human population battles the aliens, called Atrians.

It sounds, from the rest of the article, like only the lightest of connections. But, still.  Once upon a time this blog used to be about pointing to all kinds of different modern culture Shakespeare references, and if they’re trying to get an R&J vibe for their new show, that certainly counts.

Dame Helen Mirren Quotes Tempest, Article Fails To Mention One Obvious Thing

Dame Helen Mirren recently received the BAFTA Fellowship Award, presented to her by Prince William himself who joked that he should “probably call her Granny,” referring to Mirren’s 2006 portrayal of Queen Elizabeth.

What caught my attention enough to post this was the article’s mention that she quotes The Tempest in her acceptance speech:

And all those incredibly carnival of characters that march into battle on any film – I thank you all, it has been an amazing journey up to now. I’m going to finish with the words of a great writer. 

‘Our revels now are ended. These our actors. As I foretold you, were all spirits, and are melted into air, into thin air; And, like the baseless fabric of this vision. The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself. 

‘Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve; And, like this insubstantial pageant faded. Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.’

Something is missing from this article, though, which goes on to talk about past BAFTA winners, and what Dame Helen was wearing.  There’s not even one mention of the fact that she portrayed Prospero and delivered that speech on film even more recently than she portrayed the Queen!