Teaching Shakespeare : Skip the Slow Parts…Like the Beginning.

Let the debate begin!  An educator puts forth the idea that Shakespeare would appeal more to kids if it were presented “like a modern film trailer”, focusing on the most exciting bits and skipping out on the boring part…such as the opening.

I’m not quite sure what she’s suggesting with the comparison.  After all, a film trailer is not a final product.  It’s supposed to convince you to go see the full movie, no? So if she’s suggesting that you introduce Shakespeare to kids with the trailer approach so that they can see the interesting bits, and then they go back and read/see the whole thing? I don’t have a problem with that.

I’ve never been a bardolater who wants to claim that every word is an essential part of a masterpiece.  There are plays I like and plays I don’t love.  There are scenes I find less interesting than others.  I’m not against editing.  I’m not against adapting.  But if this lady is suggesting that you reduce Shakespeare down to the “interesting” parts and then never come back around to the whole thing? I think she’s nuts.

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3 thoughts on “Teaching Shakespeare : Skip the Slow Parts…Like the Beginning.

  1. As an English and Drama teacher, I don't find the need to reduce the plays like this. Really though, what's being suggested can be used as pre-reading schemata. You're right, Duane. It does sound like a trailer, and that's not a bad thing. Some great group discussions can be had at the beginning of Romeo and Juliet based on love, the idea of being "star-crossed," and rivalries. The 14 year old mind has some amazing preconceptions here, but they're smarter than people give them credit for. I don't think it's wrong to rope them in, but I wouldn't give away the farm. Interestingly enough, isn't that what the prologue of Romeo and Juliet does? Reveal the ending? Can be a great discussion there, too.

  2. The flaw in the argument is that there aren't any uninteresting parts in Shakespeare! Trying to leave out the boring parts in Shakespeare is like trying to leave out the hydrogen in a water molecule–you just can't do it!

    Sometimes, Hyperbole is a scholar's best friend.


  3. I'm teaching "Romeo and Juliet" to my seventh graders and "Macbeth" to my eighth graders and from their reactions you'd think there were no boring bits in R&J and that the Scottish play was made up entirely of boring bits. A lot of it depends on the students: some just refuse to catch fire…. But I wouldn't want to start rebowdlerizing the Bard, just to accommodate the wet wood.

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