Orville and Wilbur Shakespeare [ A Geeklet Story ]

My kids’ interest / attention span when it comes to Shakespeare has waxed and waned over the years, to be sure. Although my youngest, my son, was running around quoting Hamlet when he was about 4 (and not realizing what he was saying, or why I enjoyed that so much), his interest in all things academic or educational has definitely waned throughout middle school. Some days I can’t tell if he’s tired, uninterested, or just trolling me.

Me: “So when we arrive in Stratford we might have the chance to see some special stuff like we did at Folger.  What kind of stuff would you want to see if you had the choice?”

Him:  “An airplane.”

Me: “An airplane.”

Him:  “Yes.”

Me: “I don’t think they have airplanes at the Shakespeare Birthplace, given that they were invented in America in 1903.”

 

 

~ Leave a comment

Why Kids Hate Romeo and Juliet

My younger daughter is studying Romeo and Juliet at the moment. We’ve been over that play so many times over the years that for the first few lessons I learned that she wasn’t even reading the book, she was just going from memory!  Unfortunately she had her events out of order and was getting them wrong (Mercutio and Tybalt do not fight in Act I Scene 1…) but that’s not the point of this story.

Driving to school the other day…

Geeklet: “We have a Romeo and Juliet quiz coming up.”

Me: “You going to crush it?”

Geeklet “I think so.”

Me: “Should we study?”

Geeklet: “What kind of nut does Queen Mab ride around on?”

Me: “I have no idea. But we could find out.”

Geeklet: “It’s a chestnut, isn’t it? I think it’s a chestnut.”

I’m driving, so I ask Google assistant to pull up the Queen Mab speech.  My oldest is sitting in the front seat so she reads.  “See if you can find anything about a nut in there,” I tell her.

Her chariot is an empty hazelnut,
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o’ mind the fairies’ coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love;

Geeklet: “Oh. I was close.”

Me: “Wait, so, is that actually a question you’d be asked? What kind of nut?”

Geeklet: “Oh she’ll definitely ask that, and if you get it wrong you’d get the whole question marked wrong.”

Me: “That’s stupid. Ask about the point of Queen Mab, or why Mercutio tells us about Queen Mab, or what that tells us about Mercutio’s character.  But to get quizzed on that level of detail? That entire speech is nothing but that level of detail!  Children, children –  please, what kind of *bone* is Queen Mab’s whip made from? Hmm? Anyone?  A grasshopper? No, I’m terribly sorry, the answer we were looking for was cricket.  Cricket bone.  You fail.” Maybe it’s just to prove they read it. Great – prove they read it by translating it into their own words or something. That would show significantly more comprehension, rather than pure word by word memorization.

So instead we turned the rest of the drive into a lesson about why Mercutio is awesome.

Geeklet: “He’s the one that starts the fight with Tybalt, though, right? Because he was defending Romeo.”

Me: “That’s why Mercutio is awesome. He’s a poet *and* he’s a fighter. He’s that guy where, if there’s a party and you weren’t gonna go, then somebody says, “Dude, Mercutio’s gonna be there,” you’d be all, “Oh, sh*t, Mercutio’s going? What are we waiting for!”

Geeklet: “Isn’t he also a drag queen?”

Me: “You’re thinking of the 1996 Romeo+Juliet movie.  But they were all going to a *costume* party. Everybody was dressed up.  Mercutio just kind of got into the spirit more than some others.”

My kids like Shakespeare because we talk about the characters like they’re real people. If you’re supposed to like them we talk about why, and if you’re not supposed to like them we talk about why, too.  I don’t quiz them on perfect recall.  Half the time I get my quotes wrong, too.

But most kids who have to study Shakespeare in school don’t have me.  Nor do they have a parent who plays the same role. So they’re stuck with whatever’s asked of them in class.  And if all that’s ever asked is to memorize, there’s never going to be any appreciation.

(In my daughter’s teacher’s defense, I am not in the class, and I have no idea if my daughter’s description is accurate. My point is still valid, though, because it’s how she sees the class. She *thinks* that is the kind of thing that’s expected of her, and that’s enough to have her spend her time studying the trees rather than appreciating the forest. Perhaps that’s indicative of a larger problem with the default way that students go into classes like this? As far as I know, her teacher never gave any indication that this sort of memorization was expected – my daughter just assumed it.)

 

~ 3 Comments

Achievement Unlocked (A Geeklet Story)

Both my two oldest now are studying Shakespeare — Othello for one, Romeo and Juliet for the other — so the content comes so fast and furious it’s hard to keep up.  My oldest has to write a paper on Iago, in fact, because they finished the play when I wasn’t looking.

“That’s what I was going to tell you,” she says.  “I had to look something up about Iago for research … and you came up.  That was weird.”

Sure enough, if you Google “Othello’s ancient” here’s what comes up:

https://www.shakespearegeek.com/2011/01/othello-ancient.html

The funny thing is that there in the car I said, “It means his right-hand man, right?”  Which is exactly what I wrote in 2011.  And she said, “No, it means flag bearer,” which is also what I learned in 2011 🙂

 

~ Leave a comment

How Now, Kindred Spirit! ( A Semi-Geeklet Story)

In marketing my merchandise I’ve often noted that “the dream” is to randomly bump into somebody wearing one of my t-shirts, because I’ll know I’ve found a kindred spirit. This week I learned to always have my eyes open because kindred spirits are all around.

My oldest geeklet was inducted into her school’s chapter of the National Honor Society last night.  It was held in the school chapel. It just so happens that their chapter coordinator is also her Shakespeare teacher.  Here, to the best of my ability to recap it, is her welcome speech:

“This being Boston, I did hear on the radio that there’s some kind of important game on television tonight.” <pause for cheers from the audience> “The Bruins are in the playoffs, and game seven sounds exciting.”  <more cheers> “I don’t follow sports, but I do have my own personal reasons for celebrating, because today is also Shakespeare’s Birthday.”

And that, if you can believe it, marks the very first time on a Shakespeare Day I’ve been in the room with a third party who, entirely independent of me, brings it up.

So I did what I always told myself I hoped I’d do.  I threw both hands up in the air and yelled, “WOOO!”  She pointed at me from her lectern and smiled.  I believe there were some cheers for Shakespeare but honestly I can’t remember, I was having too much an “Ok, I can’t believe I just did that” moment 🙂

After the ceremony at the reception, she did come up to me and say, “Thanks for having my back on the Shakespeare thing.”  I told her that was the only celebration of Shakespeare Day I had this year. We then started talking about the ending of Othello – or, rather, I started talking about the ending of Othello while my wife pulled me away and let her sit down and talk to her fiancé.

That’s also something I’ve told people many times — if I start talking about Shakespeare, just go ahead and walk away at some point, because I’m not going to stop. 🙂

 

 

Friends, Romans, Countrymen…I Need A Favor

Hello!  Terribly sorry for my absence of late, things are happening that are making life complicated. Your regularly scheduled Shakespeare should resume soon.

This post doesn’t contain much Shakespeare, let’s get that out of the way right now. I don’t like to misuse my audience.  But it does have a father (me) and a daughter (mine) so at the end if we want to discuss which of Shakespeare’s play our relationship most resembles, we can see where that goes.

My younger daughter wants to be a writer.  She recently entered a short story competition with a small piece that she literally crafted out of thin air when she said, “I need a noun” and my wife said, “Balloon.”  We entered the story and she rocketed up to the #4 spot (out of almost 300 entries) and became a finalist for the Community Vote!

For the finals, the votes are cleared and a new round begins. Right now she’s sitting in second place, which isn’t too shabby.  But I’ve learned that the person in first place is an existing contributor to that site with nearly 100 other submissions. His bio says he’s been writing poetry since 2004 – which would be the same year my daughter was born.  He’s got about 4000 followers on the site who are shooting him to the top of all the charts (in the first round he had 3x the votes of the next closest entry).

Well, I’ve got over 20,000 followers. No, none of this is Shakespeare. But I’m a father trying to make his daughter happy.  It doesn’t matter to me if she wins. It matters that when she refreshes her vote count and it doesn’t go up, she’s sad – but when it does, she’s happy.  So I want it to go up every time she looks, and I’m unapologetically going to use every means at my disposal to make that happen.

If you’ve read this far and would like to help contribute to the cause, thank you!  Here’s the link:

Read and Vote for “The Life of a Balloon” by Elizabeth!

If you saw my earlier posts on FB and Twitter and have already voted, please note that this is the finals, this is a new round!  So you can come back and vote again!

Thanks so much for your time.  Have we decided which play we most resemble?  I’ve been thinking about it while I write.  How about Prospero? I went through my vengeful phase, snooping around to see if there might be a way to get the first place guy disqualified ….. but ultimately it’s more about my daughter’s happiness, and the number of reads and votes can do that much more than a couple of bucks of prize money.   Now go vote!

 

~ 2 Comments