Sunday, April 09, 2006

Shakespeare Studies in our Home


Following Charlotte Mason's advice on studying Shakespeare has been a truly enriching experience for my son and I. We generally start off with reading a version of E. Nesbit's, Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare or a Lamb's, Tales from Shakespeare. Both of these versions are retellings that can easily be understood by children. These give a basic understandign of the story line of the play.

I found a wonderful resource at the library, DK's Essential Shakespeare Handbook, that has added much to our play studies. This book by Leslie Dunton-Downer and Alan Riding is a comprehensive overview of each of the plays along with background information on Shakespeare's own life and the writing of his plays. For each play you are given; background information on the history of the play itself as well as actual historical events that may pertain, a listing and explanation of the play's characters, a plot summary broken down into each act with actual quotes from the play scattered through each act's summary, examples of performances of said play as well as video recomendations. Each play also has sections titled Reading the play and Beyond the play.

Josh and I just finished Henry V and had a wonderful time with it. We used lines from the play as copywork and dictation. We watched a video version of the play and had to laugh when at first we had a hard time with the language and yet by the end of the video we were able to understand more and more. The difficulty of the language of Shakepeare's plays sometimes can be very daunting and yet I find that the more we read them the more we come to understand and recognize this rich and beautiful language. We also studied the history of Henry V and compared actual historical accounts to Shakepeare's play. As we were reading another book for fun, The Tale of Holly How by Susan Albert Wittig, which I talked about in this earlier post, we came across a section in which Josh was pleased to recognize Henry V's, St.Crispin's Day speech, albeit the wording had been changed a little. Had we not ever studied Henry V he would have not been able to make such a connection.

We have studied other plays and with each find something unique for that play whether it be a picture book about the play such as Bruce Coville's wonderful William Shakepeare's Hamlet or being able to go to see a production of Macbeth at his sister's high school.

We both have enjoyed Gary Blackwood's, Shakespeare Stealer Series, a series of three juvenile fiction books about Shakespeare and a young boy who joins his troop.

The study of Shakepeare has not only enriched our homeschooling studies but our lives as well.

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