Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Shakespeare Story Night

Ok, now the longer story, as promised.  At the dinner table my 3yr old mixed Regan in with a story about her imaginary friends, and then Goneril.  "And who is the good daughter?" I ask.  "The one who came back to save the Daddy?"

"Cordelia," she says.

My 5yr old, however, has not heard the story of King Lear as my 3yr old has.  So naturally she wants to hear it, and I deliver the same fairy tale version that I did a few weeks ago.  What's the difference between a 3yr old and a 5yr old?  When I'm done with the story this time my 5yr old asks, "What happened to Regan and Goneril after the story ends?"

"Oh, they were very sad," I told her, "Because they'd been so mean to their sister and their Daddy that they left and didn't want to be around them anymore."

"Oh," she said, "Well, do you think that maybe they went to the King's house, and said that they were sorry?"

I told her that the story does not go into this part, but in our version, sure, it's quite possible that this did indeed happen.

"Do the other Shakespeare story," says my 3yr old, "The one that you hear me playing."  So I retell them The Tempest as well.

"Are there any more stories?" 5yr old asks.

"Oh, absolutely," I say.  "Shakespeare wrote lots and lots of stories.  I suppose I could tell you the most famous one of all, the one about Romeo and Juliet."

Well, this just fascinates her.  The most famous one of all?

And now I've gone and committed myself, because while I wanted to get Romeo and Juliet into the mix (since it is the one they are most likely to experience outside my house), I did not have a proper plan for how to spin it with a happy ending.  The Tempest has no death.  And King Lear, with a simple "Cordelia comes back and saves her Daddy" gets a happy ending and we leave out the rest.  But Romeo and Juliet, without anybody dying, was not something I had all ready to go.

It was easy to explain that Romeo was Juliet's "one true love" - this is a concept well understood via the Shrek movies.  Romeo getting in trouble became "Romeo got into a fight because of a big misunderstanding," which made for some interesting discussion about human nature as my 5yr old kept asking, "Well, when the police came, did Tybalt explain to them that the fight was not Romeo's fault and that it was all a misunderstanding?" and I told her, "No, Tybalt wasn't really a good guy like that.  He knew that Romeo had run away, and it looked bad, so when the police came he just said 'Well, Romeo ran away so he must have been the one that started it, and so Romeo was the one that got into trouble.'"

Come sleeping potion time, I opted to explain that Juliet would go to sleep like Snow White.

"But a kiss would wake her up!" guesses my 5yr old, who is one step ahead of me.  I had not made that connection.  I decide to go with it.

"Yes," I say, "But only from Romeo, her one true love."

So in our version, Paris tries to kiss Juliet to wake her up, but it doesn't work.  Her family then realizes that Paris is not her one true love, and kicks him to the curb.  Romeo comes back on the scene, kisses Juliet, she wakes up, and they run away together.

I am not as happy with that version as I am with my Lear and Tempest.  Although the concept of R & J has been introduced, and I'm pleased with that.  I told them that we have a picture on the wall that shows Juliet's actual balcony (a gift from relatives who went to Italy).  They found this very impressive.  They already knew what a balcony was (there dollhouse has one), so I see opportunities to teach them the actual balcony scene.  I told them that when they get to high school they'll have to memorize it.  "Oh, then, I would have to hear it many many times," said my daughter.

"Oh, you will," I said. :)

Maybe next time I'll go with Midsummer.



Ann said...

*ahem* My opinion, worth what you're paying:
As a former 5 year old (and a former 3 year old) girl, I can tell you that they can handle unhappy endings better than you realize. It is better they hear it from you and have the chance to talk about it with you (I love the Tybalt duscussion y'all had), and when they eventually hear the reeal plot, you don't want them to think Daddy didn't really know.

Duane said...

Judgment call. It's not like they don't understand the concept of death, it's more about making the story too complex. While the 5yr old could probably talk it out with me, because she is actually paying close attention(*), I don't want to give my 3yr old any nightmares. I'm happy to just have some of the characters and themes work their way into her imaginary play. I don't want to ever walk into a room and hear that one of her princes is gouging out the eyes of another price, ya know?

(*) "Daddy, if Romeo couldn't come back into town or else he would go to jail, then how did he get back into town to kiss Juliet?" She doesn't miss a trick.

Ann said...

That makes good sense. Isn't it a thrill when they're sharp?

Of course, I had only boys, who, no matter how I tried to give them more wholesome stories, wanted the blood curdling parts and would make them up. *sigh*