Saturday, January 31, 2009


Today is the last day to get your entry in for the Bill Bryson For Everyone And Their Grandmother contest!  To enter for your chance to win *2* copies of Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare biography, just click the link above and add a comment telling us who you would give the second copy to, and why.    Contest ends today (Jan 31) so hurry up and get commenting!


Anonymous said...

I have to say, as much as I enjoy your blog, I don't think it's a good idea to push Shakespeare on such young children. Shakespeare's plays are for adults, and though I read some of them as a teenager, I didn't really appreciate them til in my 30s. If you try to explain his plays to youngsters, you're going to constantly run into concepts that just aren't for kids to hear about: murder, lust, revenge, adultery ... Now granted, I have taken my 4 year-old to see a couple of free plays in the park, where I could enjoy them and she could watch a little and then play a little. She has no idea that people die at the end of Romeo and Juliet: her interpretation was that "everybody fell down". Which was true enough, and I didn't feel a need to extrapolate. I think it's best to give her the space to know about Shakespeare and to know that I love his work, and then she can come to his plays when she is ready. But there's just no need to rush into it. A four year-old who can recite To Be or Not to Be is just like a dog doing a trick, and kids shouldn't be used for our amusement. Just a friendly suggestion from a regular reader.--Bob

Duane said...

A 4yr old who can sing the ABC song also doesn't understand the alphabet, Bob, but that doesn't stop us from singing it. I appreciate the input, but when have you seen me illustrating what you would call "pushing Shakespeare"? Read the story again -- my daughter asked about Hamlet, and even then, I recognized that perhaps it contained concepts that were too much for her. You'll also find in the archives many times where I've wished that I could take them to Romeo and Juliet but I recognize that they are not ready for it.

On the other hand, what's wrong with The Tempest? It's a classic fairy tale - girl learns that she is a princess, a prince comes and takes her away to live happily ever after, there's magic and fairies and monsters. Great story for kids. I've often ranted about how Disney should make a Tempest movie.

My fear, as I'm sure you'll know if you're a regular reader, is that kids don't see Shakespeare until high school, and there's this wall they have to climb of "it's hard I'll hate it." Well, in my house they will approach high school saying "Oh sure, I know that story. Big deal." I don't push my kids to call their dolls Cordelia and Regan and Goneril. When I bring a Shakespeare book into the house I'm not the one to pull it out and play, they are. I don't sing sonnet 18 on my own, I sing it when they ask for it.

The recitation thing is in no way meant to demonstrate "Look, they understand it" but rather "Look, they don't fear it." I believe that I'm giving my kids a head start. They don't know Shakespeare as "that hard subject you have to learn in high school English", they know him as the greatest storyteller of all time. That intrigues them. The suggestion that I use them for my amusement is just ludicrous, given that I'm surrounded by grown ups who know less Shakespeare than my kids to. There's nobody to impress with that trick. It pleases me to hear my kids talk about Shakespeare not because it is a trick to show that they're smarter than their peers, but to show that Shakespeare is no big deal to them.