Thursday, August 11, 2005

Belly Up To The Bard

I just posted on Scott's blog how I hope to use this space to generate ideas and discussion over the novels I will teach this fall (or, as I dread calling it, next week!!) and it got me thinking.

I don't have to do Shakespeare in English II if I don't want to. Now, although I want to, I realize this gives me a degree of freedom. The only plays I cannot do are Romeo and Juliet (which they all read in 9th grade and, quite frankly, I can't stand) and Macbeth (exclusively owned by the Senior teachers).

So it's open season on Shakespeare! I have my own ideas, but what do you think? Make a case for your favorite Shakespearean play or make a case to skip Shakespeare entirely and recommend another play to read.

I am facinated to hear what you all say. If you've been lurking, this is a nice time to speak up!


finijo said...

Midsummer Night's Dream or Taming of the Shrew are my picks. They are both funny, so that should keep the students interested, and they both have good films that you can show, if that's allowed. Better yet, make it Taming of the Shrew and then do a comparison/contrast with Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf? and show both the Taylor/Burton Films. Could lead to a lot of interesting discussion, especially when you explain that a "shrew" is really just a "biatch." : )

Lisa S. said...

I have a soft spot for "Much Ado About Nothing," but have trouble making an argument other than "Beatrice and Benedick! Come ON! They're, like, so cool!" I think "Midsummer" is pretty much required reading considering how often it is referenced in other texts. It's got some great hooks for teenagers, considering that the four main characters are walking hormones. And the insults... "Thou acorn, thou knotgrass!" Priceless.

educat said...

Furthermore, Aerin, it gives the chance to say "ass-head" with a straight face. I will admit that all of these have made my short list. Other ideas? Many of you aren't commenting and I know that everyone has an opinion where HS English is concerned.

The Crib Chick said...

If we're talking live production, then it's 'Midsummer Night's Dream', hands down.

On film? Branagh's Henry V, or one of Olivier's productions. Richard III was a recent view, here, and although there's plenty of the old-time, British Shakespearean overdrama (Exclamations of 'Eaauuuu!!' with head thrown back and hands raised), Sir Laurence is mag.nif.i.cent.

'Julius Caesar', with Jason Robards and Charlton Heston (don't laugh; this is a surprisingly great turn) is also incredibly watchable.

The Crib Chick said...

And yes, I second the recommendation for 'Much Ado', although there's one scene I can think of that keeps me from wholeheartedly recommending it for a younger set. I'd suggest previewing it.

It's my secret dream to play Beatrice on the stage..."Would God that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the marketplace..."

educat said...

In book, Mrs. Crib. In English class we must first speak of it in book.

Anonymous said...

Despite the fact that it was presented the same Junior Year English Teacher obsessed with Ethan Frome and Mattie Silver's "cherry-colored fascinator" therein (Red equals youth and passion; Silver is bright and shiny, but it tarnishes), I've always been a fan of Merchant of Venice. It being a favorite after that kind of deconstruction counts for something, I think.

(Does this count as officially unlurking?;))

The Crib Chick said...

Well, sure, I figure you're going to read them...but *no* watching?!

educat said...

Becky--You are hereby de-lurked. Welcome! MoV is a possibility. Kids don't know it very well, to be sure.

Senora Crib--No movies? *sigh* I don't know how much. I guess since I know that far more time will be spent on the page than on the screen, I feel like I can't think first of the movie.

But I did picture "reading Henry V with Olivier". He was all hunkered over a book with a saggy pants-ed boy, whispering patiently, "No, my lad, that's not what we mean by 'ho'.".

And that's fun too.

Anonymous said...

I vote for Midsummer Night's dream. What teenager can't relate to raging hormones! I love Antony and Cleopatra but I think there are too many dry spots for students to get into it. BW

P M Prescott said...

Found you at Bruce's blog. Nice to meet you.

If your history dept is teaching World History at Sophomore level it would be good to do Julius Caesar, and you might be able to coordinate with one or more of the history teachers. If WH is taught at Senior level pass on JC and go with Taming of the Shrew or Midsummer Night's Dream. I also like A Comedy of Errors. I think that high school students would appreciate The Bard if they were introduced to his comedies instead of Tragedies or Histories, though Falstaff in Henry IV part 2 is fabulous comedy.
I'm teaching World History at the Sophomore level right now, and have taught 10th English using Julius Caesar, and it works well if there is a humanities approach.
I've never liked Burton and Taylor's Taming, it isn't funny. If you can get a copy of A & E's stage play of Taming with Len Cariou it is fabulous, and the students actually laugh when they watch it. I've used it in Social Psychology class when we covered gender differences. Good luck on your year.

educat said...

Greek Shadow-
Good to have you here. You might remember that I happened onto your blog last year. I am also a YAG advisor and roomed with your State Director at CONA. The world is quite small.

JC is usually taught at the Soph level and I like talking about duty to state, I just want to examine options.

We have jacked up our History sequence all in the name of the almighty NCLB mandated test. We used to do the World Hist course in 10th grade but since we test US History, we give two full years of US in 10th and 11th and do World Hist with Seniors. I teach Anc/Mod Humanities in the Spring and it's not easy to have those kids before they have World History.


Best to you as well!

Anonymous said...

Twelve comments and no Hamlet? Really?

I'm a Lear guy, but the Great Dane is probably a bit more accessible.

P M Prescott said...

This is beautiful. The powers that be are dragging us into teaching World at the 10th grade to be like the rest of the country, just as the rest of the country is going back to teaching it at the 12th.
Wow two years of US. I would be nice.

educat said...

Good to have you here. I do love Hamlet and it reads well without the benefit of cinema--but then there's Branagh!

I am a bit suprised to not hear Othello, myself.

Greek Shadow--
Yep. We do Colonization to Civil War in 10th grade, then Civil War to Present in 11th. Somewhere in there, they do Govt as well. Somehow it sounds like we come out the same, but at least it's consecutive.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I've been a lurker for so long.

Branagh is certainly the gold standard, but I'm almost ashamed to admit that there's an awful lot to like about Gibson's version. Mel's tolerable — his crazy is more playful than Branagh's (and that was before we found out that Gibson actually was a little bonkers). But Helena as Ophelia and Holm as Polonius are far superior than Branagh's cast, in my mind.

As for Othello, I'm even more ashamed to admit that I've never read it. That's something that needs to be remedied. And soon.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to go with Much Ado. This is High School. Let them have the comedy, the love- I'm not sure they're ready yet to appreciate the darkness and tragedy (but am I underestimating them, Jennifer? Scold me if I am!)
And, another reason to love Crib Chick. I, too, have always dreamed of playing Beatrice! I love all that fighting.


Susan said...

My favorite to teach was Richard III; I would show clips from the Ian McKellan film, to talk about how Shakespeare's plays are not so much about the Renaissance as they are about cultural issues that span generations. And it's just a fun play; Richard is SUCH a fantastic villain.

Kristen has a point, though, about high school and comedy, although frankly I always found the Hero subplot of Much Ado a little dark. And Don John, who just vanishes from the play--what to make of that . . .

Wow, I think a whole sleepy part of my brain just woke up . . . thanks!

educat said...

So many good ideas! I will let you know where I land here. Keep the ideas coming, friends!

Susan, I would love to give you ample opportunity to flex this part of your brain. Share anytime!