Friday, February 28, 2014

Shakespeare enchantment

It's amazing what students will listen to when they are enchanted by something. ~Jenny Rallens, Society for Classical Learning

Now,  fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
Draws on apace. Four happy days bring in
Another moon, but O, methinks how slow
This old moon wanes! She lingers my desires
Like a stepdame or a dowager
Long withering out a young man's revenue.

The title of this post Shakespeare Enchantment is somewhat tongue-in-cheek because I know what a struggle Shakespeare has been for me to do well as part of our lessons. Yes, we have the children's versions, both Lamb and Nesbit, but for me they really were a far cry from cracking open a real Shakespeare play and plunging in to the Elizabethan prose.  But this beautiful three volume set was a Christmas gift from my in-laws, coming straight off the shelves of my father-in-law's expansive library at my request for a Shakespeare collection.

We read the list of characters for A Midsummer Night's Dream and dove in with those opening lines by Theseus, the Duke of Athens preparing for his marriage to Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. I tried not to stop and comment or question very often, but occasionally I would check to see if any of this 'foreign' language was sinking in. A few well timed smiles or smirks would let me know he understood the humor or irony in certain areas. With slightly less confusion than when we started, we finished our first day's reading and picked up again the next day.  By day two, we were starting to find our rhythm in the play and Seth's favorite characters were the Athenian workmen trying to secretly meet and organize themselves to perform a rendition of the Greek tragedy, Pyramus and Thisbe at the upcoming wedding. And then it happened.
On day four, after reading for a while, I went to close the book and move on to our other literature readings, Robinson Crusoe and Winter Holiday and Seth protested and asked if we could keep reading.

Quite sure I was in some dream, I obliged and we read on until we had to stop our lessons for the day. It was amazing, not because we were getting every phrase and nuance, hardly I'm afraid. But because I knew then that he was enchanted because the language and the ideas were a rich feast for his mind and he was hungry for more.  Not every moment will be necessarily like that, but as we finish the last part of the play today, I am so thankful for how far we've come and how God hears my cries for wisdom and help in this enormous responsibility.

* Resource Notes:
I think it was Cindy who recommended Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare which I first borrowed from our library then found my own used copy from ebay.  I used it to read up on A Midsummer Night's Dream a few months ago and was so intrigued that I easily read the whole chapter one night before bed.
We also took a few minutes to read from Bulfinch's Mythology about Pyramus and Thisbe so we could be familiar with the play to be performed by the Athenian workmen. This was another book that I stalled in earlier this year, but we have now found it to be helpful and necessary so we are reading through two to three selections each week and seeing some progress.

1 comment:

  1. I love the Shakespeare books but - I want ot see that Story of the world curriculum workbook in the background!

    But on topic... I found mid summer night's dream the most accessible of Shakespeare's plays. I felt like I didn't have to squint purposefully at the text to understand what I was reading. Very unlike plays like Hamlet or even his other comedies. I still have a hard time remembering who killed whom in most of them.... And can we bring back the Athenian code, you know, when choosing spouses against a father's will yielded life in a nunnery. I like that as a parenting strategy.


I enjoy reading your comments and try to reply as much as I can. Thanks for reading here.