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What would be a good first Shakespeare play?


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I found that some of the plots were so complicated when I was first of all, just trying to get used to the actual language of Shakespeare. Plot confusion didn't help. I remember wanting to like Comedy of Errors, but couldn't really follow it, for example.

 

I would have to agree that Romeo and Juliet is an excellent start. With some study, Hamlet could be equally excellent, however, it does get rather LONG. My daughter's two cents is that MacBeth, Taming of the Shrew or Much Ado About Nothing are very enjoyable for starters, but she would not recommend As You Like It, Mid-Summer's Night's Dream or King Lear for someone new to Shakespeare. She had to study those fully before she could really enjoy them.

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I like these ideas. Since I posted this morning I found out that we could see productions of Twelfth Night or Much Ado About Nothing this summer or fall. Both would require significant amounts of travel. Twelfth Night would be set in contemporary times. What would you choose?

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My vote is for Twelfth Night. That was the first one of his plays I ever read to my children in early elementary school and they still remember it because it 's so funny.

 

HTH,

April in WA

 

That's actually the one that is closer to us - Idaho Shakespeare Festival in Boise. Thanks!

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Hi,

 

My favorite Shakespeare has to be The Taming of the Shrew. You could rent Kiss Me Kate to have a modern musical version of the play. My ds just finished MacBeth. I had him read it because he finished reading Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury in April. The title was a line from MacBeth and it was a great tie-in to Shakespeare.

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I second this suggestion; our girls' first exposure to Shakespeare was with Henry V, first with Branagh's movie, and second with the actual play. However, the movie is an edited version of Shakespeare's play. After that, my oldest read about six other plays on her own, and then we did about four-five others through our literature studies.

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- First film version of a Shakespeare play:

Much Ado About Nothing

(the Kenneth Branaugh/Emma Thompson film)

They laughed and enjoyed it all the way through; they were grades 8 and 9.

 

 

- First theater performance of a Shakespeare play:

Midsummer Night's Dream

(high quality local high school production, with several of their friends in it)

Again, they really enjoyed it; they were grades 9 and 10.

 

 

- First reading of a Shakespeare play:

Macbeth

(It was surprisingly readable, with accessible, fascinating themes. We used the Parallel Text Shakespeare book which has the original language on one page and a modern translation on the facing page. We found we didn't really need the translation very much. We also used The Brightest Heaven of Invention, a Christian guide to 6 of Shakespeare's plays, including Macbeth, to help us bring out themes.)

 

 

They have enjoyed the Shakespeare we've done so far, they're already asking what play is next! Enjoy your Shakespeare adventures! Warmest regards, Lori D.

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We started with Henry V. First we read a synopsis of the play then watched the movie with K. Branaugh. We then were able to read the full play. Even though we've studied other Shakespeare plays, Henry V, continues to be a family favorite.

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Get thee to a library and find "Shakespeare Stories" by Leon Garfield. These are my absolute favorite retellings. He keeps a lot of the original language and clearly elucidates the plot (including complications, character mix-ups, etc.). Pick a story - read it out loud to your children.

(I would do "Much Ado", "Henry V", "12th night", "Midsummer Night's Dream", "Hamlet", or "MacBeth")

 

Find a film version. There are many - some plays have more than others. People have mentioned Branagh's "Much Ado" and "Henry V". They are both excellent. There are some bare bottoms (male) in "Much Ado" and a window scene which implies sexual activity. There are some graphic war scenes in "Henry V". I don't remember much to worry about in the Helena Bonham Carter version of "12th night" but I space out about that stuff sometimes. DD says Kevin Klein "Midsummer" is okay and we watched the McKellan/Dench "MacBeth".

 

Then go see a play. And your kids will be hooked.

Last year I read the story of "Midsummer" to my 9yo and 13 yo niece (and my 10yo and 13 yo daughters) and 6 yo nephew. We made fairy headdresses then went to see it performed in a local park. The 13yo niece had told me previously she 'hated' Shakespeare. I told her to wait and see. She LOVED it. The 9yo was falling over with laughter because she understood what was gong on. Even the 6yo was with us for most of the play (got a little tired at the end).

 

If you want to follow that up with reading, fine. Otherwise, just enjoy!

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Do try to see a production or at least a film version--and maybe read a good synopsis--before you start!

 

My son started with Midsummer Night's Dream back when he was very young (8yo or so) because he had a chance to be in a production. It was a fabulous experience for him and he laughed and giggled all the way through. It is rather racy at certain moments!

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We'll definitely be going to Twelfth Night (in Idaho, 5 hours away) sometime in August/Sept if I remember the schedule correctly. If we can also make it to the Oregon festival (much further travel time) we'll go to Much Ado -- I think this would be my preferred play but travel time - arggh - it's probably a 10-12 hour drive. However if we make that trek, we'd most likely stay for more than one play. The Oregon festival has noontime events during the summer.

 

Aside from that I'm planning on buying audio recordings of some of the suggested plays (I'm an Audible member), and the plays on DVD from Netflix. My guidebook is going to be Isaac Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare, which I already have.

 

Thank you so much for your input so far - we're very excited!

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where are you in Oregon (I'm originally from North Bend). Would Seattle be a shorter trip? We have four professional "in-the-park" productions (FREE) and if you come the right weekend, you can get all four in. Search for "Greenstage" and "Wooden O".

 

We're in the far northeastern part of the state and it takes us a long time to get anywhere. But I will keep this in mind. We're used to having to drive long distances. Four productions, wow. I'll have to talk to my husband. Thanks.

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I did Henry V first with my dc because it's been my favorite ever since the Branagh movie. That was 3rd and 5th grade. We've since done Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Tempest, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. I wanted to do The Tempest because it's referenced in a history book I want the dc to read when we do American history. The others we chose because there was going to be a local production of them that year. We saw Macbeth, too. We generally do one Shakespeare per year. The year we saw Macbeth we had the opportunity to see 2 plays, and we didn't read them both. I want to make sure they read Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, and Othello before we're done, because those are the most well known and they'll hear lots of references to them throughout their lives and thus should know them. So we'll probably read those even if we don't get to see them. We're also going to have to start doing more than one per year to meet my goals. But now that they're both in high school, that should be a little easier.

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Classical Comics is a British company that does high quality graphic novels of Shakespeare in three versions: the original unabridged text, a "plain English" version of roughly the same length, and very pared-down "quick text" version. (They also do other classic lit like Dickens, Austen, etc.)

 

All three versions have identical pages/illustrations, only the speech bubbles & text differ, so for parents with children of multiple ages, it could be a fun way to include the younger children (e.g. parent/teen reads the original text aloud while middle-schooler follows along in the plain text version and an elementary child reads the "quick text" version). Also a great way to introduce Shakespeare to a reluctant reader.

 

You can see a list of available titles (and those in production) on the UK website, as well as a sample of the three different versions. There are also some free downloads of various excerpts from the plays that are used in British schools for standardized tests:

http://www.classicalcomics.com/index.html

 

You can buy them from Amazon in the US (you can also "Look Inside"):

http://www.amazon.com/Macbeth-Graphic-Novel-Original-Text/dp/1906332444/ref=sr_11_1?ie=UTF8&tag=classcomic-21&linkCode=as2&qid=1225653388&sr=11-1

 

Jackie

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Classical Comics is a British company that does high quality graphic novels of Shakespeare in three versions: the original unabridged text, a "plain English" version of roughly the same length, and very pared-down "quick text" version. (They also do other classic lit like Dickens, Austen, etc.)

 

All three versions have identical pages/illustrations, only the speech bubbles & text differ, so for parents with children of multiple ages, it could be a fun way to include the younger children (e.g. parent/teen reads the original text aloud while middle-schooler follows along in the plain text version and an elementary child reads the "quick text" version). Also a great way to introduce Shakespeare to a reluctant reader.

 

You can see a list of available titles (and those in production) on the UK website, as well as a sample of the three different versions. There are also some free downloads of various excerpts from the plays that are used in British schools for standardized tests:

http://www.classicalcomics.com/index.html

 

You can buy them from Amazon in the US (you can also "Look Inside"):

http://www.amazon.com/Macbeth-Graphic-Novel-Original-Text/dp/1906332444/ref=sr_11_1?ie=UTF8&tag=classcomic-21&linkCode=as2&qid=1225653388&sr=11-1

 

Jackie

 

I love these! Thank you for the link. I had no idea these existed.

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Ok, I think I have found something even better than driving for 10+ hours. We're going to be near Traverse City, Michigan this summer for a few days and it looks like we'll have a chance to see some outdoor productions. "All's Well That Ends Well," "Taming of the Shrew," and "Romeo & Juliet" are all going to be playing within driving distance. I don't know why I didn't think of this before -- I'm usually looking for an excuse to get out of my IL's house anyway, this is perfect.

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