Sunday, December 29, 2013

Unschooling Shakespeare: Everybody Dies

My oldest daughter (15) and I have been delving into a little bit of Shakespeare (dragging my 13 year old daughter along for the ride - quite possibly against her will).  It started out on her part as a desire to familiarize herself with some of the plays, know just a bit more about them...primarily so she could mock the new Romeo and Juliet movie that was coming out.  Really, could there be a more noble reason to study Shakespeare?

So with familiarization for the end goal of mockery and sarcasm, we began...

We started with Romeo and Juliet from Edith Nesbit's Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare and then moved on to Baz Lurhmann's quirky interpretation of Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Daines. This particular version of Romeo and Juliet takes place in a modern day setting but with all of the original dialogue in place.  It's Baz Luhrmann.  It's really weird.

We didn't get very far into the movie and already my sarcastic and snarky, totally non-romantic, basketball obsessed, *what you see is what you get*, 15 1/2  year old daughter was covering her eyes and groaning in emotional agony at all the "I love you more than life itself and shall die if I can't be with you forever and ever and ever and ever" dialogue and swooning.


And here, to ease her frustration and reassure her that all is right in the world, I clued her in on a little something I was sure would make her feel better.

It's Shakespeare.  In the end...everybody dies.

This did please her.  Immensely.  Perhaps a little too much.   But with the abundance of fighting and death scenes we made it through to the end of the movie.  And as promised, Romeo and Juliet met their untimely death.  Together.  Forever. And ever. And ever.  My daughter's under the breath mutterings were something along the lines of how they deserved it for being so stupid.


Next up was the play, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), that was being put on by one of our local colleges.   3 actors, 99 minutes and a synopsis of EVERY Shakespeare play written!  It was an irreverent, slap stick, at times delightfully inappropriate and utterly hilarious production.  Imagine Hamlet performed no less than three times in 30 Star Wars costumes - one of those times done in reverse.  I'm not sure if the Bard would have been insulted and offended -or- flattered and amused.  The girls and I, however, were most definitely amused.

In the week following the play, we watched Shakespeare in Love.  Again, there's all that icky romance and much to my daughter's disappointment, everybody didn't die in the end.  The lovers *were* separated for all time though, so she'll have to take what she can get.

At this point, we are pondering future plans for our little Shakespearean rabbit trail.

Joss Wedon's Much Ado About Nothing followed up with the Kenneth Branagh version Much Ado About Nothing (1993) might be just the thing to get an appreciation of one of William Shakespeare's comedies.
Perhaps after that we'll watch O.  As a more modern day interpretation of Othello (similar to Ten Things I Hate About You's modern take on The Taming of the Shrew), the girls should both be pleased with the epic series of misunderstandings and how tragically things turn out.  Eventually, we'll tackle Hamlet. Mel Gibson version...? Hamlet (1990) Or the BBC version I've heard about with Doctor Who's David Tennant...? Hamlet (2009)  Choices, choices.  When in doubt, go with anything or anyone related to Doctor Who.

During this process of getting to know William Shakespeare a bit better, I'll continue to keep my eyes open for any more local productions we can check out.  For starters, A Midsummer Night's Dream is being performed locally in February and Kiss Me Kate in April! (A Theatre Season of Shakespeare at IU South Bend)

Admittedly, our approach to Shakespeare isn't all neat and tidy.  It's not a "unit".  There's no textbook.  No assignments. No real beginning and no definitive end in sight.  Great scholars of Shakespeare we will not be.  But of three things I am certain.

#1.  Mocking aside, after venturing down this particular little rabbit trail, my daughters and I will have a better cultural understanding and appreciation for dear William Shakespeare and his plays.

#2.  If any well-intentioned boy ever tries to woo my lovely teenage daughter with the romance and complexities of Shakespeare's words and poetry, she will most likely shank him.

#3.  It's Shakespeare.  When it's at its best, in the end, everybody dies.

If William Shakespeare Had Written Star Wars