Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig

How to Teach Your Children ShakespeareHow to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I know nothing about Shakespeare or his works.  Seriously, I am just starting to learn about Shakespeare.

Oh, I know what is "common knowledge." I recognize some lines from Shakespeare and probably which play they're from. I think I read Romeo and Juliet in High School (Freshman English? Maybe? and maybe Macbeth at some point).  It's possible - highly likely even - I only "read" the parts that we read in class. 

This book was a big help.  Ludwig walks the reader through many plays, introducing the play -its plot, characters, and philosophy - by way of certain lines to memorize. Some are more well known than others. 

His own love for Shakespeare flows from each page. His excitement over the words and ideas, particularly the idea of the world and the stage coinciding, is palpable. 

Ludwig doesn't even touch the controversy of "Who was Shakespeare?" but takes him at face value. 

I can't say that I think the title is particularly true to the book.  Teaching Shakespeare to your children seems to be more about memorizing - using a few tools - than anything else.  He does recommend acting out the scenes.  He recommends using art in a way I hadn't thought about.  But, mostly, it is learning sections - lines, soliloquies, epigrams - by heart.  He talks about different figures of speech and poetics, how Shakespeare wrote to tell you how to act, and some allusions he made.  For many of the passages, he provides a modern language paraphrase. But, in general, he wants you and your children to memorize Shakespeare. (Yes, I said that three times)

I'm happy to see memorization coming back into vogue.

The Appendices are full of excellent information: a bibliography, other famous passages and or lines, and a list of resources from books to video to audio.  The book might be worth owning simply for the Appendices.

One, minor, issue.  And I already told you I don't know anything about Shakespeare, remember? But Ludwig, as a playwright, seems to bring forward that idea of theater representing real life a lot.  In almost every chapter, almost every passage, toward the end of the book that idea is considered from a different aspect.  I thought that, perhaps, there would be some other aspects of Shakepeare's ideas discussed ... and the lack of mention of the influence of scripture or God or a playwright (one explanation of an allusion to Proverbs and one brief, almost ashamed, mention of the possibility of a supernatural playwright was all I noted in this vein)

A great introduction, though.  An easy read with short chapters and helpful information, I definitely recommend it to those who wish to learn about Shakespeare or teach him to their children.

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