How to learn Shakespeare: let me count the ways

You can study a play by reading a script, or you can learn it another way. How about experiencing the work of art from the inside by actually being on stage? By actually playing a character? That was the option for a group of lucky Vikings.

In June Mrs. Kalin’s 9th grade E L A students had a Shakespeare Day which included time on stage. It wasn’t a formal performance exactly: in class students had studied “Romeo and Juliet,” one of William Shakespeare’s most frequently staged plays, and they prepared scenes to act out with classmates on the M P R stage.

No sets were required because the language was enough to bring the story passages to life. There were yardsticks for mock battle scenes. Romeo’s friends had strong opinions. The friar provided his professional recommendations. A nurse had words with Juliet. The scene in the crypt was serious.

There was also encouragement from Mrs. Kalin, especially for those who had not experienced anything like this before. After some nervousness, some laughter, and plenty of attention to scripts, the bows were well-deserved.

It is likely that 10 years from now, students will vividly recall this play simply because they learned it in both traditional ways and through the practice of drama.

Whether on stage or in a script, there are plenty of reasons to pay attention to Shakespeare (1564-1616). Considered by many to be the greatest living English-language writer and the world’s greatest dramatist, his works have been translated into every major living language, and performed more than any other playwright.

Even if you never go to the theater, Shakespeare remains relevant to 21st century society. He coined over 3,000 new words and phrases that were heard for the first time by audience members coming to see his many productions. Even though Shakespeare’s writings now have a long history, his language is so compelling that his linguistic changes are relevant today. When you hear words and phrases like dishearten, leapfrog, motionless, band of brothers, “it’s Greek to me,” tongue-tied, tower of strength, and more, we all have Shakespeare to thank.

Nice work, Shakespearean Vikings.

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