We are reading our first Shakespeare play this year. I would like to share with you some of the ideas and books I have been gathering to prepare for our study.
We have read a few of Shakespeare's plays retold by Charles and Mary Lamb in Tales from Shakespeare.
But this year, I wanted to read through an original play with my two oldest daughters. They are now 10 and 11 and are both strong in their English and reading aloud skills, so I thought we'd give it a go.
The next question was which play to study. In The Well Trained Mind, Susan Wise Bauer recommends starting with a history play, as the storyline would be more straight forward and understandable. Since we had recently studied King Henry V in our History studies, I decided that would be the play to start with, as we had a good overview of the storyline. Another factor in this decision was that Susan Wise Bauer and others recommend the movie by Kenneth Branagh as suitable for older children to view. I found a copy at one of our local stores and previewed it for suitability. I will show the girls most of the film, just leaving out some of the gory battle scenes.
My next mission was to find the books to read aloud. I wanted to have three copies, so that we could each have one to read aloud from. The local library would have some, right? Wrong! I was quite disappointed. Granted, we live in a small town, but considering the size of the library I was disappointed to find only one copy of the complete works of Shakespeare in the classics section - which only consisted of about 20 or 30 books! So I had to resort to buying some copies. Susan Wise Bauer also recommended the Oxford Shakespeare editions as they have the original text accompanied by notes and explanations of the many old expressions and words used. They also include other historical background information and pictures from various performances and movies. These I found via my trusty Fishpond, a kind of Amazon based in New Zealand. They happened to have emailed me a voucher for $10 off my next purchase that very day, so I ordered two copies.
I planned to read from the huge complete works that I had borrowed from the library, until I found a Wordsworth Classics edition on Trademe. It contains five of Shakespeare's history plays, and is much easier to hold and read aloud from than the mammoth book from the library.
There are several homeschooling mums whose blogs/websites have been invaluable in finding material on Shakespeare. Jimmie has a great Squidoo Lens on Shakespeare for Children. I have visited many of the sites Jimmie recommended. It is a wonderful guide to beginning the study of Shakespeare with your children and includes links to printable pictures, notebooking pages and much more.
LindaFay has a very helpful post on Shakespeare movies.
This book, Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare is a lovely introduction to Shakespeare's life, and the illustrations are beautiful.
We are now several scenes into our reading of Henry V, and have thoroughly enjoyed the rich language and the many "bardisms", insults and expressions and are looking forward to reading more.