So says Hermione in The Winter’s Tale by Shakespeare. It’s before everything goes bad for her and believe me, she’s going to need it. Grace, that is. The Winter’s Tale is the play that we are loving this term. We do quite a bit of Shakespeare in our school. Since we experience at least two plays a year, my students will cover at least 26 plays over the course of K-12. Some teachers tell me that they could never do that – they don’t get Shakespeare themselves so how could they teach it? And for Pete’s sake, how can children understand it?
Let me give you all the background that I had before I began teaching Shakespeare in our homeschool. Let’s see…in jr. high we read an excerpt from Romeo and Juliet. In high school, we memorized some lines from Julius Caesar. Then there was my college experience at the U where the teacher was more concerned about Shakespeare’s sexual orientation than his plots. I suppose it was the ’80s…
To be honest, the hit-or-miss approach to Shakespeare did not serve me well. I think he needs to be part of the overarching curriculum. Charlotte Mason explains why:
“And Shakespeare? He, indeed, is not to be classed, and timed, and treated as one amongst others,–he, who might well be the daily bread of the intellectual life; Shakespeare is not to be studied in a year; he is to be read continuously throughout life, from ten years old and onwards. But a child of ten cannot understand Shakespeare. No; but can a man of fifty? Is not our great poet rather an ample feast of which every one takes according to his needs, and leaves what he has no stomach for? A little girl of nine said to me the other day that she had only read one play of Shakespeare’s through, and that was A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She did not understand the play, of course, but she must have found enough to amuse and interest her. How would it be to have a monthly reading of Shakespeare–a play, to be read in character, and continued for two or three evenings until it is finished? The Shakespeare evening would come to be looked on as a family festa; and the plays, read again and again, year after year, would yield more at each reading, and would leave behind in the end rich deposits of wisdom. Vol. 5 p. 224
I’d have to say it’s true, that in the end I have found rich deposits of wisdom tucked away and each reading yields more and more of it. We’re just starting The Winter’s Tale. I can’t wait to report back to you what the ten children in my co-op see in this tragicomedy of Shakespeare’s.
Grace to boot,
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