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The Plays the Thing! October 5, 2011 12:00 AM | Tagged as adaptations, education, movies

This is my PLEA to all English teachers out there! I was raised on Shakespeare. However, it wasn’t until I saw the movie version of Taming of the Shrew with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton that it hit me as something amazing! That was also when I decided that my first daughter would be named Katherine (Kathryn). I had loved that name from that moment on! But getting back to Shakespeare, I have a MAJOR complaint about how Shakespeare is taught in schools. Let me explain.

First complaint: Most kids are introduced to Shakespeare, at least in the USA, when they read Romeo and Juliet. This is where my first complaint starts. Couldn’t you start with a play that is more fun? I mean, R&J is so depressing!!! Much Ado About Nothing, or a much better choice for an introduction. I know many think that they are demeaning to women, but if the history of the times are taught in conjunction with the reading then the students will see how far society has progressed since the 1600’s.

Second Complaint: These plays were written to be seen, NOT to be read. If only the students could see the plays either before, during or after reading it then it would bring Shakespeare’s words to life. I know many Shakespeare companies will go and do workshops at schools and even that would help the students in their classes.

If you don’t have a Shakespeare company that does this, teachers, I am begging you, at least get a hold of a movie version of the plays and let them watch it!!! Even though I don’t enjoy Romeo and Juliet, (I need happy endings!), I think the best movie version made is the 1996 version directed by Baz Luhrmann with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. It was really imaginative but it does depict some drug use, which wasn’t necessary.There are also many variations of the play that have been adapted to movies from, West Side Story to the latest, Gnomeo and Juliet (I LOVED this one because they changed the ending!).  There is even a great Bollywood version of R&J starring Amir Khan, entitled Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak that I really enjoyed but, I LOVE Bollywood, so don't even get me started down that road...

Julius Caesar is also one that is studied in schools. There is an amazing movie of this that was made in 1953 with Marlin Brando as Mark Antony. He is fantastic and it has a wonderful cast.

Hamlet is one of the plays studied in schools and Mel Gibson’s version is one of the best, just explain he made it when he was still in control of his mind… My favorite is Kenneth Branagh’s version since it does the entire play (4 hours long), but…WARNING…try to get an edited copy. There is a bit too much skin in the original. Branagh’s version of Henry V is the best ever made!!!! I never get tired of watching it! I really don’t like any of the versions of Shakespeare’s plays with Laurence Olivier. I know that is almost blasphemous, but it is a personal thing I guess. I do love him in Pride and Prejudice, but that is Jane Austen.

The last play that most schools may study is A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This one really doesn’t have a great movies version out yet. There is one I like but I got an edited copy of it because there is too much skin in it and I hate that. It wasn’t necessary. It has Kevin Kline, Christian Bale and Michelle Pfeiffer in it. My dad loves the very old version with Mickey Rooney in it but I haven’t seen it so you may judge for yourself. Anyway, every child has to experience some Shakespeare while in school, so I am asking parents, since the schools don’t seem to be doing it, help your child appreciate the plays of Shakespeare by supplementing the reading of it with a LIVE performance or a movie version. Even if you don’t like Shakespeare, help your child and go with them and I would be willing to predict that you may change your ideas concerning the plays.

Posted By By Leslie Pearson
Wednesday, October 5, 2011 1:15 PM
This is great. I need to show my daughter's teacher.
Posted by: kathryn