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Shakespeare according to middle school students

Friday, April 13, 2012

I took one class to the auditorium - the local theatre group sponsors an annual Shakespearean Festival, and various school groups perform summarized versions of Shakespeare.

So we sat toward the back, and I explained that we need to be a good audience. A professional actor from somewhere in New York performed Hamlet's first soliloquy, and one girl turned around and whispered, "That's the story they based "The Lion King" on."

I didn't laugh - I explained that yes, it's a common theme in literature, the brother of the king is jealous and kills the king, and it's up to the prince to avenge his father's death. But the role of the queen is very different in The Lion King versus Hamlet, so I mentioned that.

And I skipped the fact that the story is also loosely based on the story of Agamemnon, who comes home from the Trojan War and finds that his wife has married someone else and so he needs to fight him.

The kids also wanted to know why Shakespeare's plays so often end with half the people dead on the stage - so we talked about the tragedies versus the histories versus the comedies where everything turns out okay.

We crammed a lot into that 45 minutes in the auditorium.
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