How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare
by Ken Ludwig
This gem is a book built to help introduce your children to Shakespeare, but it would work as an introduction for adults as well. It’s also a great way to dive deeper into the world of Shakespeare even if you’re already a fan. I felt like I learned quite a bit while reading it, because it isn’t dumbed down for kids, it’s just simplified.
Ludwig's passion for Shakespeare is infectious. He finds joy in the work and beautifully explains how to make that joy accessible to anyone who reads the Bard. He makes you appreciate each lovely line while giving an overview of the plays, Shakespeare's life and the depth of his work.
“… Shakespeare was fearlessly true to life. Throughout his plays we see not only comedy and not only tragedy but also, always, the truth.”
Ludwig breaks down some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays to make them accessible. He focuses quite a bit on memorization, but that’s just one aspect of the book. He explains plots and language, the difference between prose and poetry, provides character break downs, and walks us through beautiful speeches and what they mean. He explains the way Shakespeare used the cadence of the language to help the actors pace their performances.
He takes some of the famous soliloquies, especially from Hamlet, and breaks them down in a side-by-side comparison. He gives the reader Shakespeare’s words next to his own paraphrase in modern language. It’s incredibly helpful for adults as well as kids. It helps readers understand the full meaning behind some of well-known lines.
One of my favorite things Ludwig does in the book is offer a context for Shakespeare’s work. He looks at the author’s life, England during that time period and the order in which the plays were written. Understanding that The Tempest was written later in life and The Taming of the Shrew was an early work helps readers understand the increased tone of gravitas n even his comedies.
At the end of the book he also includes an extensive bibliography of both books and films to further your children’s or your exploration of Shakespeare. I love that in addition to listing the books and movies he gives some background and his opinion of them.
BOTTOM LINE: Beautifully written and incredibly accessible, this book is sure to ignite a love of Shakespeare in anyone who is interested!
*The book covers the following plays: Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, Henry IV, As You Like It, Henry V, and The Tempest.
“Shakespeare’s plays, like all great works of art, are open to interpretation. That is the hallmark of art that has real value. If a work is static and never changes, then it can never tell us very much about how we change over our lifetimes, and how mankind changes over centuries. As Hamlet says, it is the artist’s job to hold the mirror up to nature.”
“Toward the end of his life, Rossini said of Mozart: ‘He was the inspiration of my youth, the despair of my middle years and the consolation of my old age.’ We want Shakespeare to be all those things for your children.”
Image from here.