Introducing the classics (2)

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By Jerome Monahan – freelance writer and workshop provider

In the second part of his series, Jerome Monahan provides ideas to engage children with classic texts. Here, he looks at William Shakespeare’s plays

Children and teacher doing a drama activity

Take a look at the first part in this series.

Using storytelling

Retelling the beginning of a Shakespeare play with a mixture of modern and original language works brilliantly to open it up to children. For example, Prospero’s explanation to his daughter Miranda about how they came to be marooned in The Tempest is an ideal example. Below is the opening of Prospero’s lengthy exposition to Miranda in Act I Scene 2. Miranda’s reactions have been stripped out and there’s an opportunity here for another exercise where children try to work out her speeches given what she is hearing for the first time. (It’s noticeable that she’s having difficulty concentrating given the number of times Prospero says ‘dost thou attend me’!)

Thy father was the Duke of Milan and
A prince of power.

Thy mother was a piece of virtue, and
She said thou wast my daughter; and thy father
Was Duke of Milan; and thou his only heir
And princess no worse issued.

My brother and thy uncle, call’d Antonio—
I pray thee, mark me—that a brother should
Be so perfidious!—he whom next thyself
Of all the world I loved and to him put
The manage of my state; as at that time
Through all the signories it was the first
And Prospero the prime duke, being so reputed
In dignity, and for the liberal arts
Without a parallel; those being all my study,
The government I cast upon my brother
And to my state grew stranger, being transported
And rapt in secret studies. Thy false uncle—
Dost thou attend me?

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