Archive for the ‘Shakespeare’ Category

Movie Wednesday: Romeo and Juliet

Movie Wednesday Romeo and Juliet

by Amy Frantz, Brave Writer alum

Long ago in the city of Verona, two feuding families, the Montagues and the Capulets, find it impossible to reconcile their differences causing one too many brawls to break out in the streets. But one night, Romeo Montague and his friends sneak into a masked ball held by the Capulets. There Romeo meets Juliet Capulet and without knowing each other’s true identities the two find themselves pulled to one another, only to learn too late that they are from rival families. The star-crossed lovers resolve to marry in secret, but when Romeo is confronted by Juliet’s cousin in the streets of Verona, blades are drawn and the lovers’ fates are set on a cruel course.


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“Two households, both alike in dignity,” is one of the most famous opening lines of a play. Most likely written sometime in the early 1590s, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet spins a tragic tale of love and hate, and deals with themes still desperately relevant to this day such as the nature of inherited prejudice, absentee parenting, and teen suicide. Perhaps that is why it is one of Shakespeare’s most frequently performed and adapted plays.

Romeo and Juliet is credited with coining the phrase “star-crossed lovers.” The expression has become the name of a recognized trope in storytelling and remains popular. It’s a common misconception that the phrase means “two lovers fated to be together.” The actual meaning of the phrase is a pair of lovers “thwarted by the stars.” In other words, the lovers are destined to meet but fate conspires to keep the lovers from remaining together. This trope often ends tragically, as it does in Romeo and Juliet.

In 2013, Romeo and Juliet was adapted to screen (yet again). Starring Douglas Booth and Hailee Steinfeld as the titular lovers, the film features Renaissance inspired wardrobe, a breathtaking score, and was filmed in Italy (locations included Verona, Mantua, and Rome).

The film has drawn criticism for “altering Shakespeare’s text” to be more accessible to a modern audience. However, this critique may be based in a misunderstanding of the texts of Shakespeare.

The versions of Shakespeare’s plays that are nowadays agreed upon and performed were created by editing together from “source texts” which do not always agree with one another. The various Folios and Quartos used to compile the modern versions of the plays often don’t quite line up with each other; there are noticeable variations within them. The plays we know today were created by editors “averaging out” these differences. What we recognize as “what Shakespeare wrote” is actually the result of editing choices made long after his passing, so altering that text isn’t necessarily “changing the words of Shakespeare” so much as editing his editors.

With that in mind, the 2013 film gives the viewer a unique opportunity to experience Romeo and Juliet through real locations and pseudo-period aesthetics but with text somewhat re-imagined for a modern teen audience. So, get ready to be swept up in this classic tale of love and hate, vengeance and redemption, and maybe grab a box of tissues, too.

A note to parents: Romeo and Juliet (2013) is rated PG-13 for violence and thematic elements. We recommend looking up the film on sites like Common Sense Media before deciding if it is right for your family

Discussion Questions

  • A famous example of the star-crossed lovers trope, which pulls heavily from Romeo and Juliet, is the relationship between Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala from the Star Wars Saga. Can you think of any other examples in books, film, or television? Which ones and how do you feel about them?
  • In the 2013 version of Romeo and Juliet, a scene between Juliet and her cousin Tybalt was added. This scene does not feature in the original play; Juliet and Tybalt never interact in the play. How do you think adding a scene between them changes things?
  • Juliet’s parents, although they initially seem kind to her, turn viciously against her the moment she asserts her own will causing her to become desperate and ultimately leading to her death. Romeo’s parents are never seen really interacting with him or, indeed, parenting him at all; he is left without mature parental support. How do you think these negative examples of parenting impact each of the title characters and their choices?
  • A crucial plot point in the latter half of the story is a letter to Romeo going astray. How might the story have changed if Juliet and Romeo had had access to better means of communication, such as our modern cell phones?
  • Although Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy and our young lovers take their own lives during its climactic scenes, the two rival families are reconciled by these very events and the feud between them is laid to rest along with their children. The parents, who started all this hatred, live but their children, who are victims of that hatred, die in order to end it. What do you think Shakespeare may have been trying to say with this outcome?

Additional Resources

Star-Crossed Lovers – TV Tropes

William Shakespeare – Encyclopedia Britannica

Shakespeare’s Accent – What Shakespeare’s language originally sounded like

Shakespeare Family Workshop – Brave Writer class

Movie Discussion Club

Shakespeare Family Workshop

Shakespeare Family Workshop

Brave Writer mom Kara (and her girls Neve, 10, and Nora, 8) participated in our Shakespeare Family Workshop online class and this is what she had to say about it:

This has been such a wonderful five weeks! We can’t believe how fast it has gone! We started out with absolutely no clue to what Shakespeare is all about. My one daughter said she thought it was about romance and kissing. The other said she thought it was for grown ups and all sad. I only had seen A Midsummer’s Night Dream at a local college and thought it was hard to understand.

Now it’s hard to tell all the ways we think of Shakespeare now. We know that he wrote three main genre’s of plays. We learned so much from each type and how they brought different emotions to the fore. We also learned how he wrote many sonnets and what a sonnet even is.

We thoroughly enjoyed learning about the time period! We learned so much about the 1600’s and the Elizabethan era. I think that was one of our favorite parts, going back in time. We really started to pick up on and start to understand the meaning of their language. It made us think how much the plays were influenced by who was ruling at the time too. We liked learning about the history of England and all their rulers. I really enjoyed Shakespeare’s histories more than I thought I would have. All of us loved watching the Much Ado About Nothing movie after studying it all week.

The girls favorite side activity was definitely making the homemade berry ink. They still want to make more and write like they used to. It made everything come alive for them.

Berry Ink - Shakespeare Family Workshop
Berry Ink: 1/2 cup berries (push them through a strainer for pulp-free juice).
Add 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Mix well.

Nora said she really enjoyed learning how Shakespeare wrote in iambic pentameter and 14 lines in his sonnets. She also really liked seeing Richard III bones, it was real! Never liked how he used antithesis and now is picking up on that in a lot of other writing. She also liked learning how there were many copies of the plays such as the messy one’s all the way down to the First Folio. I liked seeing how the soliloquies let you see the character’s inner most thoughts. Like I said we could go on all night!

The only challenging part was that it did take a long time to read and really get into each week. I don’t know if I would call it challenging, but it did take time and effort for sure. We put off other history and language arts like you had recommended or I don’t think we would have gotten the full benefit of the class. It was well worth it though!

I asked the girls for any improvements and Nora said she would like the class to go on for another week!! When we went to the library today she got a book on Twelfth Night all on her own! I don’t think she’s ready to let go of Shakespeare anytime soon! I think we may need to go to a live performance soon!

We enjoyed every week of this class! We learned more than we could have imagined! I liked how the class could be adapted to all ages! I loved seeing my girls understand and enjoy Shakespeare!! Thank you so much!!!

Kara, Neve, and Nora

Shakespeare Family Workshop

Shakespeare 400!

Shakespeare 400

William Shakespeare: 23 April 1564-23 April 1616

by Susanne Barrett

Celebration is going on in many places to mark William Shakespeare’s 452nd birthday this week, (he was baptized on April 26, 1564, and children at that time were usually baptized three days after birth) and the 400th anniversary of his death.

In fact, this Saturday, April 23, 2016 is World Shakespeare Day!

When I was in a Shakespeare class in high school, we had a HUGE birthday party for Shakespeare with British food and drink (rather like a high tea). A month beforehand, we had each drawn the name of a fellow student for which we were to make a handmade gift. I remember hemming handkerchiefs in pink embroidery thread with the initials “M.A.” for one student, and I still have the floral wreath strung with ribbons (meant to be worn on the head) hanging on my bedroom wall…although I don’t remember which young man made it for me (or more likely, his mother made it on his behalf, LOL).

So how is the 400th anniversary of the death of the Bard being celebrated?

Celebrations in Great Britain

In the U.S.

So let’s celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday/deathday this week in our homes.

Some ideas

Learn about Shakespeare! Check out this helpful resource guide for students and teachers by SuperSummary.

Talk Like Shakespeare! Have a Talk Like Shakespeare Day (or even just an hour, if that’s all you can handle): (This site also links to some hilarious Shakespeare Comic Relief with David Tennant and Catherine Tate of Doctor Who fame).

Shakespeare Teatime/Meal! Gather around the table with scones and jam and some Earl Grey tea (or, if you want to prepare authentic Elizabethan fare, check out this site and read some of Shakespeare’s sonnets aloud. You can also find Shakespeare sonnet apps for your smart phone. (Parents may wish to pre-read the sonnet choices beforehand as some get a bit too, um, romantic….)

Shakespeare Character Party Game! Write the names of famous Shakespeare characters on 3X5 cards with a Sharpie (pick characters that the kids know) and without letting the person see, tape a card to each person’s back. Then each person asks “yes-no” type questions of other players to try to determine which character’s name is on his/her back. When someone guesses their character, tape a different character to his/her back. Several rounds may be played, depending on the number of players. (Sample questions: Am I male or female? Is my father dead? Is a play named after me?)

Shakespeare Copywork with Quills! Make quills from feathers (either dip feathers into ink or insert the innards of a ball point pen into the bottom of a feather and wrap with florist tape if needed; see this link: Instructables) and copy some favorite Shakespeare quotations or insults onto parchment (or regular) paper. (Barnes and Noble carries a good selection of quills and calligraphy ink.)

Shakespeare Trivia! Play some Shakespeare trivia games on Sporcle: Shakespeare Trivia Home Page such as “Shakespeare vs. Batman Quotes,” “Shakespeare Threats & Insults,” and “Complete the Shakespeare Quote.” (Note: these quizzes are *challenging*–I missed quite a few!)

Shakespeare Monologues! Read some of Shakespeare’s famous monologues aloud dramatically, perhaps even in costume. Here’s a site with a listing of some of the best single-person speeches, one list for men and one for women Try performing them for family members and/or friends or at a co-op!

Shakespeare Scenes! Perform a Shakespeare scene as a puppet show or act out a scene in costume; either memorize parts or make copies of the scene for all the actors. No Sweat Shakespeare has some modern-language scripts for your family to practice and perhaps even produce!

Shakespeare at the Movies! Watch your favorite Shakespeare play on film (mine is Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing). Check your local library or Netflix for some excellent titles, and the International Movie DataBase includes some helpful parents guides with advisory content for you along with ratings and information on most film versions.

Shakespeare Documentary! For older kids, check out Michael Woods’ in-depth documentary In Search of Shakespeare which first aired on PBS in 2004. Both the DVD and the companion book should be readily available through most public libraries.

Shakespeare Live!! Best yet, see a live Shakespeare play as soon as possible. Check out college/university performances near you as they’re usually much less expensive than professional productions.

So, Happy 452nd Birthday, William Shakespeare,

(and 400th Deathday)

from your friends at Brave Writer!

“So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.”

~Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare

Brave Writer Online Writing Class Shakespeare Family Workshop

April and May are Shakespeare Months here at Brave Writer. The Shakespeare Family Workshop provides a multi-sensory approach to the study of Shakespeare and his works. A few informal writing assignments will be provided for families to do together or separately. The workshop class is an ideal choice for families unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s life and works.

Amazing Globe Theatre model!

Amazing Globe Theatre model!

Amazing Globe Theatre model!

The fantastic Globe Theatre model above was created by the Yuasa family during a past Shakespeare Workshop. Such attention to detail! We’re blown away by the creativity of our Brave Writer families!

Susanne Barrett, instructor of the class, writes:

Also, another student in this class did his project very creatively…by building the interiors of the Globe on Minecraft!

My boys took a shortcut when they did their model several years ago…they brought me a heap of smoldering ashes from the fireplace and reminded me that the Globe burned down in 1613. [ha!]

We love Shakespeare here at Brave Writer! In fact, our Literary Analysis: Shakespeare (Twelfth Night) Class started Monday.  It runs for 4 weeks (May 18 – June 12, 2015) and is geared toward high school students. From the description page:

May is Shakespeare Month here at Brave Writer, and we continue to follow our tradition of offering the study of a different aspect of Shakespeare’s work each spring. In the past, we have studied Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Soliloquies as well as the plays Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, Macbeth, Merchant of Venice, and Romeo & Juliet. This spring we will be delving into the world of the Shakespearean romantic comedy with an up-close-and-personal study of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Students who have previously taken our Literary Analysis courses of Shakespeare’s plays will find much new and interesting in this course centered on the hilarious romantic love triangle among Duke Orsino, Lady Olivia, and Viola (who is disguised as Orsino’s page, Cesario). Throw in a shipwreck, look-alike twins, a madcap trick on Olivia’s stodgy butler, and memorable characters, and we’ll have tons of fun this spring!

The Literary Analysis for Twelfth Night class is almost full, but Susanne says we could squeeze in one or two more. The first week is a look at Shakespeare’s life, times, and language, so it’s easy to catch up.

Also, check out our Shakespeare Family Workshop!

Brave Writer Online Writing Class Shakespeare Family Workshop The Shakespeare Family Workshop is aimed at a younger audience. This hands-on five week workshop is great for all kinds of learners. The workshop provides a multi-sensory approach to the study of Shakespeare and his works. A few informal writing assignments will be provided for families to do together or separately.

Images © Yuasa family (used with permission)

“He was not of an age, but for all time!”

Shakespeare

Happy Birthday, Will Shakespeare!

by Brave Writer instructor, Susanne Barrett

To mark William Shakespeare’s 451st birthday, (he was baptized on April 26, 1564, and children at that time were usually baptized three days after birth) and the 399th anniversary of his death, celebration is going on in the United States as well as in Stratford-upon-Avon.

When I was in a Shakespeare class in high school, we had a HUGE birthday party for Shakespeare with British food and drink (rather like a high tea). A month beforehand, we had each drawn the name of a fellow student for which we were to make a handmade gift. I remember hemming handkerchiefs in pink embroidery thread with the initials “M.A.” for one student, and I still have the floral wreath strung with ribbons (meant to be worn on the head) hanging on my bedroom wall…although I don’t remember which young man made it for me (or more likely, his mother made it on his behalf, LOL).

So let’s celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday in our home!

Here are three ideas:

Character Party Game

Write the names of famous Shakespeare characters on 3X5 cards with a Sharpie (pick characters that the kids know) and without letting the person see, tape a card to each person’s back. Then each person asks “yes-no” type questions of other players to try to determine which character’s name is on his/her back. When someone guesses their character, tape a different character to his/her back. Several rounds may be played, depending on the number of players. (Sample questions: Am I male or female? Is my father dead? Is a play named after me?)

Quills and Quotes

Make quills from feathers (either dip feathers into ink or insert the innards of a ball point pen into the bottom of a feather and wrap with florist tape if needed; see this link: Instructables) and copy some favorite Shakespeare quotations or insults onto parchment (or regular) paper.

Trivia Games

Sporcle’s Shakespeare Trivia Home Page has games such as “Shakespeare vs. Batman Quotes,” “Shakespeare Threats & Insults,” and “Complete the Shakespeare Quote.” (Note: these quizzes are hard–I missed quite a few!)

And find more ideas here!

So, Happy 451st Birthday, William Shakespeare, from your friends at Brave Writer!!!

“So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.”

~Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare

Susanne Barrett has homeschooled her four children since 1997. She has a  B.A. in Literature and a Master of Arts in English. Her stories, poetry, and essays have been published in various venues. She is a well-loved, highly gifted Senior Teacher, Staff Writer, and Curriculum Developer with Brave Writer and is currently leading our popular Shakespeare Family Workshop.