Delighting in the Bard: Living Lessons in Shakespeare

                                            Delighting in the Bard: 

Living Lessons in Shakespeare

"We probably read Shakespeare in the first place for his stories, afterwards for his characters; the multitude of delightful persons with who he makes us so become intimate with Shakespeare in this way is great enrichment of mind and instruction of conscience. Then, by degrees, as we go on reading this world teacher, lines of insight and beauty take possession of us and unconsciously mold our judgements of men and things and of the great issues of life." 
~Charlotte Mason 
Volume 4, Page 72 

I have witnessed the great joy and molding of character and thought that results from the reading of Shakespeare, both in my own home (and my own heart and mind) and in the homes of many others. 

I have also encountered several objections to the reading of Shakespeare; and quickly learned that most of these objections are rooted in a mother's own fear or discomfort and that they are quickly rooted out as soon as we make the decision to choose what is good, true, and beautiful and commit to spreading a wide feast. 

I addressed a few common objections here and also shared the benefits I have observed of the reading of Shakespeare and some principles to abide by for Shakespeare lessons in a living education.

Now, I will share some practices for living lessons in Shakespeare, including the building of lessons, what to do about questionable content, areas for further study, and notes about what plays Mason actually used in her programmes (and didn't). 

**Note- These practices are based upon what I have found and observed in Mason's programmes and volumes, but they are MY practices adapted and modernized for today's homeschooler. 

Shakespeare Lessons 

Grades 1-3 (Form 1)

  • 1-2 Per Term 
  • Read Slowly (as in, a few sentences each week)
  • Scaffold, Scaffold, Scaffold (discuss what you previously read, where you stopped, what you've discovered so far, and what you think is going to happen next) 
    **Reading tales slowly and scaffolding builds a vital skill for the future reading of Shakespeare's plays. Shakespeare's story lines are often hard to follow, and his character development can be confusing. It helps tremendously to build a foundation, and the skill of following the plot and keeping track of characters, and I have discovered that reading tales slowly and scaffolding generously builds this skill. 
  • Discuss Heartily (Talk about everything you're reading! Be honest about what you don't understand yourself and invite all thoughts, questions, and speculations.) 
  • Act Out Scenes 
  • Use Drawn Narrations 
  • Alternate between history, comedy, tragedy, and fantasy. But start with comedy! 

Grades 4 + (Forms 2-6) 
  • 1 Play Per Term 
  • Begin Term w/ Picture Book or Tale 
  • Each Lesson: Scaffold, Read, Narrate, Outline, Discuss 
  • Watch Play @ End of Term 
  • Don't overcomplicate. (But do explore and have fun!) 
    "The play's the thing that will win the hearts of our students, not the lesson plan." 
    ~Cindy Rollins 
  • Don't cast your own limitations and hesitations upon your children. 
  • Read (and reread) Shakespeare's biography- get to know him AND his work. 
  • Repeat favorite plays. 

Practices for Questionable Content

  • Remember and provide historical and cultural context. Press into the uncomfortable nature of some of Shakespeare's content by discussing why this content was deemed appropriate (or even necessary) at the time of writing, and how Shakespeare's audience would have reacted to it. 
  • Edit and Omit (By reading aloud. When the above doesn't apply, due to personal preference, simply edit and omit troublesome passages.) 
  • Remember that "veiled innuendos" are often over their heads and it isn't necessary to draw attention to them, belabor them, or explain them. 
  • Take teaching opportunities. When something is worthy in itself, the aspects of it that are less than ideal are the perfect opportunity to teach, discuss, and build our child's worldview. 
  • Don't shield your child from the sin and witchcraft within Shakespeare's plays. Use your judgement, and follow you conscience and convictions. But, don't omit everything. Allow them to see the natural consequences play out within the storyline. (Shakespeare's characters always face the consequences for their sin and their witchcraft, and this is necessary to see). Allow Shakespeare to build your child's moral imagination. 
  • Avoid certain plays entirely- Pericles, Troilus and Cressida, Timon of Athens, Titus Andronicus) 

Other Areas to Explore and Study

  • Elizabethan England 
  • Queen Elizabeth and Other Monarchs 
  • Geography of England 
  • The Globe
  • Theatre 
  • Acting
  • Playwriting
  • Sonnets/Poetry
  • Historical References 
  • Bible References 
  • The Renaissance
  • The Reformation
  • The Puritans 
  • Literature 
  • Language/Wordsmithing 

Sampling of Shakespearean Words/Phrases 
Shakespeare crafted over 20.000 words and phrases, and over 2000 of those are still in our every day vocabulary. His impact upon the English lexicon can not be overstated, and it's a fascinating area of study! 

Assassination, Premeditated, Reliance, Obscene, Gloomy, Lonely, Majestic, Hurry, Excellent, Too Much of a Good Thing, Good Riddance, Eyesore, Blinking Idiot, Tongue-Tied, Budge an Inch, Seen Better Days, Fair Play, Foul Play,
Dead as a Doornail, Flesh and Blood, Without Rhyme or Reason, 
Laughing Stock, Didn't Sleep a Wink 

Plays in Mason's Programmes

In Programmes Most Frequently; 

Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Coriolanus, Henry VIII, Henry V, King Lear, Twelth Night, Hamlet, Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar, King John, The Tempest,
As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew 

Never in Mason's Programmes: 

All Well's that Ends Well, Antony and Cleopatra, Comedy of Errors, Henry IV, Henry VI, Love's Labour's Lost, Measure for Measure, Merry Wives of Windsor, Pericles, 
Timon of Athens, Titus Andronicus, Troilus and Cressida, Two Gentlemen of Verona 

In Programmes Once or Twice (In High School) 

Richard III, Winter's Tale, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Cymbeline 

If you'd like an easy way to implement all of these practices, be sure to check out: 
Delighting in Shakespeare which is a living Shakespeare curriculum for the entire family. Bringing the entire family together for the reading of Tales (and providing a reading plan for older students to read the corresponding full plays) Delighting in Shakespeare helps the study of the Bard truly become a delight in your home.

The curriculum includes weekly readings, narration prompts, and extension activities such as scene acting, character dolls, staging, and more. 

Also included each week is a "Life of the Bard" section, which helps you explore Shakespeare and his life in a delightful way. Activities to extend this section are found in the curriculum's corresponding Student Journal. Within these activities, you can explore the art of theatre, sonnet writing, the Globe, London, and much more. 

Much Ado About Nothing is currently available, Hamlet will be released in March of 2021, and A Midsummer Night's Dream will be released in summer of 2021. 

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