Statue in Leicester Square, London
April 23rd marked the traditionally observed anniversary of Shakespeare's birth in 1564, as well as the date of his death in 1616. The exact dates are in dispute by historians, just as the authorship of his plays is constantly under scrutiny by scholars. In any case...
"Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart"...We owe quite a debt to the Bard for his contribution to the English language. Scholars credit him with the invention of more than 1,700 new words -- words and phrases that we hear and we use every day. Do these sound familiar: Dauntless, deafening, dishearten? Gloomy, gossip, green-eyed? Laughable, lonely, luggage? Madcap, majestic, monumental? Scuffle, swagger, and zany?
The words and quotes of the William Shakespeare can be found everywhere! His quotations can be heard on the radio and television on a daily basis. Did you know that "What the dickens" was one of the quotes used by William Shakespeare, long before Charles Dickens was born? Other famous Shakespearean quotations such as "I'll not budge an inch", "We have seen better days" ,"A dish fit for the gods" are all used frequently and, almost as a parody, the expression it's "Greek to me" is often used to describe a frustrated student's view of Shakespeare's work! Politicians dig deep into their pool of William Shakespeare quotes and quotations such as "Fair Play", "Foregone Conclusion ", "One Fell Swoop", and "Into Thin Air ". Furthermore, other Shakespearean quotes such as "to thine own self be true" have become widely spoken pearls of wisdom. So quotes from William Shakespeare have now become household words and sayings - and just to emphasise the point "household word" is also one of the Bard's 'anonymous' quotations! (source: www.william-shakespeare.info)
Why Shakespeare never fails to get brains buzzing:
Robert McCrum said this, in THE OBSERVER on guardian.co.uk, Sunday April 24 2011:
The magic that Shakespeare works with language is a commonplace of literary commentary, but it also answers to neurological analysis. Since 2006, Professor Philip Davis of Liverpool University has been studying the effects of Shakespeare on the human brain.
Using EEG and fMRI scanning techniques, Davis has been testing individual responses to some of the playwright's most daring innovations. "I had an intuition," he says, "that functional shifts of syntax in Shakespeare might have an impact on the pathways of the brain, which is an extraordinary internal theatre."
Davis will take a sentence, for example Albany's charge to Goneril in King Lear: "A father, and a gracious aged man... have you madded." This is an ungrammatical, highly energised compression. MRI scans suggest that it evokes a powerful neurological response. In the words of his collaborator Dr Guillaume Thierry: "The Shakespearean functional shift appears to prompt activation in the visual association cortex, ie in regions normally activated by visualisation; that is, the mind's eye."
Shakespeare and the Elizabethans loved to use language in new ways. Davis shows that this brilliance has a cerebral dividend. Lines such as Albany's, he says, are "a way of upping the attention level, what we might call the 'wow factor'". Subjecting Shakespeare to an MRI scan might seem an abstruse piece of scientific reduction, but it's an apt reminder that Shakespeare's language, like all great literature, is all about neural excitement.
(read the whole article HERE)
SHAKESPEARE FOR KIDS?
TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE by Charles and Mary Lamb. (grades 6 and up) Product description: In the twenty tales told in this book, Charles & Mary Lamb succeeded in paraphrasing the language of truly adult literature in children’s terms. The Lambs provide a real feast of plain fare, and flavor it with as many tasty tidbits of Shakespearean language as they felt the young reader could easily digest.
JUST FOR FUN-
You might want to check out Lois Burdett's series, SHAKESPEARE CAN BE FUN. (ages 7-12) To see excerpts from HAMLET, click HERE. Though not at all pure Shakespeare verse, you might garner some fun ideas for your students/children from these books. ( The reading of them probably won't match the fun her elementary students had in creating them.) Her titles, illustrated by the students and resulting from an intensive project she did with them, include:
HAMLET; ROMEO AND JULIET; A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM; MACBETH; MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING; TWELFTH NIGHT; THE TEMPEST
For Listening... (to read my past post about JIM WEISS, click HERE)
Jim Weiss Storytelling: ROMEO AND JULIET (ages 8-Adult)
Jim Weiss Storytelling SHAKESPEARE FOR CHILDREN (A Midsummer Night's Dream &Taming of the Shrew, ages 8-Adult)
Fun website for kids from FOLGER SHAKESPEARE LIBRARY