Wednesday, 25 April 2012

V is for Henry V by William Shakespeare

Did you see what I did there? V. Ha, inspired! Actually, I've never read/seen Henry V, so this post is going to be about Shakespeare in general. Because I hate him. No, sorry... I used to hate him.

The Complete Works of Shakespeare
At school, I hated him. I studied Antony and Cleopatra at GCSE, and it put me off. Far too much politics!

Then I started A Levels and we read Much Ado About Nothing. This was much easier to understand: firstly it's about love - simple! - and my teacher was fantastic at explaining line by line, and pointing out all the rude bits, and when the Kenneth Branagh version was released I could understand it all! Yay for me!

Jump forward to 2011 - my son aged 12 saw that Hamlet was coming to a theatre near us and wanted to go. So, fearing he wouldn't understand or enjoy it - and fearing I wouldn't either - I took him. (Just him and me, which rarely happens, and probably helps to explain my fondness of this memory.) We had a great time. What amazed me the most was how caught up in the action my son was. He asked a couple of questions at half-time, and explained a couple of things to me too!

Shakespeare should not be read from a book. It is pretty much incomprehensible. Seeing it on stage should be compulsary for anyone attempting to study it. Shakespeare wrote plays! Plays belong on the stage!

I wouldn't say I love Shakespeare now, but I certainly appreciate everything that has happened in literature because of him - and I'm looking forward to seeing another production with my son one day - and therefore Shakespeare has to be part of this series.

38 comments:

  1. I've never read/seen Henry V either.

    Hamlet's my favorite. I taught it a couple of times in my classroom. The kids started off hating it but near the end, they ended up loving it and actually asking to read more.

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    1. Much Ado is my favourite, simply because it's the first one I understood. Denzel Washington helps too!

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  2. Yeah, I'm not very good at reading plays, but I do intend to try my best to get through reading Shakespeare's stuff, just 'cause it's legendary. But I also would love to see the plays!

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    1. I'd definitely try seeing the plays first - the BBC did a series of plays, filmed as plays on an empty stage, which would be a great place to start if you can't get to see it live.

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  3. I definitely agree Shakespeare should be seen, not read. I absolutely LOVE The Taming of the Shrew!

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    1. Not seen that one - I'm still at the very beginning of the Shakespeare 'journey' :-)

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  4. I can see why that would be a special memory for you. I admire everything that Shakespeare did for literature, I just can't stomach his writing. I've seen plenty of movies based on his work, but never a play. :)

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    1. If Shakespeare lived today, he'd probably be writing films, so I think that's perfectly legitimate :-)

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  5. "Shakespeare wrote plays! Plays belong on the stage!"
    It's amazing how few English teachers understand this basic concept. I hated Shakespeare until I saw his stuff on stage too. In fact, I never read plays. What's the point? Go see them performed!

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    1. Absolutely! If we were supposed to read it, he'd have written novels!

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  6. i watched the movie Henry V, but that's the closest i ever got.

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  7. I've seen quite a bit of Shakespeare enacted, and it is an entirely different experience.

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    1. You understand a lot more when you're watching it, don't you?

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  8. I like Shakespeare if I have a cheat sheet to help me read it. But that's so much work, so I haven't read him since forced to in college.

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    1. That's the benefit of watching a play - the meaning of the words is a lot more apparent. Reading Shakespeare for pleasure is an oxymoron!

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  9. Hi Annalisa .. I heard a BBC snippet on the Shakespeare they're putting on at the Globe for the cultural Olympiad .. the talk I heard was about actresses in Afghanistan (not allowed) and how they said that Shakespeare knew about them, he understood their life ... she related to Shakespeare's times as he told the story and said their life in Kabul was like Elizabethan England 400 years ago .. this is a link .. there are others if you put in Shakespeare Globe Afghanistan ..

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-17159224

    Cheers - it makes fascinating reading ... and so pleased you and your son had such a great time at Hamlet ..

    There are an intelligent intellectually deprived couple up at the Nursing Centre - andI really must spend time with them - as I'll learn so much ... and catchup on my lack-of-learning youth ..

    Cheers Hilary

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    1. Talking to people is definitely a great way to learn. I've learnt so many cool things on this challenge - really random things I'd never have gone out of my way to discover! I'll be sure to check out that link, too - thanks.

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  10. I read Henry V in High School. I'll agree that it's a difficult read, especially for young people (and I did not understand a lot of it the first time), but now, when I do pick up Shakespeare's work it's easier to understand. I don't know why. Maybe it comes with age??? (just a guess)

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    1. Maybe it is an age thing - the closer you get to 400, the easier the prose becomes :-D

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  11. I absolutely agree and I love seeing Shakespeare performed. Hamlet is one of my favourites, although I used to hate it! I studied it at A level and can only say that, looking back, I had an awful teacher. She didn't bring it to life at all and just droned on until we were all comatose. A few years back I saw a production by 'Shakespeare for Kids' with school and it blew me away. Ok, so maybe I needed it simplified, but if everyone could start a study with a performance it would mean so much more. My daughter's doing GCSE Romeo and Juliet and apparently the exam questions are based on Baz Lehrmann's film and his characterisations and interpretations, which seems a bit weird to me, but I suppose it makes them think and compare it with the text!

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    1. Hmm, I'm not sure what I think about kids studying the Baz Lehrmann version - I had to stop watching, I couldn't get on with it at all.

      I definitely agree all new study should start with seeing the play. Maybe we should petition the government?

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  12. Yeah, Im a total Shakespeare fan girl. The Branagh Much Ado is one of the best movies ever :) :)

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

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    1. Great film, great play... and Denzel Washington...

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  13. I agree that Shakespeare is much better being seen/heard than being read (or dissected word-by-word by some well-meaning English teacher!). We had to read a lot of Shakespeare at school, but my favourite was The Merchant of Venice because we did it as a school play and I was in it - Prince of Aragon!. Since then I've seen quite a lot of Shakespeare on stage or film, and they're the ones that stick in my mind, not the ones we read at school.

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    1. Ah, now having a part in the play takes it to the next level again! I'm impressed - I never got the hang of reading the lines aloud :-)

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  14. Very clever title.

    I tagged you with the Lucky 7 Meme: http://teralynpilgrim.blogspot.com/2012/04/game-of-sevens.html

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    1. Thank you - the title was a tricky one!

      Thanks for the tag too. I've done it before, but I might pick out a different WIP and do it again - it'll be an easy way back into normal blogging :-)

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  15. I agree with you. Shakespeare always intended his work to be seen and not read but I had a strange experience at school. My O Level book was Julius Caesar and I ended up loving it. It's not my sort of story and I wouldn't say I'm mad about any of his other work but there was something about knowing it inside out that made me fall in love.

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    1. That's how I feel about my Much Ado About Nothing experience - my teacher spent time explaining what all the unfamiliar words and phrases meant, but it wasn't until I saw it that I really felt comfortable with it.

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  16. That is a wonderful memory. When we watched the movie of MacBeth I liked it much better than reading it. I wanted to die when they made us read Romeo & Juliet for like the 6th time in HS. Couldn't they pick something else?

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    1. There's really no reason to study a play more than once!

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  17. I understand it in theatre better than on a stage. But much of the dialogue is written in poetic form. We've been looking at parts of Romeo and Juliet in my poetry class. I never picked up on it before.

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    1. Oh yes, the poetry is beautiful, and a lot of it is very witty. But it's the expression on the faces of the actors that help pick out the wit - for me, anyway.

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  18. Ah, all plays need to be seen before read, I think (as an English teacher who teaches Shakespeare). Thankfully our Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane puts on Shakespearean plays at least twice a year, and the schools attend. Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet (for the younger grades) and Hamlet are alive and well in our schools. Think about all that action in Macbeth. Hard for a modern story to match it.

    Denise

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    1. Your students are very lucky. And I agree about the action - once you get past the funny words (lol), there's a lot of fighting, blood and death - what's not to like!

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  19. Much Ado About Nothing was a great film! Agree that it's better in film form.

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Please comment - I love a good chat!