The Play’s the Thing: Introducing Shakespeare to Children

Studying/enjoying Shakespeare has always been a mainstay in our family’s educational efforts ever since our children were fairly small.  About age six or seven is when we’d start introducing comedies like A Midsummer Night’s Dreamor something exciting and full of adventure like The Tempest.

First, we tried to always read through Charles and Mary Lamb’s version of various plays in Tales from Shakespeare  or Stories from Shakespeare by E. Nesbit, just to enjoy the plot and make sure we understood the basic story line before attempting to wade through or listen to the Elizabethan English of the play, itself.

The Bard’s plays were intended to be seen performed on the stage with live actors — not read from a book with all the stage directions, etc.  I think teachers get it backwards when they try to introduce anyone to Shakespeare by having someone sit down and read the play from a book.  Personally, I think there’s nothing quite like seeing a live production of a Shakespearean play.  He wrote them as plays, not as novels.

If you don’t have a professional Shakespearean company close by, don’t despair. Check for local high school and college productions of Shakespeare’s plays (these are often very good productions and not nearly as expensive as seeing a professional Shakespearean company).  In the Seattle area, Greenstage puts on live Shakespeare-in-the-Park events throughout the summer which are free (donations welcomed).

If your children enjoy Manga comic books, you could even introduce the kiddos to the basic plot of Shakespeare’s plays through the new Manga Shakespeare editions.  I especially like the Manga Midsummer Night’s Dream version.  One of my college professors actually had the Manga edition of The Tempest as part of our required book list (as well as the full-text version, of course).

I also like the No Fear Shakespeare series which include two versions of each play side-by-side on the page … the original language and a modern English version.

Just my humble thoughts — following a quarter century of homeschooling — for what it’s worth.


One response to “The Play’s the Thing: Introducing Shakespeare to Children

  1. my DS10 and DD6 just don’t get Shakespeare and don’t care. My DD13 is far more interested so I have just put it aside till the young ones are ready. I have the books you have mentioned and they are lovely.

So, what do you think?

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