Shakespeare for a bedtime story

Tonight at dinner Tom was telling us all about the things they are doing in drama class – Shakespeare no less! They’re doing A Midsummer-Night’s Dream and Tom has the part of Starveling the tailor, it boggles my mind just how this is going to work with a bunch of 7 year olds, how awesome is our drama teacher? (She is awesome, the kids love her and she gets great stuff out of them). We were discussing the story of the play over the meal and Dave and Cait were asking about what happens so I went and dug out my copy of Bernard Miles’ Favourite Tales from Shakespeare and for good measure grabbed my Complete Works as well. We had a look at the pics in the Favourite Tales and then opened up to the original text because the kids wanted to know what all the characters names were.

I started reading. (Asides by me in green)

Act 1
Scene 1: The Palace of Duke Theseus

Theseus and Hippolyta enter and take their seats, followed by Philostrate and attendants.

THESEUS. Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour (their wedding day)
Draws on apace (comes soon): four happy days bring in
Another moon: but O, methinks how slow
This old moon wanes! she lingers my desires,
Like to a step-dame, or a dowager,
Long withering out a young man’s revenue. (It’s only four days away but it seems too long to the duke)
HIPPOLYTA. Four days will quickly steep themselves in night:
Four nights will quickly dream away the time: (It’ll go quick enough)
And then the moon, like to a silver bow
New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night
Of our solemnities.(They’re getting married when the moon is crescent shaped)
THESEUS. Go Philostrate,
Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments,
Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth, (tell all the young people in the city to start celebrating)
Turn melancholy forth to funerals:
The pale companion is not for our pomp. (No misery guts allowed!)
Philostrate departs
Hippolyta, I wooed thee with my sword,
And won thy love doing thee injuries (Oh dear, that doesn’t sound good)
But I will wed thee in another key,
With pomp, with triumph and with revelling. (but we’ll have a huge party for our wedding)

Me: Want me to stop?

Them: No, keep going!

Dear god, they wouldn’t let me stop! Pretty soon I was asking “Can I stop now?” complete with pathetic whimpering but they were merciless. I eventually got terminally tongue-tied half-way through Act 2 Scene 1 and sent them to bed. I really thought they’d tell me to shut up before I’d reached the end of the first long speech but no – I was even getting laughs in all the right places!

My Nanna (Dad’s mum) would have been so proud, she was a complete Shakespeare nut. On the inside cover of that Bernard Miles book it says “To Miriam, Love Nana. 23-10-82” – my 12th birthday present. It would have given her the most enormous pleasure to know that her love of the bard which she shared with me is now being shared with her great grandchildren.

Mind you, all I can think of now is “Strangely enough, it all turns out well. How? I don’t know. It’s a mystery.” and “I have a new play. What’s it called? Romeo and Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter.” and most importantly “You see – comedy. Love, and a bit with a dog. That’s what they want.” I’ll just have to go watch the movie again I guess. Such hardship!

3 thoughts on “Shakespeare for a bedtime story

  1. That’s so Freekn COOL!!!I’m an english lit grad and LOVE the bard too.Not that I’ve read dear William in YEARS!!!fyi… NO, I didn’t name my son after him (more William the bloody!!!) pls don’t tell my mum. (eek)Never stop reading to those beautiful kiddies!=0)EM

  2. I’ve been reading my 3yo The Magic Pudding – man, there are so many songs and poems in that, so I’ve been engaging in judicious editing! – but it is his first chapter book, and he loves it

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