Shakespeare’s England

Great background information to inform you study of Shakespeare

Helpful article to put Shakespeare's works into context.The ability to place Shakespeare, the man, into his historical context can enrich our reading and understanding of his plays. While dealing with universal themes that will resonate with modern audiences, there are portions that will yield richer rewards if we are able to place the plays in their context.

Shakespeare was born during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, or the Elizabethan Age. For an actor and a playwright, this was a boon. Before this time actors were at the bottom rungs of society. Most of the population assumed actors were cheats and scoundrels, and public theaters rarely lasted long.

However, Queen Elizabeth enjoyed the theater and great advances in the Arts were made during her reign. She was the last ruler of the Tudor dynasty and she was a force to be reckoned with. She had beaten the Spanish Armada and emerged as a dominant power in Europe and the New World.

Within England she was a patron of the arts, and culture wwas thriving. The Renaissance had arrived in England and with it incredible advances in art, science, scholarship and literature. For the first time actors and playwrights were financially thriving and gaining respect and status.

The Reformation had also arrived in England, bring with it religious upheaval as groups broke with Catholicism and the Pope.  In England this movement provided Henry VIII the excuse he needed to declare himself the head of the church, uniting political and spiritual power with the crown.  This power play achieved his primary goal, allowing him to legally divorce his first wife and marry his mistress, Anne Boelyn, Queen Elizabeth’s mother.  The consequences of this move would lead to a great deal of unrest and violence after his death. When Elizabeth finally secured the crown, her reign was largely a period of peace for England. 

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Why Shakespeare?

To teach or not to teach Shakespeare that is the question.

While teaching Shakespeare can be challenging, it's worth the effort. Here's why.I admit, I’m one of the nerds who loves Shakespeare. I was introduced to the Bard in Jr. High in a drama class, and was asked to compete in a Shakespeare Festival performing a soliloquy from King Lear. While I’m sure my performance was sadly lacking, I was able to watch performances by some very talented students, and I was hooked.

In high school I had excellent English teachers (Thank you Miss Irwin) who furthered my appreciation. Then, the summer after high school, I had the good fortune to travel and study in Europe. During that summer I visited Stratford (Shakespeare’s home town) studied Hamlet at Cambridge, and saw several productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was glorious and I was officially a fan.

Perhaps your experience with Shakespeare was a little less positive, and frankly, if you never have to read or see another play you’ll be perfectly content. You are certainly not alone

But, as Hamlet would say, “There’s the rub.” You’re homeschooling now. You’re responsible for your child’s education…and Shakespeare seems to be on everyone’s list of subjects that should be tackled. But why? Perhaps if you understand why Shakespeare and why a play, you’ll be motivated to give it another chance. And, at the end of this article, I’ll link you to a few excellent resources to help you in your endeavor.

Shakespeare deals with enduring themes that remain relevant to every new generation of readers. The emotions and situations that are explored are at once familiar and recognizable across time and cultures.

If you are human, the characters, plots, and themes are relevant. The plays explore family relationships, love, power, morality, politics, wealth, and death. Emotions such as hate, anger, despair, jealousy, courage, and wonder are examined and expressed with passion and empathy,

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The key to raising a reader that is often missed

How to encourage reading

Great reading adviceWe all want our children to be good readers. We want them to love books!  A child who loves to read has a huge advantage in life.

But there is one common mistake parents make that can quickly turn your child off to reading. That mistake, pushing them to read harder and harder books.

I see this all of the time in bookstores and at the library. A mom is standing with her 8-10 year old child and the child has picked a book. The mom looks at it and says, “No, this is too easy for you, go pick another one.” Or the parent picks a book and shows it to the child who says, “No, there are too many words on the page.” Sound familiar???

It seems obvious that if we want our children to get better at reading, we should push them a bit to read harder and harder books. Let me explain why this backfires.

In order for your child to enjoy reading, they have to be able to follow the story. I’m hoping you have all had the experience of becoming lost in a book. The world around you fades away, and you are living in the story. This is a wonderful experience, and it’s addicting, in a good way. If we want our children to get addicted to reading they need to have this experience.

Now imagine yourself reading that fabulous book but every few words you have to stop and struggle to sound out a word. With determination you make it through the page, but because you have been reading in stops and starts, you could never really enter into the flow of the story. Your enjoyment, no matter how fabulous the book was, would be limited. More than likely, your comprehension would be less than perfect as well.

I’m hoping you are seeing the problem. If a child is always pushed to read at the top level of his ability, he will never be free to enjoy the book. The result is that your child will not see reading as enjoyable but as work. For some kids, if they are constantly pushed, they will begin to feel frustration every time they pick up a book, this frustration can quickly turn into statements such as: “I’m not a good reader.” “I hate reading.” or “I’m stupid.”

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