Lois
Lois asked:

Everyone reads ROMEO AND JULIET in high school -- mayhap because the title characters are young, so teacher think it will feel 'relevant' -- but would it be better to read or see the play when you're older and can appreciate it more? Or can R&J get teens to fall in love with Shakespeare?

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Kyla Belvedere I think to get kids to love Shakespeare, the teacher needs to love Shakespeare. I have only taught a few plays with a few grades. Midsummer Night's Dream to mostly grade 9s--although I did it once with my alternative school seniors, who acted it using scripts, and changed it so that Hermia was a lesbian and Lysander another woman, to make sense for them (such a great change, by the way, worked perfect). I've done MacBeth with grade 11s, and it is violent and gory and filled with crazies/super natural/combination. Plus, there are some EXCELLENT films to pair with it, such as Scotland, PA. My seniors often study Hamlet, which again, crazies/supernaturals, but I find the theme of mental health very accessible.

As for R&J, here, it is traditionally taught in 10, although some have seen it as early as grade 8. I think if taught in an interesting way, kids could fall in love with Shakespeare. But, what I would emphasize, and I have rarely taught it, is the complex dirty jokes, the violence, the relevance of the themes--parental control, lust, etc. If it is being taught as a love story, it will fail, because it isn't. Are there themes around love? Of course, but being realistic about the relationship and letting students rip apart how rash and dramatic the characters are being, because, duh, they are teens, the kids love doing that! Plus, there are always current stories in the media that they can compare with.

I had a great teacher for my 9th grade English where I first studied this play (hey, Connie Warrender, if you are reading), and I loved it. We made masks and put on a ball; we hurled insults; we staged scenes; and we related to the characters and their poor decisions while reflecting on our own. I didn't study this play again until my 3rd year of university, and I can honestly say, I got no more out of it then.
Jean I am amazed how many young people (and older ones too) still love Shakespeare. Even as an English major in college, I never liked Shakespeare, never found it readable or relevant. So I don't know how/why some young people DO like those unreadable, anachronistic plays. The poems, not too bad.
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by Lois Leveen (Goodreads Author)
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