Today we had the Shakespeare class over to watch a movie version of the play we just finished reading. We watched "As You Like It" (1936) with Lawrence Olivier and Elisabeth Bergner.
I think the kids enjoyed the movie. They seemed to like the actor's portrayal of Touchstone, thought Duke Senior was a little overdressed for the forest, and wondered whether "our" Corin should have a beard. They were disappointed at some of the cuts. They went for more snacks during the "Seven Ages of Man" monologue. They looked at me knowingly when Audrey sang the right tune to "It was a Lover and His Lass". They thought Rosalind was cute, although she whacked people too much with her stick.
Our class' favorite scene is when Orlando says he "can live no longer by thinking" and Silvius explains what it means to love (Act V Scene II). The scene is cut short in the 1936 version. This raised an outcry. They wanted ALL the now-familiar lines.
In our class reading of "As You Like It", that scene had been a sort of tipping-point. It was then that I knew for sure all of us were on the same page. At the end of the reading, the kids had burst out laughing, then talked excitedly. They wanted THIS scene for Family Night. The other teacher and I had already cobbled together a script of short scenes for the end-of-year program, but I want you to know we took it apart and redid it.
Many times, especially at the beginning, students told me, "I don't get it." Some of them had never read a real Shakespeare play. I gave background, but tried not to explain too much. I told them Shakespeare wrote for regular (16th Century) people. I told them to grasp what they could and leave the rest, to listen to the rhythm if they couldn't catch the sense, to focus on the subject and verb in the sentence because the rest was decoration. We paraphrased a scene into postmodern English. We paraphrased in our narrations. We made an ANI chart on the issue of whether Rosalind should have deceived Orlando. One by one, week by week, students engaged, and by the day we read Act V Scene II... the last act, although not the last scene... all of us together appreciated Shakespeare. "As You Like It" is now our play.
Next year I want to read Hamlet.