…the worship of Shakespeare, ought to be even more a secular religion than it already is. The plays remain the outward limit of human achievement: aesthetically, cognitively, in certain ways morally, even spiritually. They abide beyond the end of the mind’s reach; we cannot catch up to them. Shakespeare will go on explaining us, in part because he invented us….
So, as one who practices bardalotry … I’m always looking for good books on Shakespeare, and also for good books to introduce Shakespeare to young people, and I recently stumbled across a very nice series. I was slightly familiar with author, Marchette Chute, because my second grade students memorize and recite one of her little poems as one of their monthly poem projects. But as I was looking for books to choose for Historia’s 2009 Shakespeare Reading Challenge, I ran into her again. Her series is very nice, for young and old alike, introducing them to Shakespeare, his worlds, and his plays! While snowbound last week, I read her book, An Introduction to Shakespeare, and enjoyed it. It’s an old Scholastic paperback, geared for middle school and above, and the blurp on the back cover made me chuckle. It says the book is “A great grade booster you’ll really enjoy. Score some extra points in class — and add new meaning and excitement to your assigned reading. Journey back in time with this lively book that brings to life the world of William Shakespeare — the greatest playwright who ever lived!”
I didn’t find it lively, but I was very interested in all the information she packed into this small volume, and how easy it was to read and understand. She was very respectful of her audience, and wrote with great warmth. I learned a lot about Shakespeare that I didn’t previously know, and I think this would be an excellent book to use as part of an introductory class. She wrote numerous other books, two of which I now plan to read for Historia’s reading challenge:
From the ending to An Introduction to Shakespeare:
Among all Shakespeare’s contemporaries, it was John Heminges and Henry Condell who had the greatest faith in the future. They were convinced that the reputation of their “friend and fellow” would be safe if only his work could be made available to the ordinary reading public.
…It is not our province, who only gather his works and give them to you, to praise him. It is yours that read him … Read him, therefore; and again and again; and if then you do not like him, surely you are in manifest danger not to understand him. And so we leave him to other of his friends, whom, if you need, can be your guides; if you need them not, you can lead yourselves and
others. And such readers we wish him.
–John Heminges and Henry Condell
Their wish was answered. It was such readers he got, and no other writer in the world’s history has been loved by so many people or has given so much happiness.
This was a very nice book to read to begin my Shakespeare Reading Challenge.