Translating Shakespeare

I’ve fallen in love.

haha, jk, I really just mean that I’ve found a new favorite book:  How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig.  I discovered it at Barnes & Noble this week while killing time between the eye doctor and dentist (’tis the season).  I usually buy books used, but this… I knew this would be an investment for the future.  Why wait though?  No time like the present!

Thus, two days after the book’s purchase, my twelve and ten-year-old sisters already have the first passage down.  My six-year-old brother isn’t that far behind.  Close enough that I gave him a sticker too.


We’ve spent hours these past two days having a blast with these ten lines.  We’ve been Googling pictures of oxlips, laughing at funny words (who are we kidding, Jay’s been laughing ever since he found out about the character named Bottom), making up funny dances to help us remember the lines, making up our own poems, and having some unexpectedly deep conversations.  Kids are insightful and Shakespeare has been surprisingly relevant to their lives…though Katie did decide she likes the story of The Lion King much more than Hamlet.

Now, what does this have to do with anything?  Besides the fact that it’s making it that much harder to say goodbye to them all in two weeks?

Well…I think the Church is sort of like Shakespeare.  She holds an infinite amount of beauty, wisdom, and even humor!  But we frequently do a terrible job of translating all of that.  Instead what comes across is something that’s boring, hard, out-of-date, and ultimately irrelevant.  We wind up with the remnants of Christianity, the equivalent of that Shakespearean Rag.  Admittedly, culture’s got some of the best lines (to be or not to be, love thy neighbor as thyself) that are powerful enough to have meaning on their own.  Nevertheless, we’re missing out on the stories behind the lines and only within the stories can readers be dazzled and transformed by the brilliance and depth of the lines.

I’m not saying I have any sort of solution, but it’s been interesting to think about as I plunge more dramatically into the New Evangelization.   How to you spark people’s interest in the Church?  Excite them?  Make them think that spending multiple hours in prayer and study is worth the time?  How do you teach people, no matter their level of understanding, the dogmas and mysteries?  Especially when they think they already know and aren’t that interested in the story.

I have decided, though, that three things are critical for sharing a passion:

1. Genuine joy.  With this Shakespeare bit, I have gone into full English teacher mode.  We spent at least five minutes talking about what could be meant by “nodding” violets, which sounds dumb, but because I was so ridiculously excited about it, my siblings got into too.  They got more confident and interested with every answer they gave, which then made them more curious and excited for the questions that followed.

2.  Authentic investment.   In case you’ve missed it somehow, my siblings are my favorite people in the entire world.  Duh, I want to see them turn out to be brilliant, thoughtful, and kind people, and I’ll do whatever I can to help them get there.  Beyond that though, the kids are also invested in each other. Despite bickering like crazy all summer long, they still want to see the other succeed and have been so encouraging and supportive of each other during our “Team Shakespeare” time.  It’s pretty cute.

3.  Commitment.  Yeahhhh.  This is why I’m a little worried about my new Shakespeare project.  Hoping my mom will just incorporate it into the English component of her homeschooling.  Because if someone doesn’t pick up where I left off, yes, it will be a happy memory, but the growth won’t go any further and what has been attained will be lost.

And no, none of this is life changing or something that’s never been said before, but it is my blog that lets me work through my thoughts, and that’s where my thoughts are right now…or some of them anyway.  Alas, I don’t have time to tell you about my exciting Iowa trip (corn!) or how cute my friends’ babies are (SUPER!).  Hopefully I’ll get in at least one more post before I leave, but who knows.  We’ve got a lot of Shakespeare to learn in these next two weeks!

ps.  You may have noticed in the picture that Laura does not have a sticker.  No worries.  Though not learning Shakespeare, she is making great strides elsewhere, like learning how to READ!!!  Cutest. Thing. Ever.


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