The Great Shakespeare Massacre of aught eight

March 21, 2008

As I said in the last entry, I’ve been trying to get the boys to do their homework. The end of the quarter is approaching, and like a New Year’s diet, it’s an effort to undo months of bad behavior. Quickly, if possible.

#2 Son is studying Shakespeare in English class. He must memorize a speech, and recite in class.

I used to work in theater. Shakespeare is my homeboy. I can help with this.

Who would have known there was so much blood in him?
Oh what a piece of work is man?
To be or not to be?
Oh for a muse of fire?

How about “What brave new world…”

Or the dark lady sonnet. That’s short, and easy to remember.

#2 Son:
It has to be from Romeo and Juliet.


I hate Romeo and Juliet. Schools think it’s the basic, starter play for all 9th graders, because it’s about suicidal teenagers in love. Face it, while R & J have the sort of family issues that would best be sorted by Doctor Phil, they take a real Jerry Springer approach to their problems.

Sure, there is a lot of good love stuff in the middle. But if Juliet had been smart enough to look at Friar Lawrence and say, “Faking my own death? That’s the best you can do? Got any other ideas, old man?”

Well, it would have been a different story entirely.

So I grit my teeth, and prepare to listen to some bad Shakespeare.

#2 Son has many good qualities. If I need some furniture built, or supper made? He is my man. I would definitely go to him for help on all math, and some sciences. And he has an excellent sense of direction.

But he does not appear to be headed for a career on the stage.

He chooses a speech by Capulet (or Montague. It doesn’t really matter. Because it is totally forgettable.)

It is hard to advise him on memorization, when the words of this speech slip from both our memories, the minute they are out of his mouth.

“A Bears him like a portly gentleman”


OK. Really I know. Like I said, Shakespeare and me? We’re tight. But this is not a “trippingly on the tongue” speech. There is a reason that people are not quoting this scene.

After he tries this scene several times, I grab the book, flip some pages, and point. “Here. Read this one.”

Apparently, 2 Son is the only person on the planet that has not heard “What light through yonder window breaks…”

He manages “He laughs at scars that never felt a wound” fairly well. But he begins having trouble once he hits one of the most quoted passages in all literature.

So, I begin trying to help

#2 Son:
What (long pause)

I point at lamp.

#2 Son: gives me a funny look.

Me still pointing: LIGHT

#2 Son (in labored iambic pentameter) throughyonderwindowbreaksitisthe… long pause.

Me: (Pointing out the window) EAST. And Juliet is the (waving arms) SUN. (Pointing up) ARISE fair sun and (stab stab stab) SLAY the envious moon.

Apparently, he did better on this than some of his class.

But I complained to my husband, #2 is clearly not destined for greatness, if he gets a job that requires memorization of poetry. That THANK GOD, he has other skills, because a person doesn’t have to know everything to survive.

And my husband spins me around 180 degrees, and points me to a window on the opposite wall, where a blinding sunrise is perfectly framed.

That “is the EAST”. You were pointing west.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *