Monday, October 26, 2009


April, 2009

While we're studying and rehearsing a play for performance, I like to introduce other Shakespearean plots to the kids. It's a gateway for a future production, an opportunity to examine themes...and a cheap contrivance for me to take center stage and act out a story.

By April, they had written in their journals about love and power. It was now time to take a look at that most dangerous of themes: Revenge.

How many of us grapple with this appetizing idea? How many of us toss and turn a night away conniving and smiling in the dark as we imagine the yummy consequences? Oh, that sweet ambrosia: Revenge.

"Hamlet," I announce to the young thespians seated in a semi-circle in Room 39.

"We did that!" shouts Luis.

"I was Horatio!" calls Geoffrey.

"Then let's see what you remember," I answer.

And the boys slump. No one likes a pop quiz.

"Hamlet's dad died. Hamlet's mom quickly married Hamlet's Uncle Claudius. Hamlet met with the ghost of his dad and learned the truth: His dad was murdered with poison in the ear by Uncle Claudius."

"Yeech!" says Geneva.

"Big yeech, big time. What is the theme of this play? What does Hamlet want? Remember our three themes: Love, Power and Revenge. What do you think Hamlet wants?"

"He wants to kill that guy!" shouts Ethan.

"Yup. He wants to get back at that uncle so he wants...."

I wait. They stare. I wait.

"He wants...."

Lifting the voice, as if that will help.

"To kill that guy!"

"Right, Calvin...we've established that....But what's that called?"

"Revenge," Kate says quietly, as the girls sometimes speak when the boys bounce up and down around them.

"Exactly, Kate. This is revenge and sometimes we all want that. To get back at someone if we've been hurt, right?"

Bums wiggle on seats.

"But here's the thing: it doesn't really work. It feels like getting back would work, but it doesn't really work and Shakespeare shows us that. In the play 'Hamlet,' everyone ends up unhappy or dead."

" in really dead?" asks Nathan.

"Sadly, yes. Get your journals and let's write about a time when you wanted revenge. Sometimes the best way to get it is to write it down."

Or to imagine it. Played out. In a really good way. A delicious ouch that has them begging for relief, screaming "I'm so sorry!" and promising the moon...but I digress.

CHILDREN'S WRITES: Journal Entries
Once I wanted revenge on Kenneth because he broke one of my toys. It was a fossiled dinosaur. It was made out of bones. With sharp teeth, a foot big, and it was a T-Rex. But it was an accident. He sat on it.
—Luis, 5th grade

I would love to get revenge on my sister. She get me in trouble, pulls my hair and plays with or takes my things without asking. I wish with all my heart to get revenge before I die!
Alice, 5th grade

I want revenge on Erik when he got me in troble in something I didn't do!
—Harry, 4th grade

Once I wanted revenge with my best friend Denise. She was not my friend at the time but now we are best friends. I wanted revenge by calling her names back. She called me names I didn’t like. That's when I wanted revenge.
—Carla, 4th grade

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