Monday, March 14, 2011

Elizabethans



Over my six years of running The Shakespeare Club, I've created a tight curriculum. In eighteen meetings I teach the kids vocal warm-ups and yoga; cover that nutbar, Henry VIII, and the feminist queen, Elizabeth I; explore the life of William Shakespeare; and rehearse a play to performance readiness.

"Okay, William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564, and died — get this — on April 23, 1616. Anything strange about that?"

He died on his birthday!

"I know. Bummer, right? I mean, did he even have a piece of cake or open one single present? Who can tell me how old he was when he died?"

This is a trick to include some math in the program.

"So, 1564 is a looooong time ago. What things do you think William Shakespeare did not have that we have today?"

A fourth-grade boy's arm flies up.

"Yes, Sam?"

"Antibiotics."

Oh boy. Sparkplug.

"That's exactly right. Medicine was not as advanced as it is today and so there were no antibiotics, which brings me to that terrible illness the Elizabethans feared most of all. The Black Plague, also called the Black Death, or bubonic plague. Creepersville."

I pass around a little bag with cinnamon sticks, cloves and lavender.

"There was no running water and no showers and no toilets. The streets were full of garbage and smelly old poop."

Screams because they love the poop part.

"The Elizabethans carried sachets or bits of plants, herbs or flowers inside a handkerchief to hold up to their noses so they wouldn't have to smell the bad stuff."

I show them drawings of the rats and fleas that spread the illness.

"And check this guy out," I say, holding up a picture of the gluttonous Henry VIII. "This was Queen Elizabeth's dad. You know, he started out fine. He married a girl from Spain named Catherine, and he liked to ride his horse and work out in the palace gym. But then he completely lost control and couldn't stop eating. He chowed down on whole sides of beef and hoovered up all the cakes he could get his hands on. He got so fat his helpers had to roll him around the castle in a special cart."

More screams because they love fat as well as poop.

I can't wait to get to the beheadings next week. I've got them in a grip as tight as any Harry Potter adventure.


CHILDREN'S WRITES: A Journal Entry
If I was a Queen I would be nice but also greety because I do want alot of things. I would want a candy house with a vegtible bath tub because I don't want to be fat like Heanry the 8th and most of all I would want a jello pool, but sience I said I would be nice too every one would have the same. And I would also exrisize every single day. So I would not get fat.
—Carina, 3rd grade

Jell-O cartoon from Graphic Ramblings in Chi Town

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