Saturday, July 2, 2011

Reading Shakespeare's Richard III With My 6 Year Old

The Utah Shakespearean Festival is performing A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, and Richard III this summer. Lindsay did some work for the festival, so we will get two tickets to the play of our choice. Lindsay thinks I would enjoy taking our 6-year old daughter, Abish, to one of the plays. Six may seem young, but I have read a few Shakespeare plays with Abish, and she enjoys them.

When I asked Abish which of the plays she would like to see, she responded, without any hesitation, "Richard the Third!" I thought, "Do I really want to take my 6-year old to Richard III? Complex political conspiracy...inconstant women...lots of murder...child murder...frightening ghosts. Romeo and Juliet has some violence and teen suicide, but she knows the story. A Midsummer Night's Dream seems the most benign...maybe a little bestiality at the subconscious level...Why did I give her an option?"

"You've read A Midsummer Night's Dream," I said. Romeo and Juliet is kind of intense, but you know what happens in it."

"Richard the Third!" she exclaimed again.

After further thought, I said, "I'll take you to Richard III, but we need to read it first." This was not meant as a deterrent, because she will sit and read it with me, but I figured it would help her to understand the dramatic presentation better, and it would allow me to process the adult material with her. Really, I've been reading pretty hairy material with Abish for many years now. She has even listened to Othello. My reservations mostly related to actually seeing violence portrayed by talented, emotionally-charged actors. Richard III is quite dark.

This morning, Abish and I read the first two scenes together. I read all of the first scene, because Abish only wants to read female parts. The second scene contains Richard's wooing of Lady Anne. Abish read Lady Anne's parts very well. She even affected sadness, anger, and softening as the lines seemed to demand it. She slurred over a few words. I gently corrected her when she did so. She laughed at many comic lines with out prompting from me, and she seemed, with some explanation, to follow the plot well.

I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss creepy men with Abish. Richard lies to Lady Anne. He also flatters her vanity. Richard wants to use Anne for political and financial gain. He doesn't really love her. He manages to woo Anne over the corpse of her father-in-law. Richard also killed Anne's previous husband. All of this led to a discussion about how men sometimes lie to women to use them for their own pleasure. The discussion included the observation that feelings of love sometimes arise out of our own foolish vanity, rather than out of noble passions and affections for someone. The discussion ended, of course, with Daddy telling Abish to filter all of her potential boyfriends and mates through good ol' Dad. Of course, this was said tongue-in-cheek, but don't tell her that.

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