Teaching Shakespeare!

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Shakespeare has poked Benedick

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The big news in Shakespeare geek circles this week is the “production” of Much Ado About Nothing taking place on FACEBOOK beginning tomorrow. Sixteen characters have been added to facebook, and if you “like” all of them you can watch their story unfold in real time on the internet. Benedick Salvador will flame Beatrice Grant’s wall, while John Zaragoza cyber-bullies Claudio Firenze into making a huge mistake.

This comes in the wake of last year’s award-winning Such Tweet Sorrow, a real-time twitter “production” of Romeo and Juliet. The characters tweeted to and about each other over 3 days, culminating in a familiar tragic scene.

Shakespeare has been introduced to social media before. Perhaps the first public memory is of Sarah Schmelling’s book-spawning entry for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency of Hamlet’s News Feed in 2008 (which was performed for NPR last October). These items condense the plays into quick, recognizable media that students understand.

But where’s the language?

One of our high school fellows in 2009 created several facebook profiles for the characters of As You Like It to examine the ways in which characters hide their identity either by disguise or by using a different online persona to test the waters. She did use conversations between Orlando and Rosalind (and Ganymede) to map out how they would converse online over a week’s time – with Shakespeare’s text.

Would it be so hard to use the text in these social productions? Or would the point be totally lost in a medium reliant on breezy comprehension?

I look forward to checking in on the Much Ado gang (without liking all of their characters, hopefully!) to see how it goes. Do you incorporate social media in the classroom? How could this work for other plays?

One Comment

  • Well, I’m intrigued. And think this would make a fascinating classroom exercise (and could be extended well beyond Shakes). What a great way to get kids read a book, a play, a poem… and then explain/digest/act out what they just read in their own words. Interpreting what was on the page and bringing it to life in their own words and imagination. This is a great way to bring the now to the past and teach children (and adults) how similar it can be. And the more I think about it – there are so many other topics that can be brought up with this – the one that comes to mind is “the choice of language”, “how we use words and how they are interpreted”.

    Now as a play…I don’t necessarily have the time to follow it all on FB but I’ll check in on them to see how they are dealing with some things in the social media world.

    And the rap at the bottom of the page is fantastic!

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