Looking for creative, nontraditional ways to teach Shakespeare? Consider this activity that got students very involved in both Hamlet and Macbeth. It is one that could be adapted to any play or novel. Tell students that they are going to create “newspapers” based on the characters, events, and situations in the play they are studying. (If it’s a tragedy, the obituary page will be voluminous.)
THE JOY OF HOMONYMS
To get them started dealing with Macbeth, I wrote on the blackboard, “Foul is Fair.” They quickly came up with Fowl is Fare. Then I set some students the task of finding all of the bird life mentioned in the play that might be served at a dinner party. The hostesses would be the Weird Sisters, whom we assigned the given names of the Gabors. (Yes, this was back in the 1980s.) Before long, we created the following feature story.
Fowl Is Fare
Wild birds prepared in a variety of exotic ways will grace the festive board tomorrow night at the Weird Ball. The event is being hosted again this year by the Weird Sisters. Among other tasty entrees, guests will be able to choose among fricassee of temple haunting martlet, mousing owl quiche, crow broiled over rooky wood, raven croquettes, creamfaced loon casserole, and hell kite with dumplings.
Early arrivals will be able to sample an hors d’oeuvres tray that will feature shardborne beetles dipped in chocolate and served on a bed of bats wool, and tender fillets of scorched (or, for the drinking person, “scotch’d”) snake. Dessert will consist of the traditional maggot pie blended with upstart crow. Entertainment will be provided by strolling, juggling fiends who palter in a double sense.
The event will take place as usual at Coven Gardens beginning at midnight. Attire will be withered and wild. Valet parking available at the broom closet.
For the newspaper title, we decided on The Daily Dunsinanity and the subtitle Published tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow in this petty space.
To cover the early info given by the witches, a team of students produced the article Master of the Tiger Survives Fierce Storm. The skipper spoke of his craft being circled by a sieve piloted by a large cat and a rat with no tail. Another story arose from the line “the earth hat bubbles as the water and [he is] of them. During a battle, Corporal MacBubbles, a bagpiper, disappeared-he vanished “into the air, and what seem’d Corporal melted as breath into the wind.” Donations may be made to the Society for the Encouragement of Bagpipes and Other “Instruments of Darkness.”
Birnam Wood Kennel Club awards Best of Breed to mongrels, shoughs, water-rugs and demi-wolves.
Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Banquo, Young Siward
Lost: A pilot’s thumb. Wreck’d as homeward he did come.
Donalbain, come home. All is forgiven.
(Asked of Weird sisters) Q. What is your favorite activity on a foul and fair day?
Zsa Zsa: Killing swine. Eva: Going for a sail in a sieve. Magda: Hovering through the fog and filthy air.
The Dunsinanity with illustrations ran to seven 8 1/2 by 11 pages
Then came the Elsinore Snore: Something written in the state of Denmark. The general approach was the same. Art work ranged from simple to elaborate, depending on the artist. An excellent feature was a letter written by Ophelia to Hamlet months before the time of the play. All the important characters are mentioned; the love affair between Claudius and Gertrude is hinted at. The letter is written in blank verse and concludes on a rhymed couplet.
Rot in the State of Denmark discusses the scandalous amount of espionage taking place. In another editorial, Horatio retells the plot (having absented himself awhile from Felicity, his bride.)
“The dawn in russet mantle clad” will stand upon “the dew of yon high eastern hill” at 0624 hrs.
Ask the Doctor
What can I do about a mildewed ear?
Caviar for the general. Take one female sturgeon, lumpfish, or beluga. Squeeze vigorously until roe are expressed. Serve chilled with boiled egg nog and minced onion on crackers. Reserved for snobs and epicures.
Both newspapers went beyond the two plays to assemble bdelygmias or prolonged Shakespearean curses to work into the copyright warning:
Should any person reproduce or transmit in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,. . .without permission from the publisher, he or she shall be known for a botchy core, a bitch-wolf’s son, a mongrel beef-witted lord, a jade, a toadstool, a porpentine, loathsomest scab of Greece, a whoreson cur, stool for a witch, a thing of no bowels, a vile owl, a clotpole, a brach, a very landfish languageless monster. Let him be afflicted with the rotten diseases of the south, the gutsgriping ruptures, catarrhs, loads of gravel in the back lethargies, cold palsies, raw eyes, dirt-rotten liver, wheezing lungs, bladders full of imposthume, sciaticas, limekilns i’ th’ palms,incurable bone-ache, the revelled fee-simple of the tetter. For he is verily a ruinous butt, a whoreson undistinguishable cur, a green sarcenet flap for a sore eye, a tassel for a prodigal’s purse, a dog, a mule, a cat, a fitchew, a herring without roe, a louse of a lazar, and a mouse eaten dry cheese.