Shakespeare can be intimidating for many of us.
The language, the rhythm of the words, the references, and the subject matter can all contribute to a confusing mess if we don’t have some guidance. Since I didn’t have time to take a literary course in Shakespeare but I did have a desire to read it and understand it, I found a great tool in getting past my feelings of inadequacy when it came to offering Shakespeare’s plays in our homeschool.
Honestly, the best help I found for our family was from the No Fear Shakespeare series from Spark Notes. These books give a side by side rendition of the play with the original text on the left page and a modern translation on the right page.
What could be easier than that to get a better understanding of the original play?
My Method for Using No Fear Shakespeare
Example of Richard III (our Shakespeare selection for the upcoming school year)
- Read the context and plot overview on the Spark Notes website. I also highly suggest reading through the Themes, Motifs, and Symbols page as a way to generate narration ideas as we go along. I usually decide on one theme to follow through a Shakespeare play and then we talk about it as we read together.
- Read the character list in the No Fear Shakespeare book.
- Find an audio version to listen to as we follow along in the book. We subscribe to Naxos.com and they have an audio version: Richard III.
- Choose an idea from the Questions and Essay Topics page on the Spark Notes website as a follow up assignment.
- Read and listen to the play together. I have found that listening to professional actors perform the play helps us understand it better and enriches the experience.
- For most Shakespeare plays that we read in our family, I have my sons choose a scene they like and we work on reciting it together, taking parts and reading as a sort of reader’s theater. They sometimes end up memorizing the selection but it is not required.
The No Fear Shakespeare series is a wonderful tool to use as you adventure into the literary land of The Bard. These modern translations have allowed our family to read, understand, and enjoy these masterpieces of literature that perhaps would have remained untouched otherwise. I highly recommend this series as a guide to your Shakespeare study and would recommend that you try and see if you don’t get hooked on these great books from the past.
You can read more about our Shakespeare study on my Harmony Art Mom blog:
- Our Shakespeare Selection for the Year (includes our list of plays we have studied by year)
- Shakespeare for Christians?
Written by Barb-Harmony Art Mom. I blog at Harmony Art Mom and am the creator of Harmony Fine Arts. I would love for you to join us for the Outdoor Hour Challenges at the Handbook of Nature Study.
We have a few of these on the shelf bought from thrift stores. Now that Emma is 8th grade, she’s ready to put down the retellings and dive into the real thing, I think. Our latest Shakespeare experience was live theater, though. Can’t beat that.
After reading this yesterday, I stopped at the local Goodwill book store (yes, we have a separate Goodwill book store!) and there were two No Fear Shakespeare books there, along with a couple of other books we will need for 8th grade literature. Thank you for telling us about these, I know they will be so useful in our homeschool!
I’ve had my eye on these for a while now (AO folks recommend them, too). Thanks for the in-depth review, Barb. Very helpful!
My best pass time is Shakespeare stories, the most popular books Romeo and Juliet, Richard III there are so many as we go on saying, Thanks Barb for this post.