The JAC 2020 Summer Camp will be a summer of Shakespeare
The JAC 2020 Summer Camp will be a summer of Shakespeare.
“He was not of an age, but for all time! And all the Muses still were in their prime, When, like Apollo, he came forth to warm Our ears, or like a Mercury to charm!"
So commented Ben Jonson in 1616, a British laurel poet and contemporary of Shakespeare, after the death of Shakespeare. Don't mistake Ben Johnson to be an amiable fellow who simply enjoys being kind to his kindred. Shakespeare’s competitive peer in the British drama industry, Johnson lived a long life of controversy. He twice killed his opponents in two duels and almost got himself hanged in prison. For someone as intractable as Johnson to compliment Shakespeare with such eulogy, we can be quite sure that Shakespeare ’s fame arose not from the prejudice or preference of a particular time, even from a sheer matter of luck, but from a unique charm and artistic value innate in Shakespeare's works.
William Shakespeare is Britain's most famous playwright, actor, and poet. He was active in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, traversing Queen Elizabeth I and King James I. Of all the world-renowned English playwrights who had successfully surpassed language and geography barriers and who were unanimously loved by generations of readers and audience, truly none is more outstanding than Shakespeare.
Even Shakespeare’s lofty fame had to start from humility. William Shakespeare was born on April 15th, 1564, in Stratford, a small town by the River Avon, about 160 kilometers from London. His father John and his mother Anne Arden ran a successful glove factory. William was the eldest only survived son in the family. He went to school in the local town of Stratford until he was fifteen. At the age of eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, a local town girl, and had three children, a daughter Susanna and twin Judith and Hamnet. Apart from Hamnet's unfortunate death at the age of eleven, Shakespeare's family life in Stratford was generally uneventful.
The turning point of Shakespeare's life occurred when he left his hometown in his twenties to seek opportunities in London, then a city teeming with artistic vitality. He first settled in a spectacular theater where plays were performed every afternoon, started out as an actor, but soon found that his real talent lied in writing plays. He joined a professional theatre called Lord Chamberlain ’s Men and subsequently became the resident playwright of the theatre. The theatre travelled around the country to perform, so Shakespeare ’s plays were performed in the Inn, royal courts, universities, and various English towns.
In the 1590s, Shakespeare became famous for plays he wrote based on English history. Other comedy plays such as Midsummer Night's Dream and tragic plays such as Caesar the Great were equally loved by the audience. He wrote extraordinary poems charged with vivid images, created numerous lively and profound characters, and told fascinating stories, all exhibiting superb skills in using English to express a wide variety of life experiences. He became the most popular playwright in England. The 154 sonnet poems and many long poems he wrote also rightfully won him the title of the Bard.
Shakespeare is closely related to Globe Theatre. According to history, the lease of Lord Chamberlain's Men where Shakespeare worked having expired, the staff of Shakespeare’s Theater demolished the wooden theater building overnight and transported the dismantled logs across the frozen Thames amid wintry nights, where they built a new theater, naming it Globe. Although the theater was demolished in 1644, it was rebuilt and opened in 1997 after a lapse of 353 years.
In April 1616, Shakespeare died a rich man at the age of 52. His friends John Heminge and Henry Condell collected the manuscripts of Shakespeare and sent them to be printed. This decision had profound implications for the history of English literature and drama. The first complete collection of Shakespeare came out in 1623 with the title First Folio. Without First Polio, eighteen of Shakespeare ’s thirty-six plays would have been lost for good, among which were Julius Caesar, Tempest, Macbeth, As You Like It, etc.
Why do we want our students to know Shakespeare? Four main reasons stand out:
(1) Shakespeare knows all about human nature:
Many people in history have deep insight into human nature, but none other could convey a complex human nature with such eloquence as Shakespeare. He could express the deepest emotions of mankind in either solemn or harmonious forms, while at the same time using the most beautiful language.
(2) The story of Shakespeare's drama is very touching:
What sets Shakespeare apart from other playwrights is that his story transcends time and cultural barriers. While he uses history as his raw material for his plays, authors in future generations continue to use Shakespeare's works as the source of their literary inspirations.
(3) The characters of Shakespeare's drama are infinitely charming:
Shakespeare created numerous drama characters, with tragedy characters the most prominent, even to the point of surpassing those of Greek dramatists, the originators of tragedy. The tragic characters created by Shakespeare are often complex and deep, fascinating audience, readers and drama actors alike.
(4) The new words coined by Shakespeare have lasted forever:
Just as Aristotle in the philosophical world is honored as the Philosopher, so Shakespeare is awarded the title of the Bard in the theater world. The reason is that Shakespeare contributed countless words that we are familiar with today. The English proverb "It's Greek to me" first appeared in Julia Caesar, "vanish into thin air" came from Tempest, “laugh yourself into stitches” found its source in Twelfth Night, “made a virtue of necessity” came from The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
So, what do we expect our children to learn from the world of Shakespeare?
This answer is imagination and verse recitation.
First of all, all students, regardless of age, will participate in a poem recitation session in the morning. They will learn about Shakespeare’s life and read stories about his plays, becoming familiar with the well-known lines of well-known characters in several well-known plays. They will learn the background information about these lines and recite them.
Our purpose is to guide, sow, encourage, and cultivate children's sensitivity to literature and writing, get them become acquainted with this great poet, and enjoy the magical and magnificent world that Shakespeare has created in his writing!
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