Fairy Queen Hearts Monkey

My little guy is really enjoying having me read Midsummer Night’s Dream to him! Truly he would tell me to stop reading if he thought it was boring. It kinda helps that I know the play and that I’ve performed Shakespeare, so I am able to be very dramatic about. He likes that. At first when we started reading he wanted me to do different voices for all the characters, then he told me to stop. “You’re not so good with the voices, mom.” Fair enough.

Last night we started ACT II!

This is where we meet the woodland fairyland folks. Titania and Oberon, who are quarreling. And Robin Goodfellow who we learn is a mischievous little puck. Upon reading this for the umpteenth time, it now strikes me that “puck” rhymes with “fuck.” Kinda fitting, eh?Puck and Fairy

He enjoyed the opening of the scene when the Fairy runs into Puck and they are chatting then suddenly she recognizes him.

Either I mistake your shape and making quite,

Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite

Call’d Robin Goodfellow

This part made him laugh so I asked:

ME: What’s so funny? Do you know what shrewd and knavish mean?

KID: I’m not sure, but it doesn’t sound good! Maybe she was calling him a bad name.

ME: (thinking in my head, yep, she’s calling him out as an asshole) Absolutely right! She knows he gets in trouble a lot and is always up to no good.

Later in the scene when Oberon and Titania are arguing over the little boy that Titania has adopted and then Titania snubs him, Oberon hatches his plan to get back at her:

Having once this juice,

I’ll watch Titania when she is asleep,

And drop the liquor of it in her eyes.

The next thing then she waking looks upon,

Be it on lion, bear, or wolf, or bull,

On meddling monkey, or on busy ape,

She shall pursue it with the soul of love:

KID: A MONKEY?! HAHAHA! Imagine if she sees a monkey and falls in love with a monkey!

ME: (grabbing the kid and kissing his face) oh I love my monkey!

BOTH OF US: (falling out in a fit of giggles)

Wait, I just realized that monkey didn’t sound right… Anyway. There we ended our reading for the night (past bedtime but eh…). I let him know that the next part of the scene was with Helena chasing Demetrius and trying to get him to love her.

KID: Awww! Can’t we read that part now? Pleeeeease???

There are times he begs me to let him stay up to watch Chima or Power Rangers or some other such crazy kiddie brain crack on Netflix. But now he’s begging to stay up to read Shakespeare. DUDE. Ok, he’s officially absolved from all those notes home about goofing off in art class and ninja stalking down the school hallway.

(Does a little mommy-win dance)

mommy win

DONKEY!

midsummer

This summer the boy and I are reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Yup, Shakespeare. And yes, the original language. No simplified edited version. The Folger Library version has a short plot summary at the start of each scene. So I’ll first read to him the summary to let him know what is about to happen, to help begin to guide him through the language, and help set a context for him.

This is our bedtime reading. We may read more at other times, but we look forward to the bedtime routine of reconnecting at the end of a long day of work and school, snuggling under a blanket, and enjoying a good story. Last night we began.

Ok, first, let me just add that I have no fucking idea what I’m doing. I am NOT a writer, NOT an english teacher, NOT a literary buff, NOT well-versed in primary school reading skills. I just know I like Shakespeare.

Let me also add, yes, black people read Shakespeare. Shakespeare is relevant today, for everyone. I’ve been enjoying Thug Notes on YouTube, and seeing performances of Shakespeare’s plays set in modern times. And epic best ever is Akiro Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood, an adaptation of MacBeth. With samurais! Oh. Shit. MacBeth was the first of Shakespeare’s plays that I had read and fully understood when I was in middle school. And Throne of Blood was the first Kurosawa film I’d ever seen. And I loooove Toshiro Mifune. Bad. Ass.

 

I digress. Shakespeare for everyone! That was my point.

I can’t remember how I got onto this idea. Maybe we were talking about the first time you do something and getting better at it and keep on trying. I think I might have told him about being in Shakespeare Society as a student at Wellesley College and my first role had 2 lines. Then my second role had maybe 4 lines. Eventually I earned the role of Prince of Verona (Romeo and Juliet) and then Margaret (Much Ado About Nothing). He was excited that I got to be a Prince. And even more excited that I got carry a sword. I guess I got excited too because then I was searching for my copy of R & J, and reading the Prince’s first monologue when the Montagues and Capulets are throwing down in the streets of Verona. I read the monologue, then explained what it meant, line by line. He thought it was cool and told me to read it again. Well, ok. So then I figured, hmm, let me test the waters here. I told him one of my other favorite plays was A Midsummer Night’s Dream and that it’s really funny because the fairy plays a trick, turns a guy’s head into a donkey, then makes the Queen of the fairies fall in love with him. Incredulously, my boy asked “A DONKEY BOY??? SHE FELL IN LOVE WITH A DONKEY BOY?! HAHAHA!”

And that’s when I decided, well hell, why not try reading it together. Could be fun, right?

Last night we started with Act 1, Scene 1. This is where we learn that Hermia loves Lysander but her father Egeus wants her to marry Demetrius but then Helena is in love with Demetrius. So the Duke tells Hermia to do what her father says or get executed or go to a nunnery. Shitty choices, huh?

The boy’s reactions while I’m reading:

That’s not fair.

The Duke is a jerk.

Her father is a jerk.

Demetrius is a jerk.

Does she get her head cut off?

Do they get to marry in the end?

Lysander implores Demetrius to back off by saying “You have her father’s love, Demetrius. Let me have Hermia’s. Do you marry him.” Meaning Dude, if her father loves you so damn much, then why don’t you just marry him and back off of Hermia. This line made my boy laugh hysterically.

KID: They’re both jerks! They should just marry each other and leave … what’s his name… oh. They should leave Lysander and what’s her name alone.

Indeed.

We stopped reading after the Duke gave his ultimatum and told Hermia she has until the full moon in 4 days to decide. We’ll continue again in a few days when he returns from the other mama’s house. I wondered how much he understood, how much he would retain, would he want to continue reading…

The next day on our way to school and stopping for gas, this happened:

KID: Get the super gas! So the car can go fast!

ME: (thinking, that shit’s an extra 40cents a gallon! hell no!) No, it’s more expensive, and it’s not worth it for just this little Nissan Versa.

KID: Aw! Come on!

ME: How about when you get older and get a job, you can buy me a Jaguar and then I’ll use the super gas, ok?

KID: No way! I’m going to buy myself a Jaguar first!

ME: What? I’m your mother! You should buy one for MEEE first!

KID: Tsk tsk, mom. You sound just like that mean father in the Shakespeare book.

ME: (speechless blank stare)

Well then. I’m not sure if I should be proud or insulted.

 

 

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