BRONXVILLE, N.Y. -- Bronxville High School seniors who are reading “Henry IV, Part 1” in Victor Maxwell’s English class are taking a different approach to analyzing Shakespeare’s language.
They’re acting out scenes from the play to better understand the meaning behind the author’s words.
“Shakespeare can be challenging for all students,” Maxwell said. “In ‘Henry IV,’ the histories can be a little daunting at first because the students think it’s going to be some kind of a war story. But Prince Hal has a story that is relevant to students’ lives right now.”
Maxwell said the exercises of acting out the play were designed to get students involved in the language of Shakespeare. They used the text to read it out loud, listen to it, act out scenes and present it in groups to the rest of the class. In the beginning of the exercises, students read a small section of the text to the punctuation mark, before starting to move around the entire room as they continue reading.
“They start to feel it in their body, the rhythm, where the changes are in his speech, [the places where] he starts talking about something else,” Maxwell said. “Eventually, they get to the point where they feel more comfortable using the language and really expressing the meaning that Shakespeare intended, and maybe other meanings they find in the process along the way.”
Senior Jack McDonough said the activity helped him analyze the text. “By acting it out, and taking it piece by piece, I can understand the motives of the characters in the play, especially since Shakespeare can be tricky linguistically,” he said.
Fellow senior Saige Sunier said Shakespeare’s play is supposed to be acted out, which opens up different interpretations.
“When you hear what other people think and their ideas in interpreting the characters, it gives greater depth to the play and, to the reader, a better understanding and appreciation for the work,” she said.
Maxwell was trained at the Royal Shakespeare Company Theater in Stratford, England.
Visiting the school district’s website to watch a video.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.