In love with Shakespeare

Prince Hal, Hotspur and Falstaff were a huge hit with New York City students who got a chance to see Shakespeare’s Henry IV.

In the fall, teachers at the 26 schools taking part received study guides put together by Kati Koerner, the director of education at Lincoln Center Theater, to help them prepare their students for what they would see onstage. For weeks, the students read over and acted out scenes from the play in class, discussed their meaning and relevance to 21st-century urban life, and learned the historical context not only of the rise of the House of Lancaster in the early 15th century but also of Shakespeare’s England.

Would all this preparation pay off when the students finally saw the play in a live performance?

For the cast, and at least one adult theatergoer among them, the students were a joy. Certainly they were not the usual Wednesday matinee crowd. They hooted, cheered, hissed and roared with laughter. They were probably closer to an Elizabethan audience at the Globe than anything the actors at the Vivian Beaumont Theater had ever faced. It was, in the language of the theater, a great house.

The students loved the sex jokes and the fight scenes. While boys rooted for Prince Hal, the girls went for Hotspur. Everybody loved Falstaff.

About Joanne


  1. EVERYBODY *A*L*W*A*Y*S loves Falstaff!

    Even with a bad actor in a rotten production,
    Falstaff rocks.

    The story is that Queen Liz One commanded the Bard to concoct the “Merry Wives of Windsor” so as to see Falstaff in love …

    A great loss to humanity that John Belushi was never filmed in the role. With maybe Tom Cruise as Hal, do you think?

  2. Back in 1967, my high school English class studied Hamlet, and we had to momorize and recite the “To be or not to be” speech. As part of our preperation, we went to the language lab and listened to a recording of assorted actors readings of it. Most used the word “pith” as in our textbook and the core of a plant stem, a few used “pitch”. Only Olivier used the word Shakespeare originally wrote. When I recited “Enterpritheth of great pith and moment their currenth turn awry” the teacher nearly fell out of her chair, but I’ll bet I remember more from that class than most of the other students.

  3. Just goes to show you: Children are able and willing to learn whatever we are able to teach them. This is an important lesson……

  4. Hoo boy! I’ve checked this thread a couple of times for followup comments, and just noticed my spelling errors. I was multitasking at work between blogging and data analysis.

    The part of this lesson which I was emphasising is that the way to get people to learn is to tie the material to what interests them, and with Shakespeare, bawdy is one of the hooks.