Intersections – Summer of Shakespeare
By Nicki Salcedo
Our summer does not end until Fall Break, which occurs during summertime. It’s difficult to explain to our friends in Connecticut how we mismanage our summers in Georgia. We start our summer vacation during spring, and the school year starts in the summer. It sounds like a Shakespearean comedy. A comedy of errors.
We began our summer with good intentions as all parents do. There were reading lists and visits to every state capitol and homemade muffins to make. You can’t make muffins in the morning during the school year.
I thought it might be good to have a theme for the summer. The “Summer of Shakespeare.” We’ve done the “Summer of Star Trek” and the “Winter of Star Wars.” I tend to only like “S” themes so Shakespeare it was. Us and Bill Shakespeare. We started with the movie version of “Romeo and Juliet.”
I like to be surprised when I read a book or watch a movie. I don’t try to guess a movie’s trick ending. I like the journey, but with kids and Shakespeare you have to prepare them.
“Shakespeare made two kinds of plays,” I told them. “Actually, three if you count the histories.” But I didn’t think my four year old was ready for “Coriolanus.”
“The comedies are supposed to be funny, but mostly they are about confusion. The main difference between a comedy and a tragedy is that in a tragedy everyone dies.”
I continued to explain the plot of “Romeo and Juliet,” including the ending. It was our first movie of the summer.
“What?” my oldest asked.
I forgot she was a child of Disney. Disney movies have the carnage in the beginning. Spoiler alert. Nemo’s mom? Killed. Like Bambi’s mom and Cinderella’s mom and Belle and Ariel and Snow White’s mom. Disney is a mom killer following the precedent set by every fairy tale ever written.
“Modern fairy tales start with someone dying and end with a happily ever after. Easy to do if the first scene is a funeral. Shakespeare was a genius. He started with something happy, like a marriage between your mom and your uncle. If Shakespeare starts with a marriage or a party or a new kingdom to rule, he will certainly give you a backstabbing best friend, crazy girlfriend, or a star-crossed grudge to make sure everything ends in the cemetery,” I explain.
I adore Shakespeare, but my kids grew skeptical.
“Can we watch ‘Big Hero 6?’ for our movie night?” they asked.
We watched “Romeo and Juliet.”
We watched Benvolio and Tybalt and Mercutio. We wondered about Juliet’s complete and utter lack of friends beside her nurse. We talked about why you might lie to your parents and when you might want to run away. Shakespeare nailed every afterschool special message in a single play.
All are punished.
My kids reacted poorly.
At the end of the movie, one of my kids whispered. “Mom, you meant they really died dead?” Meaning not “Disney dead” where the tears of your girlfriend bring you back to life.
I understand their pain. Even though I’ve watched and read “Romeo and Juliet” dozens of times, I still get to the end of the play in disbelief.
Every time I see this play, I think the note might get to Romeo. I think Juliet might not pick up the dagger. Every time I see it, I wish the apothecary’s potion might not be potent this one time.
“No more Shakespeare this summer,” they decreed.
“I liked Mercutio.” Another one cried. We all like Mercutio. We all can’t have a happy ending.
“We’ll try again next summer,” I said and thought about “Hamlet” with an evil mommy smile. You’ve got to start with the easy ones. They are not ready for “Henry V,” but when they are, it will blow their minds.
“We will come back to Shakespeare later, but only if you agree to never make me watch ‘Gnomeo and Juliet’ again,” I say. You think you’ve seen the worst of the worst until you see animated gnomes doing Shakespeare. Do. Not. Get. Me. Started. All are punished.
My kids forgot Shakespeare for the rest of the summer. They proceeded to make me watch every episode and every season of the “Goosebumps” TV show. I rather enjoyed it, and that’s the tragedy of it all.
“Intersections,” the book, is a collection of columns from Decaturish.com and beyond. It is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom. Her column, Intersections, runs every Wednesday morning.