Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Shakespeare's Turn

"Dad, the words are misspelled."

I thought about it for second, as I considered what my teenage son was reading. "No, they're fine. That's just the way those words were spelled in Shakespeare's day. I know the grammar seems odd, too, but that's the way people talked back then."

My son nodded and went back to reading Romeo and Juliet. We'd gone over a few things about the story already. I’d explained to him who the Montagues and the Capulets were. I also explained that biting your thumb at someone back then was the Shakespearean equivalent of flipping someone the bird. He tried to pronounce things as best he could. I told him not to worry about it. I don’t think I could have pronounced the words much better than he did. Still, I was amazed. My teenage son was reading Shakespeare and it wasn't even for school.

So why the interest in the Bard from an eighth grader?

Well, my son loves theater and movies. Last semester, he saw part of West Side Story in one of his classes. Wanting to know how it ended, he used some of his Christmas money to buy it on blu-ray. He could get into the battle between the Jets and the Sharks, though he had to put up with his dad saying stupid things like "The actress who plays Maria is the little girl from the old Miracle on 34th Street movie."

But the one piece of information that was of interest to him is that West Side Story was based on the Romeo and Juliet. I explained how the characters in West Side Story matched up to Romeo and Juliet. He asked if I had a copy and I pulled it from the shelves.

He read a few pages and struggled with the words and grammar. He read it out loud and I tried to help. He said he wanted to keep reading but wanted to finish his latest Twilight novel first. I let him put the book away so he could find it easily.

Still, I was amazed we were even having the discussion.

The reason is that my son has a learning disability. He's really good in math and science but has had trouble with reading and grammar all his life, an acute problem for a kid interested in theater. I remember what it was like for me to read Shakespeare when I was his age. It was entertaining. It wasn’t easy. However, I know my struggles were small compared to problems that he will face.

May his joy be that much greater.

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