Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whose misadventur’d piteous overthrows
Doth, with their death, bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, naught could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
-Shakespeare, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Prologue
I love Shakespeare. I’ve loved Shakespeare ever since that time in the 10th Grade when Mr. Mauri Pelkonenen, of the Bay Ridge Pelkonenens, explained to our Shakespeare-as-literature class that when Iago says to Brabantio:
“I am one, sir, that comes to tell you your daughter
and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs.”
What the conniving little SOB was telling Brabantio was that his fomerly pure-as-the-driven-snow daughter was getting shagged rotten by a black dude!
Holy crap! (Hey, I said I was in the 10th grade…Throw me a friggin’ bone here, people.)
That would have been scandalous enough for white, working-class, Bay Ridge Brooklyn in 1974, but in the 1600’s England? Shakespeare was like the Jaqueline Susann of his day!
Now, later on, I kind of got a perception of the Bard as being more like the Neil Simon or Norman Lear of Elizabethan England…He was about packing butts in the seats, and putting on a helluva’ show. This wasn’t high-brow stuff, this was just good, down-to-earth storytelling, and it was right there for anybody who could get far enough through the language to understand it.
Sadly, few did … William Shakespeare, or Christopher Marlowe, or whoever he really was, remains an enigma to to most.
In high school, few of my peers embraced Willie-the-Shakes with the same enthusiasm that I did…Most got by in the class by reading the old standard Cliff Notes. They weren’t proud of it, but, you know, you do what you have to do…Although I always thought those folks who went the Cliff Notes route really kind of deprived themselves of the full flavor of the Shakespearean experience.
Well, Cliff Notes has sort of reinvented themselves in a new form for a new generation of scholars having a tough time with the material…CliffsNotes Movies.
CliffsNotes Movies are offered through the Cambio platform, and uses technology from Clikthrough to create an interactive user experience where the view can click on the movie screen to bring up more in-depth information on story themes, characters, locations, or take a quiz on what they’ve learned.
As interactive story-telling goes, it’s pretty neat stuff, all very well packaged into an excellent web site design.
The real question is, in terms of Shakespeare, does it really give you the full flavor of the Bard’s work? In a word, no.
The animated films are really well done…They are light, funny, and written with a sense of style and with that young readers will be drawn in by. Cliff himself, a sort of kid-lit superhero, is engaging and walks you through the play from start to end. The reader will learn the story, and the characters, but much of the richness and depth of understanding of Shakespeare’s skill and wit can only come from doing the real homework and reading the original material…Just like old-school Cliff Notes, these movies are one-step removed from the actual experience. There are no short cuts to Shakespeare.
But the real story here isn’t about the Shakespearean experience…It’s about this marvelous approach to storytelling, and the potential of this technology to reach audiences in a new and entertaining way, where at least a portion of the content is user-driven, and on demand. Possible applications range from classroom curriculum to marketing and sales training, with suggestions that even greater interactivity could be built into these types of applications as the technology matures.