I came to startling revelation as I completed my 11 page outline for what will be the research paper proposing this program. I did not address violence and sexuality! How could I ignore that fact when there is death and sex teeming in nearly every Shakespeare play? Then I thought longer about Shakespeare and some of the individuals I have contacted about these issues and I came to a couple conclusions.
1) Shakespeare was very subtle about the presence of violence or sex. It is alluded to, but never seen. For instance, in Much Ado About Nothing, the play I most recently read, it is established that Claudio and Don Pedro see who they think to be Hero being intimate with another man in the window of her bed chamber. However, that act in and of itself is never seen or even explicitly stated. Even I, who am very familiar with the play, was surprised and had to reread the text because the intimate sexual encounter is never even truly established. A line in the text reads, during Borachio’s confession to a friend “she leans me out at her mistress’ chamber window, bids me a thousand times good night.”
Upon viewing MacBeth I realized that although there is a significant amount of murder, the act itself is never seen. In Hamlet, although they are fencing, each victim really dies of poisoning (much less gory).
So, from these multiple selections, and my own long-term education, I was able to conclude that brutal violence and blatant sexuality is never seen in the text of Shakespeare’s Plays and so can be easily worked around during adaptation for children.
2) The professionals I have spoken to who work with children also confirmed that it was not typically an issue. They expressed that as long as the children have a proper preface to the play and are prepared for the dramatization of such acts, the children are less inclined to focus on the issue.
The program I am proposing would itself establish this education and would avoid making any displays, which allude to violence and sex, explicit in any way. With children as the target audience and performance art as the outlet, the program would be able to more abstractly dramatize the presence of blood, so it could be rendered a non-issue.
What do you think? Have you had any experiences with children viewing Shakespeare and how did they do with the presence of blood and violence? Do you think with proper instruction this would even have to be thought of as an issue for instructors and parents?