Actually I wasn’t going to do a review of this book, but I visited Anderson Secondary last Friday and was kinda entranced by its wall mural on William Shakespeare. This gave me the push to write about how I felt about this book.
This was the first Magic Tree House book I read. I breezed through it while having porridge for lunch. Light-hearted read paired with a light meal. I liked reading about how Jack and Annie were transported to Elizabethan England. Some great descriptions of London landmarks, which should broaden the horizons of young bright-eyed children. I learnt that people watched bears fight with dogs at the Bear Garden then. This reminds me of how Tosa dogs used to fight each other in Kochi Prefecture up to 2014, when it was deemed illegal to do so. Anyway, the siblings not only got to meet William Shakespeare himself, but were also recruited to act in one of his plays - A Midsummer’s Night Dream - at the Globe Theatre.
What are the odds?! I just watched this play put up by Singapore Repertory Theatre in May. Having that prior knowledge helped me understand better the events that unfolded in the book. Apparently, during that era, women were prohibited from going on stage, so Anne had to pretend to be a boy in order to read her lines. Which reminds me of how all kabuki characters were acted by men in Japan. I just can’t help making all these links to Nippon because it seems to me so fascinating that how two disparate societies could have similar practices (animal fighting and gender inequality).
Another fun fact: the word “role” came about in Shakespeare’s time because actors then were given scrolls or rolls of paper to help them memorize their lines. If I were to be the teacher-in-charge of the Drama Club, I would certainly regale them with this fact.
Why am I fascinated by William Shakespeare, I hear you ask? Well, as a professional English teacher, I always feel that I should have a working knowledge of Shakespearean language and plays since Shakespeare invented at least 1700 words that are still in use today. But for better or for worse, in Singapore, English language is divorced from literature, so I never studied any Shakespeare’s plays.