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Shakespeare's Plays Review by Kathy Gelzer

R. Robin Finley and Erin M. Karl
Analytical Grammar
3810-201 Lunceston Way
Raleigh, NC 27613

 If you are familiar with Analytical Grammar, you know that it is a strictly grammar program for 7th grade and older. Shakespeare's Plays is one of the High School Grammar Reinforcement booklets now available. Using 18 of The Bard's plays as material for grammar exercises, each two-page spread contains two sentences to parse and diagram and three sentences in which to find specific types of phrases and clauses.

The third part of the student exercise is to edit some paragraphs using copy-editing marks. These proofreading symbols are illustrated and explained in the directions section in the front of the book. The sentences have a specific (noted) number of punctuation, capitalization, and usage errors to correct. Except for the diagramming, which requires separate paper, the exercises can be done in the workbook.

The booklet has a one-page introduction to Shakespeare by Brian Blackley, PhD., from the English Department of North Carolina State University. Following that, author Robin Finley begins by enumerating a few hints for teaching Shakespeare to students. Some of these are to read the synopsis first and to read the play aloud (since the plays were meant to be heard). Elizabethan language tips are also covered here.

It should be noted that the actual Shakespearean text is not used for the exercises, but rather sentences describing and discussing the particular plays. For example, in the section on Hamlet, here is a sentence to parse and diagram: "Being one of the most powerful and influential tragedies in the English language, Hamlet explores the consequences of indecision in a situation in which action is needed."

In the directions, Robin Finley says that students should refer to their Analytical Grammar Notebook for the exercises when help is needed. If one is not using the Analytical Grammar curriculum, it would be important to have some high school grammar text on hand.

A teacher-friendly feature of this book is that the answer keys, which make up the second half of the book, are printed on lavender colored paper. This makes them very easy to locate.

Shakespeare's Plays would be an excellent supplement to studying or viewing one or more of Shakespeare's works, whether you are doing this during a school year or during the summer. It would make sense to correlate this book to actual experience with Shakespeare.

Product Review by Kathy Gelzer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January, 2009