Macbeth, for a nine year old?

(36 Posts)
Sonatensatz Thu 10-Jan-13 11:46:51

Just had ds's topic letter home informing me that they are going to be studying Macbeth this term. Anyone else think this is a very unsuitable choice of subject matter for primary school? I remember reading it in secondary school and the themes in it are very unpleasant.

learnandsay Thu 10-Jan-13 11:49:04

Some companies tailor Shakespeare for young children. Can you find out which version of the play his class will be studying?

30ish Thu 10-Jan-13 11:50:52

They love it! It's gory and tragic and full of ideas for drama and improvisation! My class always love the witches. Also, there are many adaptations especially for young children - books and DVDs. We also use a fantastic company called shakespeare4kids. In my experience, they have so much fun learning a classic tale.

msteeth Thu 10-Jan-13 12:22:07

DD1 (Year 6) did Macbeth last term; they were shown excerpts of an RSC production onstage. She loved it - they timed it well (Hallowe'en...). Remember that witches and wicked queens are big with that age group (Narnia, Harry Potter, Worst Witch). So is guilt and responsibility (all that hand washing and sleepless nights!).

She didn't grasp the political story, but she liked the ghost, and she found out that Scotland had a history too. Some of the details and themes she recognised from Horrible Histories.

Sonatensatz Thu 10-Jan-13 12:49:40

Msteeth my Ds likes Narnia, Harry Potter etc but I haven't let him read or watch the 4th Harry Potter because of the child getting killed in that. He won't watch or read the witches as its too scary, he's only just let us have 101 dalmations on because Cruella is so scary (and he hid behind a blanket for some of her bits) and the Murders in Macbeth are really nasty.

mummytime Thu 10-Jan-13 13:18:07

My kids have all studied Macbeth in year 4 (and for my DS - every year afterwards until year 11).
It will be studied in an age appropriate way, and is far less realistic than modern books or drama. I think it is far less scary than "The Witches". I don't think the murders are that bad to be honest, pretty much pantomime and you don't see much: a bloody knife; a boy calling out that he is dead etc.
This play is often studied as part of "The Tudors" topic, which has quite a few other gruesome bits (eg. Mary I). So if you are worried you might want to have a little word with the teacher about the whole topic.

I was also the parent who complained about "The boy in the stripped Pajamas" being read in year 5.

BooksandaCuppa Thu 10-Jan-13 13:24:36

Often studied in yr 5/6 and it will probably be extracts focussing possibly on the witches and magic parts, though not necessarily. Ds did Macbeth in yr 5 and bits of The Tempest in yr 6.

It wouldn't worry me (except for putting some dcs off Shakespeare's language if they studied too much of the text too early) and I'm also someone who disapproves of Boy In the Striped Pyjamas for KS2 (too recent and too horrific) and of HP films being shown to a whole class beyond, say, film 2.

mimbleandlittlemy Thu 10-Jan-13 13:40:53

I took my ds to see an amazing production of it when he was 9 and he still talks about it - and not in a traumatised way at all. I think it's a really accessible play for kids and much better than wimbly wambly old R&J which is what my ds had to do in Y4.

mrz Thu 10-Jan-13 20:40:04

Goodness I studied Macbeth for kids with Y2 they loved it!

BooksandaCuppa Thu 10-Jan-13 22:19:59

Using the original text, mrz? I know they do in year 5/6.

mrz Thu 10-Jan-13 22:24:54
mrz Thu 10-Jan-13 22:25:06


JellicleCat Thu 10-Jan-13 22:30:53

I did Macbeth at that age. Yes, I know different times and all that.

However dd acted in it at abot that age (can't remember exactly which year), with a drama group and loved it.

I don't see a problem for primary age to be honest. Planty of other things that are more gory or frighteneing.

Startail Thu 10-Jan-13 22:32:27

Long ago doing works experience in a school I saw a year 5 class performing Macbeth.

Great fun and totally appropriate version.

CaseyShraeger Thu 10-Jan-13 22:34:03

The bit with Lady Macduff and her children would I think be unsettling, but is likely to be cut out of anything they are watching at this age.

nkf Thu 10-Jan-13 22:36:11

It will be witches and writing spells and maybe and practising being the persuasive Lady Macbeth and maybe the dagger scene. And the great bit with the forest. Nothing to worry about.

BooksandaCuppa Thu 10-Jan-13 22:37:22

Ah, yes, thought it must have been those ones, mrz. Although, perhaps the witches' chant is close to the original in language.

Highlander Thu 10-Jan-13 22:43:35

mrz DS has loved that series of Shakespeare books since he was 6. V highly recommended, even as a bedtime story!

Maria33 Thu 10-Jan-13 22:51:10

I am an Englush teacher and Macbeth for y5 has always baffled me. My daughter did it in y5 and had nightmares for weeks. Also, what do nine year of care about the corrupting nature of power and suggestion? Why not do Midsummer Night's Dream or Much Ado? Mind you, every Shakespeare play is pretty inappropriate for kids in places. grin Hey ho - at least it's not King Lear hmm

DeWe Fri 11-Jan-13 08:20:38

We performed Macbeth in year 5 rewritten by our teacher who wrote three plus plays a year for year 5 and 6 to perform.

He didn't leave any of the gory stuff out, and I seem to remember most people relishing those bits. We did the Dream later that year too. (and Pygmalian)

simbo Fri 11-Jan-13 08:29:30

At my kids' school they did a whole ks2 performances of it, with each class doing a different bit, and a narrator tying it all together. It was great. As you can see from the responses most schools seem to dip a toe into Shakespeare nowadays. A great idea imo.

Sonatensatz Fri 11-Jan-13 17:50:30

Thanks for the link mrz.
I'll have a chat with the teacher and see how they are going to approach the play and what the focus is going to be.

losingtrust Sat 12-Jan-13 11:57:32

My dd did it in year 3 and loved it. They had a performance from a travelling theatre. They also were doing Harry Potter do a whole magic theme.

cakebar Sat 12-Jan-13 12:18:41

I really don't get why you need to do a 'version' of it for kids, there are plenty of other things to study without turning to adult stories. If you look at the original text you risk turning kids off as they are too young to access it, and if you look at a 'version' of it, well what's the point? I could maybe understand looking at The Tempest with older ks2 kids, the language and story are much more simplistic and the characters are quite fairy tale like.

We did Macbeth for GCSE and remember the themes being really adult and some of it was very nasty (not just cutting heads off, washing hands of endless blood etc but the intentions of one character to another) and stayed on the mind. We did one discussion about whether Lady Macbeth was turned on by events at one point (and I think the intention was that she was) and it was quite interesting at that age to learn that people got off on some weird stuff. I think if you strip the adult themes from it then you are taking away the essence of it and you might as well study Hansel and Gretel.

mrz Sat 12-Jan-13 14:40:31

Since when did Shakespeare become adult stories?
Our nursery children studied A Midsummer night's Dream and loved it. I did the Tempest with Y2 has everything - shipwrecks, a wizard, spirits, a monster, and a beautiful girl and a handsome young man. Shakespeare's plays and poetry don't have an 18 rating.

CaseyShraeger Sat 12-Jan-13 15:58:56

Well, I think some of them should have a bit of a rating. E.g. Othello -- female lead strangled live on stage by her husband because he thinks she's been having sex with his friend. I think that could safely be described as an "adult" story and I wouldn't be rushing to study it with nursery children no matter how beautiful the language is. And then some of them are reasonably accessible (we had a beautifully poncey moment when DS was a toddler, I'd had the Animated Tales and we had to carry him down the street while he was having a tantrum, yelling "I WANT TO WATCH MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREEEEEAAAM!").

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Sat 12-Jan-13 21:26:45

Don't forget how gory and frightening most fairy tales are. Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel etc. Children love a bit of gore and murder!

perceptionreality Sat 12-Jan-13 21:32:07

I think that they would certainly have to pitch it at 9 year old level....I personally found that I didn't fully understand my A Level English Literature texts at 17 - it was only when I had more life experience that they made proper sense some years later.

I think introducing certain texts can be very confusing for children.

mrz Sun 13-Jan-13 12:46:40

Fairy tales were not originally intended for children but we happily tell them about wicked step mothers sending a child into the forest to have her heart cut out and fathers abandoning their children to be fattened up for lunch by wicked witches.

CaseyShraeger Sun 13-Jan-13 12:56:08

Yes, but we tend to leave out the aspects of Sleeping Beauty where the prince goes waaaaaay beyond kissing and Sleeping Beauty only awakes when she's in labour with his child. And by and large tales that didn't originally have a happy ending (e.g. The Little Mermaid) get given one before we tell them to children these days.

CaseyShraeger Sun 13-Jan-13 13:05:56

In contrast, in Macbeth a small child is killed in his own home, on stage, in front of his mother just after she's explained to him that it's all his father's fault for not being there to protect his family (and then his mother and all his siblings are killed offstage) . That could be at least problematic for a primary age group in an unabridged version.

mrz Sun 13-Jan-13 13:08:03

Have you watched Disney's Snow White?

CaseyShraeger Sun 13-Jan-13 13:15:21

Yes, and noticed (a) distinct presence of happy ending and (b) distinct absence of coda in which Snow White and new husband then force the stepmother to dance in red hot iron boots until she falls down dead, as in the original fairy tale (parenthetically, Neil Neil Gaiman's short story "Snow, Glass, Apples" is an excellent revisionist take on Snow White for adult readers that faces that head on and uses it to inform the rest of the story).

Foggles Sun 13-Jan-13 13:20:08

As others have said - it's best to check the approach.

DS2 played MacDuff's son in a (brilliant) modern adaptation of MacBeth.

He was beaten up before being drowned in the kitchen sink (not easy for me to watch, let alone anyone else !).

I don't remember the matinee performance being any different.

Hulababy Sun 13-Jan-13 13:20:14

DD did Macbeth last year. She was Y5, so 9y. They covered it in English plus they did a play of Macbeth, with the Y6 children alongside it.
Was covered using the real words, children's versions of the book, a visiting Shakespeare company, the school play, etc. Didn't even think to consider it unsuitable tbh - she seemed to enjoy it.

mrz Sun 13-Jan-13 13:26:00

a It wasn't very happy for the queen regardless of the absence of hot coals (I think it's the reason I'm afraid of heights hmm )

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