Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Hamlet: Goofy Skits for Your Merriment

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Hamlet-goofy-skits

My kids performed some goofy skits to summarize Shakespeare’s Hamlet. My daughter played the parts of both Queen Gertrude and Ophelia. My oldest son was the wicked uncle, Claudius. My youngest son was Hamlet, and my second son was all the other male parts. We produced the following video and summary for your merriment:

Hamlet: The Dramatized Summary

Once upon a time in Denmark, a king named Hamlet died mysteriously. His wife Gertrude married his brother Claudius less than two months later. Claudius’ reputation was so bad and his face so ugly, there was widespread suspicion that he murdered the late king for his throne! The prince, also named Hamlet, was shaken by his father’s death and shocked his mother would so quickly re-marry. He was ashamed of the wedding and showed up in all black.

But later the night watchmen told him about a ghost they had seen that looked like the dead king. Intrigued, Hamlet stayed up with them. Sure enough, there was the ghost of his father! In spite of the soldiers’ best efforts to dissuade Hamlet, he went out to speak with the spectre. What would he find out but that the king really had been murdered by Claudius! The ghost begged Hamlet to avenge him, then disappeared into the night.

Over the next few days, Hamlet was so bewildered by what he had seen, everyone thought he had lost his mind. Could love for Ophelia be driving him mad? He thought it was the perfect cover-up for plotting to avenge his father, so he feigned insanity.

One day, some actors were performing a play and worked themselves up to really feel the emotions of their characters. Hamlet was impressed and remembered the case of a murderer who was so moved by the play he was watching, he confessed to the crime. Why wouldn’t this work on his uncle, Claudius? Hamlet wasn’t so sure that what the ghost had told him didn’t come from his own imagination, and this felt like the perfect test.

So he had the actors perform a play in front of Claudius that went exactly as the ghost had described the murder. As they got to the part where the killer poured poison into the victim’s ears, the king felt very ill and had to leave. This made Hamlet sure the ghost’s tale was true, and he followed Claudius out of the room. But when he found the king praying, Hamlet didn’t want his uncle’s last act to be so saintly, so he decided to wait for another opportunity.

Hamlet’s mother wanted to talk to him about how he was acting up lately, and the king felt like it would be a good idea to hide behind a drapery in the room to secretly find out what was really up with Hamlet. Ophelia’s father Polonius volunteered to do the king’s spying for him.

When Hamlet was summoned, he confronted his mother about marrying his uncle so soon after his father died. In the heat of the debate, Polonius, who was secretly listening the whole time, thought Hamlet was attacking his mother in his madness and cried out. Hamlet, thinking the man behind the curtain was Claudius, drew his sword and stabbed him. To his horror, he found he had killed Polonius! His mother exclaimed what a crime he had committed, to which Hamlet replied that to kill the king, then marry his brother was much worse. He compared the late king’s handsomeness with the ugliness of the new one. He scolded his mother for marrying the one most suspected to have killed her husband.

When Claudius found out about Polonius’ death, he thought Hamlet was too dangerous to leave alive. Rather than risk the publicity of sentencing Hamlet to death, he banished Hamlet to England but secretly sent a letter to the courtiers to assassinate him as soon as the ship landed. But Hamlet suspected something like this and crept in at night, found the letter, erased his name, and put in the names of the courtiers.

On the way to England, pirates attacked the ship and Hamlet single-handedly boarded the pirate ship. The ship he came on sailed away, and he was left with the pirates. But they turned out to be well- mannered gentlemanly pirates, so they took him back to Denmark.

But when he got back, he found out the death of Ophelia’s father by his hand drove her to such madness and grief that she had committed suicide. Her brother, Laertes had not heard that Polonius’ death was an accident, so he wanted to kill Hamlet. The king thought this would be perfect, so he arranged for a duel between them with dulled sabers. But he secretly sharpened and poisoned Laertes’ blade.

On the morning of the duel, people placed their bets as to who would win, and the duel began. They fenced skillfully, Hamlet was stabbed with the poisoned blade, and he stabbed Laertes with his own sword, dooming both of them. Meanwhile, the queen accidentally drank from the cup the king had used to poison the blade, and she died. Laertes told Hamlet about the poison, and that he didn’t have long to live. So he stabbed and killed Claudius, and then he died. The end.

Humorous Summary of Paradise Lost

Monday, January 11th, 2016

fun-summary-of-paradise-lost

My son Bryan wrote a fun summary of Paradise Lost by John Milton:

It all started when the #1 angel, Lucifer, made the most monumental miscalculation in the history of the universe. Somehow the most intelligent finite being ever actually thought he was more powerful than God! Next to infinity, all finite numbers look identical, so it blows my mind that he thought this. Not only that, but he got one third of all the other angels to believe him and tried to get a rebellion going.

This part of the poem is kind of silly. The good angels and the evil ones fought fiercely, until they realized their wounds healed almost instantly. They decided to call a truce to go back to their… tents? They slept through the night, because there’s nighttime in Heaven? I guess? Except team evil decided to spend the night inventing gunpowder. In the morning, they all got ready for battle. Team good drew their swords and team evil shot them with guns. But this turned out to be just as pointless, so they threw mountains at each other. Wait, there were mountains in Heaven? Jesus eventually grew disinterested in the aimless conflict, so He went to the middle of the battlefield and opened a trapdoor in Heaven under team evil, and they fell down into Hell.

In Hell, the demons built a large capital city called Pandemonium. From there, they decided to send Satan out of Hell on a reconnaissance mission. Meanwhile, God was creating the earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars. On the sixth day He made Adam, who wondered why he existed. God had him name all the animals, and he realized that there was more than one of each kind of creature, but he was the only human being in existence. Then God put Adam to sleep and took one of his ribs and formed it into Eve. Adam and Eve fell in love and lived in the garden of Eden. They could eat of any fruit in the garden except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Satan had disguised himself as a regular angel, but he acted rather strangely and was spotted from a distance by another angel. A warning was sent out that a spy was in their midst, and a division of angels was sent to find the impostor. God knew perfectly well what Satan was up to, and (spoiler alert) that Satan would manage to bring sin into the world by deceiving Eve; however, God decided (but isn’t He omniscient?) to let free will exist so people would have to chose Him over other things. Adam and Eve went to sleep, and Satan put dreams of eating the forbidden fruit in Eve’s mind while disguised as a toad. That’s when the angels found Satan and brought him to a high-ranking angel, and they argued for a while. Then Satan was forced to retreat.

Meanwhile, Adam and Eve woke up. Later in the day, an angel named Raphael came for a visit and told Adam almost everything that had happened in the universe up to that point. No kidding. It took all evening. Some of it was like this: “If you disobey God and eat from the forbidden tree, you’ll bring sin into the world, and lose Paradise, and one day you’ll die!” “I’ll never do that! I don’t want to lose Paradise!” Adam replied. (How does he know Paradise is a good thing? It’s all he’s ever experienced up to this point.) “Be sure to warn Eve about this,” advised Raphael.

After that, Adam and Eve went gardening, and Eve suggested they split up. “But Eve, if we split up, you might be tempted by the enemy to sin against God by eating the forbidden fruit!” (How do they know what sin is? They haven’t eaten the forbidden fruit yet.) “I would never listen to the enemy and eat the fruit! I would withstand the temptation!” argued Eve. “Good for you! But let’s not split up anyway,” counseled Adam. Eventually Eve convinced Adam they should split up.

Satan possessed a serpent which came up to Eve and said, “Why don’t you go disobey God and do what you specifically told Adam you wouldn’t do? (By the way, I’m totally not the enemy Adam specifically told you not to listen to.)” Eve thought to herself, “No innocent-looking 60-foot python’s advice could possibly be bad.” So she ate the forbidden fruit. Then she went to Adam and offered him a bite. Adam decided to die with her, and he ate it as well.

God came to the garden and asked, “Why are you hiding from me?” and Adam said, “We were afraid because we were naked.” “Who told you you were naked? Have you eaten the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?” demanded God. “Eve did, then gave me a piece,” blamed Adam. “Well, this rather innocent-looking 60-foot python told me I should!” So God cursed the serpent on its belly, gave Eve pain in childbirth, and made the ground grow thorns. Also, they were to leave paradise.

But before that, Michael (another high-ranking angel) was sent to tell Adam about loads of stuff about the future like Noah and the flood. This conversation, once again, must have taken ages. After this, Adam and Eve were thrown out of Paradise.

Civil War Letter

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

civil-war-letter

My 11-year-old son wrote a Civil War letter as a writing assignment for his Civil War Binder. I read many Civil War letters to my kids to get a flavor for what would be going through the mind of a Civil War soldier. While studying Civil War letters, I came across a poignant letter. (You can read it here.)

My son chose a specific battle so that he would be able to make reference to finding Lee’s secret orders:

September 18, 1862

From J. Mitchell

To my loving wife,

I am writing this in a hospital tent, for I was shot in my right arm. So I will be writing this with my weak hand. We are at a river called Antietam Creek, and it was the bloodiest battle I have ever seen. I reported that twenty-five thousand at least died here, including my friend of whom we are all acquainted. It was gruesome watching him fall from that tree. He was a sniper, and he had shot at least a dozen enemy soldiers in the front lines. I also reported that you could walk across the battlefield on the bodies of the dead without touching the ground.

My night watch wasn’t good either. If anyone came by, I would say, “Stop,” three times. If he didn’t stop, I would shoot because it meant that he might be an enemy scout or spy. I couldn’t see very well, but if the soldiers were friendly, they would stop.

One time I was nearly hit when a cannonball whistled past my head and made a tree fall on a few of the soldiers in our ranks. It came as a complete surprise. One of those cannonballs could go right though you, killing you and the person behind you.

Guess what I found five days ago? Three cigars wrapped in paper. My friend and I delightedly picked them up and sat down under a tree, for my feet were hurting. Suddenly I found a message on the paper I was about to throw away. It was Lee’s orders for his next attack! I can’t tell you how exited I was when I showed it to General McClellan. Before, we didn’t know where Lee was; now, we knew exactly what his battle strategy was!

What a battle it was! I had to hide behind the bodies of the dead to survive, making barricades out of them! After the battle I saw a dead soldier hanging on a fence with fifty-seven bullets in his body. Some soldiers must have tried to hide behind him to survive but failed, for I found dead bodies behind him, too. It was a gruesome sight.

Hope you’re doing better back home. Best wishes to the kids,

J. Mitchell

Ode to the Mona Lisa

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Mona-Lisa

My son Stephen Evans, who is 11 years old, wrote this “Ode to the Mona Lisa” a few days ago during our poetry class. An ode is a lyric poem. Lyric poems often have a refrain, or words that are repeated. Songs are lyric poems (which used to be sung accompanied with a lyre), and so are odes, which magnify one specific subject. Stephen chose to describe the Mona Lisa, and his refrain captures the essence of how he feels about the portrait:

Lined with pictures left and right
A hallway stretches indefinitely
I’ll never forget that portrait
It’s creepy; she’s staring at me

Her eyeballs move from side to side
Her thin smile has no glee
Her skin is deathly pale
It’s creepy; she’s staring at me

The misty background of the picture
Could be a murky swamp or sea
Her chair could sink into the ground
It’s creepy; she’s staring at me

Her hair is like spaghetti
She looks so solemn; can’t you see?
I’ll never forget that portrait
It’s creepy; she’s staring at me

The Mona Lisa was painted by the famous Renaissance artist, Leonardo da Vinci. Nat King Cole wrote a song about the Mona Lisa:

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