In this section, I review a Shakespeare book, movie, or TV show that I feel has some kind of value, either as an interpretation of Shakespeare, or a means to learn more about the man and his writing.
- Name: King of Shadows by Susan Cooper
- Media: book
- Ages: Grades 5-12.
- Premise: A work of historical fiction in which a 21st century boy named Nat (short for Nathan) magically swaps places in time and space with Nathan Field, (a real-life boy- actor in Shakespeare’s company). Young Nat ends up training like an Elizabethan actor, and eventually performs on the stage of the original Globe theater . He also develops a father-son bond with William Shakespeare himself!
My reaction: I read this book the first time I went to London, and I have to say it really made Shakespeare’s world come to life in a very real way. Nat’s journey became my journey, and I feel that it can fire any young child’s imagination, especially any children who dream of being performers someday. The book gives a vivid picture of Elizabethan life as Nat walks down the unpaved roads of London and observes the hardworking apprentices at the Globe, the prisoners in the stocks, and mothers and fathers saddened by the heartbreak of plague in 1593. It’s a great insight into the life of Shakespeare’s company, and useful to anyone studying Shakespeare. Plus, Shakespeare himself is portrayed in a very sweet and caring light as a sensitive but world-weary man who loves to create.
- Recommendation: I’d recommend this to elementary school children and high school students, but I should warn parents and teachers that there is a violent depiction of Bear baiting- one of the cruelest Elizabethan spectator sports which is why I don’t recommend it for children under 8. Basically, if your child can get through the third Harry Potter book, they can get through this.
- Grade: 5 Shakespeare globes.