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Hamlet from Ham Sandwich

Guest Blogger: Conor McCreery

When Anthony Del Col and I started Kill Shakespeare we hoped that our comic series would prove popular not just with people who were well-versed in Shakespeare but to those who were less familiar with the Bard. A big part of choosing the comic medium was our feeling that the ability to “see” the lust, love, magic, betrayal, jealousy, and battle that circle through Shakespeare’s works would help the reader realize the Bard was not the “old dead white guy” school told us about.

Ah, school… the first, and often only, place many of us encounter the Bard. Anthony and I REALLY hoped that Kill Shakespeare might get picked up by teachers, or better yet students, and become recognized as a way to ease into Shakespeare’s tricks and tropes.

Because of that we’ve made a point of visiting as many classrooms as we can to talk about comics, the Bard, entrepreneurism and, of course, our baby.

When we started though, we were a bit worried about what sort of reception we’d get. We had both been in classes where most of the kids hated Shakespeare. Would we walk into a room filled with glassy-eyed youth wondering when the two comic geeks were gonna shut up about Hamlet?

As it turned out, not so much.

It seems that Kill Shakespeare is part of a vanguard of material that is changing the way students perceive the Bard — or at least K.S. is part of a change in tactics.

Sure, we’ve had our share of bored teenagers wondering when this thing is going to be over, but for the most part we have found students that are engaged, or at least willing to be.

I think that’s been the key for us, and a lot of the new breed of teachers — they aren’t walking into class dreading teaching the Bard. We were told once by an older English teacher that every colleague of his “loved Shakespeare, but hated to teach it.” Now though it seems that attitude is dying.

We read about a teacher in a tough New Jersey neighbourhood turning Macbeth into a radio play to get students involved in all the toil and trouble. We watch other teachers use social media to have students immerse themselves in the melodrama of Romeo and Juliet, or Othello, or Midsummers Night’s Dream.

And we see teachers use things like Kill Shakespeare to help their students dive into these great characters trusting that if their students are told something more than “read it, it’s good for you” a great deal of them will rise to the occasion and find what makes the Bard personal for them.

We’ve even done presentations for kids as young as five and six. They don’t know Hamlet from a ham sandwich but they love the Kill Shakespeare art and they know, very well, the emotions and themes the Bard uses in his plays.

When we told that crowd of pint-sized potential playgoers about how Iago hated his best friend Othello, ruined his life and then wouldn’t even tell Othello why, they understood and asked through much scowling and wide-eyed amazement: “How could a friend do that?”

Shakespeare was the most dynamic storyteller of his age. When kids are turned onto the Bard in a dynamic way, not just the reciting of words off a page, it seems they are more than willing to fight through the language to get at all the juicy goodness hidden therein.

Creator ConorCo-Creator of Kill Shakespeare, Connor McCreery has served in both creative and business positions for film and television companies, contributed over 1,000 stories and articles for media outlets and also provided expert analysis for Canada’s Business News Network.