How did Holling use his knowledge of curses he learned from The Tempest in The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Holling Hoodhood is the seventh-grade protagonist of The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt, and he has been spending his Wednesday afternoons reading Shakespeare's plays, including The Tempest, with his teacher, Mrs. Baker. Holling discovers the monster, Caliban, does a lot of cursing; and Hollis is certain Mrs. Baker must not have read the play before or she would not have assigned it to him.

Holling find's the curses so impressive that he

decided to learn them all by heart--even if [he] didn't know exactly what they meant.

He is not too worried about knowing exactly what each curse means; he is convinced that knowing exactly what they mean does not matter very much.

It's all in the delivery, anyway.

Holling practices his curses in front of the mirror every night, and he even gets creative and combines some of the curses because he thinks they sound better. Note the following:

  • Strange stuff, the dropsy drown you.
  • Blind mole, a wicked dew from unwholesome fen drop you.
  • Apes with foreheads villainous low.
  • Though jesting monkey thou.

He uses these and other curses randomly throughout the school day, though most of the time he says them under his breath, kind of experimenting with them. Though he is half afraid to really speak the curses aloud or to anyone, he eventually teaches one of them ("pied ninny") to one of his friends, though he just makes up a definition (which later gets his friend in a bit of trouble).

Unfortunately for Holling, Mrs. Baker figures out that he is paying more attention to the curses than to the actual story, so he is required to read the play again. 

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