Is Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream challenging for 14 year-olds?It is on my booklist for next year.  

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shakespeareguru eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would say that any of Shakespeare's plays can be challenging for audiences or readers of any age, if they have never encountered the story or any other of Shakespeare's plays before.  Mainly, this is because Shakespeare lived and worked about 400 years ago, and much of the language that he uses (some of it the slang of the day) is very outdated.  However, that said, you should know that Shakespeare is writing in Modern (not Old) English.

Along with the outdated words (like "wherefore" for "why," and "thou" or "thee" for "you") is that fact that the plays' characters often speak in iambic pentameter.  This term simply describes the type of verse or poetry in which Shakespeare writes.  It is written to approximate the human heartbeat in rhythm, and is very easy to speak aloud (which is why Shakespeare uses it in his plays!)

Here are a couple of suggestions for approaching the play, if you feel that either one of the two hurdles I mention above might prove to be obstacles for you:

  1. Read a paraphrase of the text first.  You can read one that is a summary of the story (written in paragraph form) or a parapharse written in script format, like the ones in the No Fear Shakespeare series.  Below are links to both the summary of Midsummer in the Enotes Study Guide and more information about the No Fear scripts put out by Spark Notes.
  2. See a film version of the play.  Film is a medium that most all American teenagers understand very well, since you've probably been watching movies since you were very small!  Try the 1999 version starring Kevin Kline and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Both of these strategies should prepare you for approaching the language of the text in the classroom next year.  Good luck!


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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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