Tuesday, February 9, 2016
School Desk

The (birth)day’s the thing

By Maya Rajamani
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Benjamin Kaufman, 13, playfully hurls insults at Justin Kretschman, also 13, at Riverdale Country School’s celebration of Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.

Friends, Romans, Riverdale Country School men (and women) — some of these were among the attendees at an April 23 celebration fit for a king (though perhaps not grandiose enough for King Lear) commemorating Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.

A bit of Stratford-upon-Avon came to Riverdale Country School’s (RCS) green campus as students donned party hats and enjoyed a buffet. Phrases like “mugwormed maggot,” “beetleheaded barnacle” and “warp-neck scurvy bellied toad” filled the air while a group of eager boys partook of a noisy Shakespearean insult contest.

The participants strung together insults by using the three-column table in a “Shakespeare Insult Kit” that teachers handed out. 

“My favorite was ‘a puny, ill-nurtured maggot pie,’” said Benjamin Kaufman, 13. “It just felt like it had more power and effect than most of the other insults.”  

Max Horne, also 13, preferred “burly-boned, scurvy-valiant step-dame.” 

“It sounded the most like jibberish,” he said. 

Moderator and English department chairman Ron Murison declined to pick  a winner, but the students weren’t in it for a prize during the no-holds-barred competition, anyway.

“I liked the exhilarating tension of insulting each other,” said Benjamin. 

“It’s kind of like learning a new language, except you already know some of the words,” said Ian Luskin, 12, who added that he and his classmates read Julius Caesar a few months ago. 

Earlier in the day, students enjoyed a faculty performance of scenes from plays including A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a lecture about whether or not Shakespeare really authored the plays attributed to him.

In the props department, a ninth-grade class created replicas of the fateful handkerchief Desdemona received from Othello in the eponymous play. The avid readers strove for accuracy down to the finest details, including a strawberry pattern Shakespeare described.

“It was very funny to see teachers I see on campus out and being hilarious on stage,” said  Brayan Lozano, 15. 

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