Saturday, September 25, 2010

Three Musketeers Week 3: Alexandre Dumas vs. Victor Hugo CAGEFIGHT!

Welcome! This blog post is related to my Three Musketeers class at our homeschool co-op, Homeschool Out of the Box. We have an academic section, reading Richard Pevear's translation of the book, and an enrichment section, reading the Usborne Young Readers' abridgement of the story. For all lesson plans related to this class, click the Three Musketeers tag at the bottom of this post.

HOMEWORK: We began class today by reviewing the vocabulary words they looked up, the musketeer terms they researched and going over the reading comprehension questions.
Important comprehension points:
1. Understanding the difference between the King's Musketeers and the Cardinal's Guard and getting how there were different armies and regiments and whatnot.
2. Understanding why M. Treville pretended to like the Cardinal and praised him. This was a very very tricky one but I did have a few spectacular little readers tell me it was because it was a test for D'Artagnan, to see if he was a spy. We discussed spying and how that works, and how that would have been a foreign concept for naive D'Artagnan.
3. D'Artagnan is insanely impetuous, and for the second time loses an important letter of introduction because he's following his temper into a fight. What would we have done? Finished up with M. Treville and secured our futures and careers. What did D'Artagnan do? Go charging off into the street to die. D'Artagnan! Such a temper! We focused a lot on this in the enrichment track class too.
DISCUSSION: Today we learned about Victor Hugo and compared his biography to that of Alexandre Dumas. Hugo was writing at the same time, but he was a very serious writer, much more intellectual and dark than Dumas. He was less interested in swordfighting and romance and more interested in despair and hopelessness. We talked about how Hugo's life in some ways paralleled Dumas' story -- political involvement, exile, and major shifts in opinions and beliefs. Dumas, however, was more fun. Hugo was such a nut that he ended up making his own furniture by chewing up wood. Seriously. We talked about how great genius sometimes comes with eccentricities (say it with me: eccentricity) and that what we love about Hugo is also what made him a total nutburger. Dumas wrote cookbooks and got fat. Hugo turned out to be some kind of mad beaver.
We also had a great discussion about how reading Hugo might be more interesting in terms of really delving into 19th century French literature, but that it wouldn't be appropriate for their age group. This led to a comparison between the "real" translation of Three Musketeers and the Usborne abridged version. Many kids in the older class have younger siblings reading the "junior" version and have noticed differences. For example, in the junior version, Constance is the landlord's sister, not wife. We talked about how in the 9-12 year old class we can discuss how different marriage was back then, how adultery was much more common and expected, and how marriage in the 17th century was not so much based on love. We talked (patronizingly) about how our little brothers and sisters cannot be expected to make this kind of ethical distinction, and therefore the book they read makes it easy for them by changing some details. Very excellent discussion -- I was so proud of the kids.
POETRY: Instead of reading a Victor Hugo novel, we're going to read and learn some Victor Hugo poetry. The one we're going to memorize in French is "Demain, des l'aube" which is definitely Hugo's most popular work, and perhaps the most famous poem written in French. It is, as you would expect from Hugo, very dark and gloomy. For next week, we're tackling just the first line:
Demain, des l'aube a l'heure au blanchit la campagne
Next week we'll do the second line, and so on. It seems daunting when you look at the whole thing, but I know they can do it. They will amaze themselves and you. Here's a funny video someone made, animating a famous portrait of Victor Hugo as if he is reciting his own poem:
SWORDPLAY: Today the kids learned two new moves -- the cleave and the high block. These are two handed moves. Cleaving looks like you're coming straight down on your opponent's head, the high block is how you would stop someone from cleaving your skull in half. Super fun!
SKITS: Today we acted out two scenes: D'Artagnan comes to Meung and gets in a fight with the scarfaced man, and D'Artagnan chases the scarfaced man through the streets of Paris, enraging the three musketeers in the process. This was great fun, and the children were wonderful at acting! I think it's particularly important in the enrichment class that we bring the story to life in this way, and it was highly entertaining for the children. They did great! This is something we can't do at home with our own books and our own kids, so I want to do this as much as possible as we go forward through the book, whenever we get to interesting scenes that lend themselves well to drama.
VOCABULARY: Here are the vocab words for next week. Please highlight and define.

I also asked the kids to consider the abandoned monastery as a scene -- what might it look like, feel like, what characteristics would make it a great place to duel? Here's a link to the fight scene from the 1993 Disney movie, "The Three Musketeers" that shows how this particular director imagined it.
ASSIGNMENT: Please read chapters 5 and 6. Not all of chapter 6 needs to be read word for word by the kids themselves. There is a lot of dialogue and some of it drags. Honestly these conversations are not that critical to the plot. This is a place in the text where you can summarize for your kids if they're overwhelmed by the material! :) Here are the comprehension questions:

1. What does this mean: “Suffer nothing from anyone except the King, the Cardinal, and M. de Treville”?
2. Why did Athos decide to fight D’Artagnan left-handed?
3. What happened to interrupt the duel D’Artagnan and Athos had started?
4. How did M. de Treville misrepresent the fight to the King?
5. What were the Musketeers doing when D’Artagnan got into a fight with Bernajoux?
6. What was wrong with the King when D’Artagnan and M. de Treville went to visit him?


  1. Anonymous11:50 AM

    This is super-brilliant pedagogy. Very lucky children.

  2. Your lesson looks very interesting. Keep posting!

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  3. purpledino9:10 PM

    Hi Miss Lydia! It's Maggie, from your class. Your class is really fun, and your blog is so cool!