Bringing Shakespeare to life

Whether you’re a teacher trying to inspire a love of Shakespeare in your students, or a parent who wants to get your child excited about literature and history, it can be both enjoyable and educational to take Shakespeare from the stage to the home. It’s one thing to memorize lines, practice dying a valiant death, or fall in love after two seconds (gross!), but making the past relevant to your kids will get them to better understand what they’re reading and performing (and they’ll have fun doing it). Here are some ideas for bringing Shakespeare to life:

Enjoy a night without electricity.

Turn off the overhead lights and break out the candles. Try reading and writing by candlelight. Not so easy, is it? Ask your kids to image doing everyday tasks by candlelight. Could they make their way around the house? Could they get a snack? Find a toy? Then turn the lights back on and rejoice in the marvel of modern technology.

Cook a meal from the 1500s.

People didn’t have access to many fresh fruits and vegetables (and during the Plague of 1569 it was illegal to sell fresh fruit as it was thought to carry disease). Roasted fish or a stew made of vegetables and meat would be common during that time. You could also try baking bread from scratch or baking a pot pie. After you cook together, pretend you’re having a royal feast (and don’t forget dessert!).

Look up unfamiliar Shakespearean words

and use them in sentences…the more creative, the better! “Hey Mom, can we go to the haberdasher tomorrow to get some new socks?” “I think we need a maid, I see a mote on the table!” You get the picture. There are several websites that have definitions for the words Shakespeare often used in his plays.

Dress up in Shakespearean garb.

Find pictures online or go to the library to get an idea of the fashion of the 1500s. Some of it is pretty ridiculous. Men wore tights and hats. Women wore big dresses. They both wore lots of layers and jewelry (the more jewelry you wore, the more money people would think you had). Put a wig on and literally bring Shakespeare to life! Ask the kids to imagine what it would be like to dress like that every day. How would it feel to play outside? How would it feel to wear all those layers in the summer time when it’s hot outside?

If you’re really feeling adventurous about bringing Shakespeare to life, put all of the above together! Eat your feast while dressed up, and be sure to converse using your newfound vocabulary. This just gets the ball rolling. Chances are, your kids will become curious about other aspects of that time. How did people get around? What did they do when they got sick? Did kids in that day and age have to go to school? The exploration is endless, and so is the fun.

About Khara Oliver

first fell in love with Shakespeare in 8th grade after reading Hamlet, and she has been an avid fan ever since. She studied Shakespeare’s works in Stratford-upon-Avon, and graduated with a degree in English from UCLA. Khara is lucky to have a terrific career and a charmed life on the Central Coast of CA, but what she cherishes most is time spent with her husband and children. She is delighted to have this chance to help kids foster their own appreciation of Shakespeare in a way that is educational, entertaining, and most importantly, fun!

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