Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

We Need a Little Shakespeare

So ’tis the season to be jolly and maybe think about Shakespeare.  Here are a few tidbits for your holiday pleasure.


At the end of act 2, scene 7, Shakespeare gave us a lovely song, “Blow, blow, thou winter wind” with the great line “”Heigh Ho, the Holly.”

There are two references to Christmas in Love’s Labor’s Lost:

“At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth”

and Berowne describes a Christmas comedy here:

                                      “I remit both twain.
I see the trick on’t: here was a consent,
Knowing aforehand of our merriment,
To dash it like a Christmas comedy:
Some carry-tale, some please-man, some slight zany,
Some mumble-news, some trencher-knight, some Dick,
That smiles his cheek in years and knows the trick
To make my lady laugh when she’s disposed,
Told our intents before”

In Hamlet, Marcellus refers to Christmas while discussing the Ghost in act 1:

“Some say that ever, ‘gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long.”

A  fanciful story written by Maria Hubert called, “William Shakespeare’s Christmas” imagines a performance for Queen Elizabeth in 1597.  And the Gutenburg Project offers a free download (available to read online or as an eBook) titled  Shakespeare’s Christmas Gift to Queen Bess by Anna Benneson McMahan, originally published in 1907.  

And finally, while it’s not strictly about Christmas, there’s the Winter Song that ends Love’s Labor’s Lost:

When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail
And Tom bears logs into the hall
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp’d and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl, . Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
When all aloud the wind doth blow
And coughing drowns the parson’s saw
And birds sit brooding in the snow
And Marian’s nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl, . Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

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