Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

If Shakespeare Had a Mixer

~by Christopher Shamburg

In today’s digital environment some people are compelled to consume, create, and share remixed videos and music while others live happily ignoring remix altogether.  Whatever your interest, if you like Shakespeare, you’re a fan of remix.  Shakespeare was a master of it.  As teachers there are some creative, worthwhile, and easy-to-do methods to remix Shakespeare with students–methods that give them a meaningful experience with Shakespeare’s language and capture the spirit of today’s remix practices.  

Remixing is a popular activity that people do outside of schools.  Making music remixes of popular songs, video tributes, political satire, and parody are some ways that people use remix to creatively share their passions (see remix examples). In a broad but big way, digital remix correlates to how culture, art, and cognition get done–people synthesizing the material of others into original arrangements.

Copieth and Pasteth Macbeth

Remix was Shakespeare’s craft.   Consider that few of Shakespeare’s plays are original stories–Plutarch, Holinshed, and existing poems and dramas served as the source material for most of his works.  He often lifted stories and passages from news accounts, books, and folklore and incorporated them into his plays.  Shakespeare’s continuing appeal is because of the way he did it–through the skillful use of language and performance.

If Shakespeare Had A Mixer: Macbeth

Remix can characterize the history of Shakespearean production: the Nahum Tate King Lear with the happy ending;  the Luhrmann Romeo and Juliet that integrates Southern California hip hop culture; and foreign adaptations such as Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood which mixes Macbeth with feudal Japan.  Remix is authentic Shakespeare; the way that people make his work outside of schools. 

Here are three ideas for using remix with students and Shakespeare that can be done with easily available technology.  All focus on giving ownership of Shakespeare’s language to students: 

Text–students mix a passage of Shakespeare with a modern song or poem; see  Remixing Shakespeare Soliloquy Activity, or adapt Shakespeare to this activity on Remix Poetry.  

Audio–students create a unique audio creation with Shakespeare’s language, sound effects, ambient sounds, and music;   see Cinna the Audio Play , Cinna the Remix and Remixing Shakespeare at the Folger Website 

Video–students rearrange lines and scenes into a coming attraction, mix student performance with a commercial version, or edit a scene from lines said from different productions; see this growing playlist of Shakespeare video remix on YouTube, with a focus on student work.  

With the ease of remix today, technology has finally caught up with the Bard.

Christoper Shamburg is an Associate Professor of Educational Technology at New Jersey City University.  He is the author of StudentPowered Podcasting: Teaching for 21st Century Literacy (2009)  and National Educational Technology Standards: Units for the English Language Arts (2008).

Christopher will be presenting on this topic for the Folger with Micheael LoMonico, Rebecca Hranj, and Scott O’Niel, at NCTE on November 19th  C.43 (12:30 pm to 1:45 pm) “Shakespeare Set Free–Act 3: How Internet-based Web 2.0 Tools Can Get Your Students Closer to Shakespeare’s Texts”  Here’s a link to his presentation.


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