Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

Shakespeare in other worlds

Shakespeare is taught all over the world, both in English-speaking and non-English speaking countries. Suzanne Worthington, RSC Education has created the World Shakespeare Classroom Wiki for the 2012 World Shakespeare Festival in London that looks at how Shakespeare is taught around the world.   Here are a few highlights:

  • Algeria: Some students  from Ahmed Lamarchi High School discuss Shakespeare  and do a short choral reading.
  • Azerbaijan: 100% of pupils following the national curriculum will study Shakespeare at least once in their school career, generally in grade 8. They study a general biography and short introduction to his works.
  • Brazil: Shakespeare is usually studied in translation to Portuguese and mostly at the University level.
  • China: Pupils aged 15/16 study Act 1 Scene 4 from The Merchant of Venice in translation into Mandarin Chinese.
  • Denmark:  Shakespeare is studied both in original English and in translation to Danish. Because it is set in Denmark, Hamlet is a favorite play of the Danes.  Shakespeare’s Elsinore is widely acknowledged to be Kronborg Castle near Helsingor in the North-East of Denmark.
  • Georgia: Less than 15% of pupils following the core curriculum will study Shakespeare, and when they do, they are translated into Georgian.
  • Germany: 15 – 50% of pupils following the German curricula are likely to study Shakespeare in English at least once in their school career.
  • Greece: Shakespeare is not a named author on the curriculum, although there are options for teachers to use him. When they are taught, they are read in translation to Greek or modern English.
  • Hungary:  Shakespeare is usually studied in translation to Hungarian. Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet,  King Lear, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest are the most popular plays and 85 – 100% of pupils following the national curriculum will study Shakespeare at least once in their school career, mostly between the ages of 14 and 16.
  • India: Shakespeare is a compulsory or suggested author for pupils aged 14 to 16, depending on the state. Shakespeare is predominantly studied in English-medium schools. Popular studied plays include Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, and Othello.
  • Iraq: Less than 15% of pupils will study Shakespeare in their school career, usually the most academically able, between the ages of 16 and 18. The rest will probably leave school without knowing who Shakespeare is.
  • ItalyRomeo and Juliet is the most popular play for Italian students. Guess why? The plays are read in English.
  • Kuwait: An abridged version of Henry V, in a modern English translation, is taught at Year 12 (16 – 17 year olds)  because Henry V helps pupils reflect on history, politics and universal human values.
  • Mexico: All pupils follow the core national curriculum. Compulsory schooling ends at aged 16. Shakespeare is named on the curriculum.
  • Nigeria: Students in Nigeria are unlikely to study Shakespeare unless they are taking literature courses in private education or at university.
  • Pakistan: Less than 15% of pupils will study Shakespeare in their school career.
    Shakespeare is taught in elite private schools and occasionally at some middle-ranged private schools.
  • Poland: 85 – 100% of pupils following the core curriculum will study Shakespeare in Polish at least once in their school career, and most will study him more than once. Hamlet and Macbeth are the most-commonly taught plays.
  • Russia: Many of pupils following the national curriculum will study Shakespeare at least once. He is mentioned as a suggested author for 14 – 16 year olds. Shakespeare is read in the original English or in a modern English translation.
  • Serbia: Shakespeare is mentioned on the curriculum in Serbia and most children will learn about him before they are 16.
  • Slovakia:  Shakespeare is taught in either in English or Slovak  and is listed as a suggested author on the national curriculum for the 14 – 16 age group.

If you have anything to add to this excellent site, the Wiki directions are pretty clear.


  • I hope the teachers in all those places are also being given very good instruction about William’s life and times — I mean, the sort we have been so blessed to have expressed in so many of his auspicious biographies, such as “In Search of Shakespeare,” “Ghostwriting Shakespeare,” “1599: A Year in the Life” or even “Puzzling Shakespeare.”….. O, wait a minute, that last one was not a biography. Phewww….For a minute there, I was getting worried. I mean, “searching for” is fine, “ghostwriting” a bit unnerving, and “1599” just cute, but “puzzling”? No, I don’t think so. That veers into territory we don’t go into. That one should not be a biography. O, and everyone’s looking forward, I hope, to the “Year of Lear” (2012? 2013?). If you need any help with this outreach, just send me an email.

    • How about Bill Bryson’s ‘Shakespeare’? He even has an ‘Illustrated Shakespeare’, same book just has some pictures in it but I guess you already realised that. (Hope I haven’t got it the wrong way round, could it be Bill Shakespeare’s ‘Bryson’?

  • The list of countries above, where Shakespeare is taught, is incomplete. In my country, Bulgaria, Shakespeare has always been taught extensively. In high school, everyone studies Hamlet, together with other masterpieces of Western European literature. In specialized English Language Schools, Shakespeare is studied in the original – King Lear, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, some popular sonnets, not to mention university education where Shakespeare is studied in detail.
    I am really disappointed that the British Council in Sofia, Bulgaria, hasn’t noticed this omission, or hasn’t supplied the necessary information about Shakespeare in the Bulgarian educational system.

  • I haven’t studied Shakespeare at school, really (that is in France), but I first discovered it seriously in a schoolbook belonging to my mother. And I carried on then with whatever opportunity was given to me (books, films, live plays in theatres…).
    As a teacher, I did give some Shakespeare to my students although this was not compulsory. Within the French curriculum, teachers are mostly expected to teach French authors, especially in Literature. For example, the emphasis is put on French Classical playwrights (Corneille, Racine, Molière) whose drama rules were very different from Shakespeare’s Baroque ones. But I personally think very interesting, if we have to explain what the Classical rules are (follow this link), to show how different drama was in England or in Spain at the same time. Above all, when French Romanticism (Stendhal, Hugo, etc.) discovered Shakespeare, they strongly rejected Classicism and rules which were too theoretical, not reflecting the complexity of real life, they thought. So Shakespeare belongs to French literary heritage as well in many ways. And, when we studied Lorenzaccio by Musset, for the leaving certificate literary exam, I was happy to show that some themes had been already illustrated in Hamlet by Shakespeare.

    Hamlet was once or twice among the compulsory texts for the leaving certificate (French baccalauréat) for the pupils studying Literature and Arts, especially Drama. The fact that this play had been translated by the French contemporary poet Yves Bonnefoy was the main reason of this being taught in the prospect of an official exam. But these texts changed every two years and Hamlet soon was carried away.
    [from : Théâtre – Enseignement de spécialité, série L
    – Shakespeare, Hamlet, traduction Yves Bonnefoy, éd. Folio Classique : « Énigmes du texte, réponses de la scène ».

    English teachers in French schools are now requested to teach Shakespeare in the two final years of the lycée, also for the baccalauréat examination. And I think this is right. Not only because it belongs to the heritage of the English language but because it is part of the European cultural heritage.
    [from : Programme littéraire de langue et littérature du cycle terminal
    Le programme littéraire se compose de l’étude d’œuvres complètes, de mouvements et/ou de thèmes littéraires ainsi que de pièces de théâtre de Shakespeare.
    Le programme limitatif fixe la liste de textes, de mouvements et/ou de thèmes ainsi que les œuvres de Shakespeare.
    Il est renouvelé partiellement chaque année en ce qui concerne la liste de textes (y compris les textes étudiés dans le cadre des mouvements et/ou thèmes littéraires) ainsi que les œuvres de Shakespeare. Par ailleurs, la liste des thèmes ou mouvements littéraires concernant l’épreuve orale est renouvelée tous les cinq ans.

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