Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

Shakespeare for Youngsters

Students perform a scene from MACBETH during the 2011 Children's Festival

Some recent posts on this blog have noted that introducing Shakespeare’s plays to young students can be a very successful experience for the students and their teachers.  In addition to the Folger’s program for students in grades 3-6, Shakespeare Steps Out (SSO), the RSC has been creating shorter versions of the plays for youngsters.  Last year, for example, the RSC presented 70-minute versions of The Comedy of Errors and Hamlet.  The results were interesting.  Rather than finding the comedy to be more successful with students, the tragedy was the play students connected with because they were able to relate to the family issues within the play.  Now, the RSC is planning to film and make available for free to students in NYC a 70-minute version of King Lear.  Last year’s efforts were not filmed.  If students respond to family issues in a tragedy more than they do to a comedy, what other Shakespeare plays ought to be presented to students? Why? What’s the family-related issue(s) in the play?


  • It seems that we frequently underestimate children. That’s wonderful news about the RSC plays for them. And it’s fascinating to hear that children agree with grownups that Hamlet is a better play than The Comedy of Errors. More evidence of Shakespeare’s truly astonishing universality! I assume they would also go for A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

  • It seems to me what is so great about Shakespeare is that he takes us to the essential situations of human life at the point of extremity… and children respond to these – if shown the right doorways – in important ways. Shakespeare takes us SERIOUSLY and children need this as well. I’m also thinking about HAMLET right now for my own Children’s Shakespeare Festival project in Manchester, England. Is it the old Oedipal thing? We’re also interested in inviting children in to consider death as a theme within the drama. Shakespeare is terrifying! Where will he take us next?
    Our other schemes of work are now available from T and F under the title “A Practical Guide to Shakespeare for the Primary School” – if anybody checks it out let me know what you think.
    John Doona

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