Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

"Your lord; myself and other noble friends, Are partners in the business."

Shaking Hands with Shakespeare

Acting as the registrar for our local programs, it’s not surprising to me that most of the teachers who use our resources teach English, or are using our program for an English unit. Occasionally, though, I’ll get a call from a Social Studies or History teacher who plans to tie the program in to their unit on Elizabethan Life.

But this can go even further! You might remember one of our first Teacher to Teacher videos featuring Bob Harrison, in which he advocates for “Shakespeare Across the Curriculum,” and gives some examples of how to connect learning about Shakespeare and Elizabethan Life across many subjects and to students’ own life.

Specific plays lend themselves to cross-curricular study, and it’s really up to the teachers to figure out how best to collaborate on a unit. It can be difficult, especially with all of the guidelines for meeting standards and preparing for standardized tests. Crossing curricula, though, helps make the subjects more relevant, and makes the information stick.

This all comes to mind after seeing an article today about a 2009 performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Texas A&M University where the production was enhanced with robot “fairies” built by the school of engineering and in collaboration with the performance studies and computer science departments. These students and their professors were innovative and creative in their presentation of this play for a modern audience, and learned more about each other’s chosen areas of study in the process!

Are you planning any cross-curriculum lessons with Shakespeare this year? Let us know in the comments!


  • Shakespeare by definition should be the province of interdisciplinary inquiry. Far to few English professors, let alone high school teachers, have the background in history to assess, for example, the implications of the fact that Polonius is a parody of William Cecil. I always approach the task of reading, performing, and comprehending the text from a historical perspective. Before the plays were “universal” they were local and particular, and they still bear many signs of their origins, “showing their birth and where they did proceed,” so to speak.

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