Shakespeare For Today
For many people, Shakespeare’s work is timeless. However, students notoriously find the olde English difficult to understand and often complain when teachers begin a Shakespeare topic or unit of study.
How can teachers modernise his plays to reach today's students?
William Shakespeare remains the world's most famous wordsmith. With 38 plays and 154 sonnets to his name he was a prolific playwright and poet and transformed the literary world.
His work deals with the most timeless of topics; love, betrayal death and war. Yet it can sometimes be difficult to interest students in his work, especially if they find the language inaccessible.
Luckily there are lots of ways to modernise his plays to allow a new audience to appreciate them. Read on for ways to make the Bard’s work a little more palatable for today's students:
Experience The Plays The Way He Intended
Plays need to be watched not read. It's imperative for teachers to arrange a viewing of a play to help the words come alive. Ideally, this will be at a theatre but you could also arrange for visiting actors to come into school, or even show a movie. A performance can touch a person far more than flat words on the page, even if every word isn't understood.
Learn About The Man
Shakespeare was one of the world's earliest celebrities. Through his work, he became famous, rich and beloved by royalty.
- Have students craft tweets as written by Shakespeare if he was alive today
- Draw comparisons between today’s celebrities and Shakespeare
- Write blog posts by Shakespearean characters
Shakespeare's stories are timeless and are still relevant today. Simple by translating them we can help students to access them.
We don't even need to source completely translated editions. By providing a synopsis of the story, teachers can interest students enough that they are prepared to traverse difficult words and unknown language, simply because the narrative has captured their imagination.
For example: Who could resist hearing the rest when a story that starts like this?…
“Two soldiers are returning from battle when they stumble upon a coven of witches, who promise them great riches and fame...”
Show How He Has Inspired Modern Culture
Many students see Shakespeare as a stuffy irrelevant dead guy that has nothing to do with their modern life. If you can show how Shakespeare-inspired many of their favorite movies, sayings or musical influences you may find a connection you can build on.
- Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ is based on ‘Hamlet’
- Hard Candy Makeup company uses a lot of Shakespearian references for its range of cosmetics, including a concealer called ‘Out Damned Spot’ a direct quote from Lady Macbeth
- Mumford and Sons named their album ‘Sigh No More’ borrowing a phrase from ‘Much Ado About Nothing’
- The phrase "the green-eyed monster” is quoted from Othello’s arch villain, Iago
- Even the word “gossip” well known by teens, originated in Shakespeare’s “Midsummer's Nights Dream”
Showing students how Shakespeare still impacts our world today, more than 400 years after his death is a powerful way to illustrate the importance of his legacy. He was the greatest living playwright and his impressive body of work still dominates the art scene, through music, movies, books and TV.
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