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Did you know that the third week of March is Shakespeare Week? This year, it’s taking place between 21 March and 27 March. Shakespeare Week is a national celebration, which does exactly what the name suggests – galvanises people to get excited about the works of Shakespeare! The event is primarily aimed at primary school aged children, but people of all ages are encouraged to take part.
There are loads of free resources available, for anyone interested in learning more about Shakespeare. Whether you’re a complete novice, or have a fair bit of knowledge, this week is a fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in Shakespearian England.
Shakespeare is arguably the most famous playwright of all time. And in addition to his plays, his sonnets are pretty popular too! Who hasn’t at least heard the first line of Sonnet 18 spoken aloud? The question is, what makes Shakespeare so compelling? Is it simply that he was so prolific?
Most people would argue that the main appeal is that Shakespeare wasn’t just excellent at prose – his characters are incredibly memorable. Not always likeable (Richard III, for instance) but certainly engaging. You may not be a big fan of Shakespeare personally, but you have to admit that he was talented!
Shakespeare is on the curriculum for countries across the globe, though students don’t tend to start studying his works until they’re older. Shakespeare is also associated with exams, so people don’t always grow up loving his work. One of the aims of Shakespeare Week is to give children a more positive first impression of Shakespeare.
William Shakespeare was a playwright, poet, and actor, born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564. His actual date of birth is unknown, but we usually celebrate it on 23 April, which is also St George’s Day. Shakespeare’s work spanned both the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods of English history, which included at least 38 plays and more than 150 poems.
In terms of his family life, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway when he was eighteen, who was eight years his senior. They had three children together, though their only son, Hamnet, died at the age of eleven. A fictionalised novel by Maggie O’Farrell tells the story of Hamnet, a tender and moving story which won several awards.
Shakespeare’s career really launched in London, where he joined a company of actors called The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. During this time, he wrote some of his most famous plays, such as Macbeth, The Tempest, and King Lear.
Shakespeare Week was created in order to inspire children to explore Shakespeare. Resources are offered to families and educators, so that they can get kids to engage with the material in creative ways. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the organisation that came up with Shakespeare Week, hope that they can give children a memorable and exciting first experience with Shakespeare. That way, they can better appreciate his works in later life.
A whole range of cultural partners support Shakespeare Week, from the Royal Shakespeare Company to the Woodland Trust. Many of these partners put on fabulous events across the UK during Shakespeare Week, such as festivals, workshops, and of course plays. It’s been estimated that this annual event has already helped around nine million children in the UK discover more about Shakespeare.
If you’re looking for resources you can use throughout Shakespeare Week, the official website has tons of helpful packs and other content you can download. These resources include information on Shakespeare’s life and times, online workshops, and storytellings.
The site aims to provide the tools cultural organisations, schools, home educators and families need, to help children across the country feel enriched and experience positive emotions when it comes to Shakespeare.
To get your kids excited about Shakespeare, you could introduce them to some of the more famous adaptations! Not everyone knows that Disney’s The Lion King, for example, is based on the story of Hamlet. Another Hamlet inspired movie is the film of the same name, which came out in the year 2000. This is a modern adaptation, set in New York, starring Ethan Hawke as Hamlet, a film student trying to live up to his father’s legacy as the CEO of the Denmark Corporation.
Romeo and Juliet is another play that has seen a lot of adaptations. The one that comes to most people’s minds is the film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, but there are others that are just as famous, if a more loose interpretation of the original text. West Side Story is a great example of this – the Jets and the Sharks are more modern versions of the Montagues and Capulets.
For a more lighthearted adaptation, you could try watching She’s The Man, starring Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum. This is a modern day retelling of Twelfth Night, one of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies. 10 Things I Hate About You is another modern Shakespearian classic, based on The Taming of the Shrew. With a star studded cast, including Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Heath Ledger, this is a very enjoyable take on the Shakespeare play.