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all about shakespeare
You know, a lot of people love and enjoy Shakespeare's plays. But, just as many people complain that they don't "get" Shakespeare. That's not surprising, because Shakespeare can be really tough to handle…
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  1. Shakespeare's Life and Times- 1:02:03
    1. Shakespeare's Life- 1:02:05
    2. Globe Theater- 1:02:52
  2. Shakespeare's Use of Language- 1:06:07
    1. Poetry- 1:06:09
    2. Iambic Pentameter- 1:07:19
  3. Elizabethan Drama- 1:10:42
    1. The Importance of Words- 1:11:05
    2. Real Life vs. Stage Life- 1:12:58
    3. Symbolic Art- 1:14:54
  4. Tragedy- 1:16:47
    1. Tragic Figures- 1:17:47
    2. Titus Andronicus- 1:20:50
    3. Romeo and Juliet- 1:21:32
    4. Hamlet- 1:22:26
    5. Macbeth- 1:23:00
    6. Othello- 1:23:25
    7. King Lear- 1:24:00
1. Why do you think Shakespeare is so popular? If Shakespeare lived today, how do you think our society would respond to him?

2. What do you think Shakespeare's greatest tragedy is? Why?

3. How do you think Shakespeare viewed human nature? Do you think he was pessimistic, optimistic, or something else entirely?

4. Why do you think many people consider Shakespeare's greatest works his tragedies? Is there something about tragedies that makes them superior to other genres, like comedies?

5. The first line in Hamlet is from the sentinel, Barnardo: "Who's there?" How does this line help set the tone for the play?

6. When studying plays, Shakespearean scholars usually direct themselves to one place-the text. But theatrical companies, when mounting a production, feel free to cut lines, characters, or even set the play in a different time or place. Which approach do you think is more true to Shakespeare's plays?

7. If Shakespeare was around today, what medium do you think he'd be working in? Theater? Film? Television? Interpretive Dance? Do you think he'd have a website? If yes, what would it look like?

8. Is a Shakespeare play better read or seen performed on stage? Are there advantages to being able to read it at your own pace? Are there advantages to seeing actors interpret the characters? Are there any disadvantages to either way of experiencing these plays? What Shakespeare play would you most like to see performed in person?

9. Early in his life, Shakespeare left Stratford-on-Avon and made his way to London, where he wrote his plays. Do you think we would have ever heard from him had he never left Stratford? If Shakespeare had never written a play, do you think his genius would have expressed itself in other ways?

10. When Shakespeare wrote his plays, women were not allowed to act on stage, but during much of this time a woman, Queen Elizabeth, was ruler of England. Do you find this to be a paradox? Do you see any parallels of this situation in our own day and time?

1) Write a 10-12 line conversation between two people. The two people can be anyone you want: a daughter angry at her mother, two friends hanging out, a little boy talking to his imaginary friend.

Now rewrite the conversation using iambs. A quick review: an iamb is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. "A horse," "antique," and "farewell" are all iambs. See how the first syllable in each word in unstressed while the second one is stressed? Make as many of the words iambic as you can.

How is your iambic dialogue different from your non-iambic one? Which one do you like better?

2) Find a passage you like from one of Shakespeare's plays. Memorize it, then recite it in front of a mirror or to friends. Next, try to rewrite it in your own words. Memorize this version, then recite it.
Which version do you like better, Shakespeare's or yours? Which one was easier to memorize?

3) Conflict Collage!
Your job now is to somehow dramatize the central conflict(s) of a Shakespeare play by making a collage.
First, pick one of the many Shakespeare plays that exist. Familiarize yourself with the main characters and the main conflict(s). Now, flip through some magazines-they can be sports magazines, fashion magazines, celebrity magazines, whatever. Using scissors, cut out any pictures or advertisements you think might display some of the emotions of the play. Now, get some construction paper. Lay out your magazine pictures so you can see them all. Pick several and arrange them next to each other. If that doesn't seem to work well, trying rearranging them, or better yet, try a different set of pictures! Keep arranging and rearranging until you have a collage of pictures that really capture the spirit of your Shakespeare play. Now, grab some glue, because you've got a collage to create!
Paste the pictures to construction paper, but leave a little room at the top. When you're through, give your masterpiece a name, like Endless Love in Romeo and Juliet. Finally, sign your name and hang up your collage in a prominent place.

4) Newspaper narrative!
Find an article from the morning paper that captures your attention. Write down all the facts that reporter gives about the events. Now, you need to craft a story from these facts. Which facts will you keep in, to heighten the drama? Which facts don't really add anything to the drama, and should be removed?
Rewrite the article in your own words, trying to make it as exciting and dramatic as possible. Guess what? You just kinda did what Shakespeare did! He took events he heard about and stories he had read and rearranged them into his style, keeping what he thought was best, and discarding what he felt was unnecessary. Pretty cool, don't you think?

5) Costume Party!
This time, you get to design your own wardrobe! Go into your parents' closet (Get their permission first! If you are a parent, well, you're okay.) and grab the most interesting clothes. Now, pretend you're a particular Shakespearean character, say Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Portia, Gertrude, or Puck. What clothes do you think best express that character's personality? Try mixing and matching different clothes. Use scarves! Hats! Shoes! Use a bedsheet for a toga if you want to-you're the costume designer. (When you're through, don't forget to clean up. Sorry.)

6) You write the songs!
Shakespeare goes lyrical! Write a show tune about Henry the Fifth, or a rock ballad about Ophelia. Why not try writing gospel lyrics for Othello? If you can't think of any melodies, try one from a song you already know and write new words. How about I've Got a Crush On You, as sung by Romeo? How about Livin' La Vida Loca as sung by Hamlet? Or, take the Beatles' tune I Am The Walrus and write it for Macbeth. Songwriting is fun, fabulous, and free!

Click here to go to the test.



did you know?
Long before Pat Sajak and Vanna White popularized "The Wheel of Fortune" for American audiences, the Elizabethans had a wheel of fortune of their own. But their wheel was a metaphorical wheel that represented good fortune on top, bad fortune on the bottom, and turned to show how someone's luck might change.
Aristotle—Ancient Greek philosopher who wrote The Poetics, which details his ideas on drama, including tragedy.

catharsis—the violent purging of the emotions experienced when encountering great drama.

De Casibus tragedy—A medieval form of tragedy, named for Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum Illustrium. These "tragical tales" often taught a moral lesson.

Elizabethan Age—The time in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) in which there was immense creativity in the arts.

Globe Theater—The "O"-shaped, open-air theater in London where many of Shakespeare's plays were originally performed.

groundlings — Spectators at the Globe Theater who stood on the ground in front of the stage while watching a Shakespearean play.

iamb—A unit of speech that contains one unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable.

iambic pentameter— A poetic form that consists of five iambs. Shakespeare often used this form in his plays to mimic the natural rhythms of the English language.

Lord Chamberlain's Men—Shakespeare's acting company, who, starting in 1603, were known as the King's Men.

Oedipus Rex—Play written by the ancient Greek dramatist Sophocles. Because of its excellence, it can be studied as a prototype for great tragedy.

oracle—A priestess through whom a deity or god speaks.

poetry—A concentrated and heightened form of language, produced through rhythm and sound. Also known as "verse."

prose—The language of everyday, ordinary speech.

sonnet—A fourteen-line poem that employs a particular rhyme scheme.

Stratford-on-Avon —Village in England where Shakespeare was born in 1564. Often shortened to "Stratford."

tragedy—A form of dramatic art which follows the fall, pain, and suffering of the tragic figure.

tragic figure—The main character of a tragedy; experiences a reversal of fortune and endures uncommon suffering with uncommon dignity.

verse—Another name for poetry.

Explore some Shakespeare-related websites. Remember, you will be leaving the Standard Deviants TV website.
Related Sites

Search all of William Shakespeare's works!

Check out an entire library dedicated to Shakespeare and Elizabethan life.

Explore the NEW Globe Theater!

Find out what life was like in Elizabethan England!

Generally Accepted Shakespeare Plays

All's Well That Ends Well
Antony and Cleopatra
As You Like It
The Comedy of Errors
Henry IV, Part 1
Henry IV, Part 2
Henry V
Henry VI, Part I
Henry VI, Part 2
Henry VI, Part 3
Henry VIII
Julius Caesar
King John
King Lear
Love's Labour's Lost
Measure for Measure
The Merchant of Venice
The Merry Wives of Windsor
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Much Ado About Nothing
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Richard II
Richard III
Romeo and Juliet
The Taming of the Shrew
The Tempest
Timon of Athens
Titus Andronicus
Troilus and Cressida
Twelfth Night
The Two Gentleman of Verona
The Two Noble Kinsmen
The Winter's Tale

Generally Accepted Poetry

The Phoenix and Turtle
The Rape of Lucrece
Venus and Adonis
And 154 sonnets!

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