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April 3, 2013

Can Shakespeare Help Reduce Bullying?

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Shakespeare may have written his play “The Tempest” some 400 years ago, but it is finding new life in Colorado as a tool in the fight against bullying.

The Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado Boulder teamed up with The Colorado Shakespeare Festival to produce a short adaptation of “The Tempest” that they perform in front of school audiences to spark conversation about violence and choices among teens and pre-teens.

Program coordinators thought Shakespeare was a natural choice because of the playwright’s rendering of conflict.

“Shakespeare is an expert in violence,” said Tim Orr, director of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. “There is so much violence and intimidation. And he explores every possible way: family violence, nation violence, kings and queens, husbands and wives, children and parents.”

After the performance, the actors lead the students in modern role-playing scenarios to help them discuss and relate to the themes of the play.  These workshops are meant to demonstrate how violence and bullying can negatively affect peoples’ lives.

“People haven’t changed” since Shakespeare’s time, says said ninth grader Stephen Banks. “You still have people who choose vengeance because it’s easier to do. But if everyone chooses virtue, it would be way better because it’s the better way to go. If you get revenge on someone, it’s not going to fix anything. It’s going to make you feel bad and escalate into something worse.”


“It’s so amazing that Shakespeare wrote this so long ago but there really is a place in it for everyone. There’s characters who are more the bullying type, there’s some that are the victims, some that are the bystanders. And so it lends itself to a conversation about all those roles,” she told the NewsHour,” – Beverly Kingston, director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.

Warm up questions

1. Why do people bully others?

2. What do you think are some effective ways to stop bullying?

3. Have you ever seen a Shakespeare play? What did you take away from it?

Discussion questions

1. What did you find most interesting about this video?

2. Do you think this program would be effective in reducing bullying and teen violence? Why or why not?

3. Has a character or story ever influenced the way you act or think about yourself? If so, explain.

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