Shakespearean Resources | Mix It Up

Shake up your Shakespeare lessons and inject new life into curriculum units and assignments on the Bard with this list of interactive apps, websites, humorous books, and other inventive resources.

SLJ1501w-MixItUp_ShakespeareAsk any person over the age of 12 to name one poet or playwright and the most common answer would likely be “William Shakespeare,” followed by a rendition of “To be, or not to be; that is the question.” If there is one thing youth librarians and teachers—we few, we happy few, we band of brothers—can count on while serving children and teens, it is that we will be regularly tasked with finding Shakespearean resources. Nearly 400 years after his death, Shakespeare remains at the core of literary study in many of the world’s educational systems—as evidenced by the sheer number of resources, books, academic papers, websites, and research centers dedicated to studying and disseminating his work.

Lest you revel in the winter of your discontent, despairing over the vastness of information, rest assured knowing that the resources available have evolved from the giant tomes of yore. How beauteous mankind is! Yes, we still love books, but this brave new world is full of interactive apps and websites that have made groundbreaking performances and adaptations accessible to a wider audience.


SLJ1501w-MixItUp_FolgerFolger Shakespeare for Kids Free | Gr 3 Up Perhaps one of the best known resources for all things Shakespeare is the Folger Shakespeare Library. Located in Washington, DC, Folger has the world’s largest collection of the printed works of Shakespeare, and their online presence provides a rich and informative look within their holdings. Their website features a section, “Shakespeare for Kids,” which is aimed at young audiences. Archived webinars present tips for teaching Shakespeare to young pupils; Folger also offers a bevy of teaching resources, including modules, curriculum guides, guides for ESL students, and information on deconstructing sonnets or plays.

Notable item: Archived webinar “Shakespeare in Other Words,” recorded March 12, 2013. Highlights literary devices used in Shakespeare’s works and relates them to Common Core standards.

MIT Global Shakespeares  Free | High school The Global Shakespeares Video and Performance Archive offers full-length performances of Shakespeare’s plays from around the world in dozens of languages, along with essays and content from scholars and educators in the field. The “Links” through the “Resources” tab provides access to a variety of international Shakespeare organizations and acting companies, which showcase varied productions and performances of the Bard’s plays. This is a particularly rich resource for upper high school students who may be comparing and contrasting the different ways Shakespeare’s works are presented in other languages, cultures, and styles.
Shakespeare’s Globe Free | Middle to high school The London-based Shakespeare’s Globe—rebuilt near the site of the Globe Theatre, where the poet himself performed as a resident player in the early 1600s—is a playhouse and exploratorium that examines Shakespeare’s works through education and stage productions. Many of the institution’s offerings require visits to the center, but a fair amount of instructional resources are available online. Notably, the “Papers and Research” and “Playing Shakespeare” sections within “Discovery Space” provide teachers with an inventory of teaching guides, teacher’s notes, and supplementary information on many of the Bard’s plays. A great source for drama teachers or those interested in teaching students more about the Shakespearean stage.

Notable item: Check out their beautifully interactive website for teaching A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Shakespeare Uncovered PBS Free | High school This treasure trove of resources includes videos featuring actors such as Ethan Hawke, David Tennant, and Jeremy Irons exploring pivotal Shakespearean roles, as well as digital shorts exploring themes, Shakespeare’s biography, and discussions with experts. If that weren’t enough, full-length performances of select plays are free for viewing. High school teachers will find the lesson plans matched to national standards helpful.


SLJ1501w-MixItUp_AtPlay2aShakespeare at Play (iOs) Free (videos $3.99 each) | Middle to high school Allows app users to simultaneously watch a play while reading along with the text. A great resource for players in a Shakespeare production, this app will find an audience with high schoolers or even college students looking to fully immerse themselves within the acting methodology of performing in a Shakespeare play. Videos must be purchased separately.
SLJ1501w-MixItUp_shakespeare-pro-appShakespeare Pro (iOs) Free; Pro version: 9.99, or 4.99 vol. pricing | Middle to high school. With 41 plays, 154 sonnets, and six poems, this app puts Shakespeare at your fingertips. The plays include a list of characters, scene breakdowns, annotated and abridged plot points, and limited glossary access. Truly set up as a bit of a teaser for the pro-app, the free option offers users a taste of the extras like portraits and notes, and features limited information regarding chronology of works, theater information, statistics, roles, scansions, and poetry terms. Great for on-the-go homework; but consider the pro version for more in-depth assignments.
The Sonnet Project (iOs) Free | Elementary to high school In this exploration of Shakespeare’s sonnets, various actors read each poem in different locations in and around New York City. Daily examples are featured, and users may refer to the library to browse and select their own. A visually pleasing and innovative introduction.

Print Resources

SLJ1501w-MixItUp_StratfordZooLENDLER, Ian. The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth. illus. by Zack Giallongo. 80p. First Second. 2014. Tr $19.99.ISBN 9781626721012; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781596439153. Gr 4 Up This beautifully illustrated romp is a take on Macbeth like no other. The animals of the Stratford Zoo leave their cages at night to put on the play for the other animals. While there are more authentic renditions of Shakespeare in many comic versions, this one goes for the laughs, with visual puns and a noir stage retelling with Macduff as a gumshoe private eye. The cast of characters is limited to Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Macduff, Banquo (Banksy), and the witches. Best introduced to readers familiar to the story, these offerings are sure to become favorites.

SLJ1501w-MixItUp_BrickCOmedies_2McCANN, John, Monica Sweeney & Becky Thomas. Brick Shakespeare: The Comedies— A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing, and The Taming of the Shrew. 352p. Skyhorse. 2014. pap. $19.95. ISBN 9781628737332. Gr 4 Up A witty visual representation of four of the Bard’s most popular plays as told through LEGO figurines. Carefully abridged text introduces younger readers to one of the most popular playwrights in history. For a darker take on his work, be sure to take a look at Brick Shakespeare: The Tragedies—Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Julius Caesar (Skyhorse, 2013).

MONTEE, David. Translating Shakespeare: A Guidebook for Young Actors. 415p. Smith & Kraus. 2014. pap. $21.95. ISBN 9781575258898. High school; Professional reading Written to inspire young actors and serve as reference material for teachers, this guidebook begins by outlining the Stanislavsky system and then jumps right into using Hamlet’s “Speak the speech, I pray you…” as a lesson on how to grapple with Shakespearian language. Subsequent chapters include advice on researching and choosing which text to use, how to fill the role or connect with characters and language from so long ago, and verse scansion and rhythm. Among the other topics are “The Vital Antithesis,” “Exercising with the Text,” “Contexts, Icons, Contrasts, and Contradictions,” and “Shakespeare Scenework: Plays in Miniature.” In the ample appendices, readers will find “Examples of Dramatic Contexts for Shakespearean Production.” Clearly a labor of love, this guidebook is required reading for those serious about acting or teaching Shakespeare.

NEWLIN, Nick ed., 30 Minute Shakespeare” series. Nicolo Whimsy Pr. Middle to high school; Professional reading Daunted by the idea of putting on a production of Shakespeare? This series makes the task manageable, whether in the classroom or a theater club. While the works themselves are abridged, the author’s goal is to keep the language and feeling intact. Includes stage directions, ideas for props and casting, set lists, and performance notes. These 18 adaptations are not necessarily designed for the Shakespeare expert but rather for those new to the Bard. Available for purchase in paperback or PDF.

SLJ1501w-MixItUp_SeasonsWEINER, Miriam. Shakespeare’s Seasons. illus. by Shannon Whitt. 32p. Downtown Bookworks. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781935703570. PreS-Gr 1 For the preschool set comes Shakespeare’s Seasons. Weiner caters to ye young ones who may not be quite ready to enjoy Shakespeare’s full-length plays and sonnets. Short passages pair well with expressive paper collages which would work well for storytimes about the seasons.


SLJ1501w-MixItUp_StarWarsDOESCHER, Ian. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars. 176p. Quirk Bks. 2013. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781594746376. Middle to high school Perhaps the perfect marriage between two famed pop-culture phenomena, this title features lines such as “Pray, R2D2, where art thou?” Those familiar with The Bard’s work will chuckle at the resemblance between robots C3P0 and R2D2 and Hamlet’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. This tome serves as more of a novelty than a useful book for schoolwork, but the story will expose interested readers to iambic pentameter and early modern English.
@IAM_SHAKESPEARE High school Whether you call him the Swan of Avon, The Bard, or simply Shakespeare, you’ve probably never experienced him in 140 characters before. Since 2009, this feed has made its way through the complete works of Shakespeare, tweeting—in order—a quote every 10 minutes (currently, the play of choice is Henry VI Part 3). For those seeking a bite-size dose of Shakespeare, this Twitter handle shouldn’t be missed.
Shakespeare Insult Creator; AML: App: Shakespearean Insults Free | Gr 6 Up These one-trick ponies generate insults in Early Modern English, inspired by the work of great Bill himself. Take for example, these zingers: “Thou unmuzzled flap-mouthed skainsmate!” and “Thou infectious dizzy-eyed hedge-pig!”

SLJ1501w-MixItUp_Tweettext#shakespearesunday and #shakestag High school Not surprisingly, there are tons of Shakespeare fans on Twitter. Every Sunday, students can join would-be Shakespeareans from around the globe by tweeting favorite quotes from the Bard using the hashtag #shakespearesunday. Don’t forget to identify the play/poem, act and scene, or line. For added fun, try the #shakestag game. It’s like an online literary version of the playground game Tag. The first person begins by tweeting a Shakespearean quote, identifying a theme, and “tagging” another Twitter user, who becomes “it.” That next person must tweet a different quote on the same theme, tagging yet another user. This format can easily be translated into a classroom game for younger students, while older students can be encouraged to participate online.

Stacy Dillon is the lower school librarian at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Manhattan; Amy Laughlin is a children’s librarian at Darien Library, CT.
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David Gontar

Shakespeare Alert! There is a growing consensus that the most significant contribution to Shakespeare criticism and theory is the two-volume work from New English Review Press: Vol 1, Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays ISBN 978-0-9854394-9-1 and Vol 2, Unreading Shakespeare ISBN 978-1-943003-00-6. For sheer brilliance and originality coupled with rigor of argument this work is light years ahead of the competition. It is rated 4.7 and 5.0 gold stars in Amazon Books with no adverse or negative comments. It carries endorsements from Prof. Michael Zimmerman, past Chair of Philosophy at University of Colorado (Boulder), Theodore Dalrymple and Alexander Waugh. Among libraries which have acquired copies are Sterling Library (Yale), Howard-Tilton Memorial Library (Tulane), Frostburg State and Southern Oregon University. As the anniversary year 2016 draws on apace, this treatise will be at the center of most serious conversations about Shakespeare.

Posted : Oct 17, 2015 05:13



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