How to make Shakespeare come alive

Performer onstage

Last week we had the pleasure of hosting a Drama Education workshop with trainers from the Royal Shakespeare Company, Rebecca Gould and Chris White in Delhi. Chris and Rebecca spent three days with 30 teachers and theatre professionals where they conducted activities on how to engage students with Shakespeare.

We caught up with Chris after the workshop to share his knowledge on how to make Shakespeare come alive in the classroom for both teachers and students.

One of the key themes that arose in the workshop was about connecting with the plays and the words. Chris believes that having a personal connection with a play or aspects of a play is an invaluable teaching asset as this makes is much easier to share with your students.

Chris gave us the following top tips for creating that connection:

1) Choose the play that appeals to you. Or, if you don’t have a Shakespearian play with which you feel a personal connection, then you can find aspects within a play with which you relate to, such as a character, a scene or even one line. This will give you a starting point to explore with your students.

2) Try to understand the play from the inside. Give yourself the opportunity to experience the situation, feel the sensations that come from being one of the people in the play. Leap into the play and speak the words out loud to yourself and let them become your own. You can try speaking the words out loud in different places or while doing different activities – it is amazing how this helps unlock the meaning of the words.

3) Try to explore and enjoy the sounds of the words as much as the meaning.Exploring and feeling at ease with the words are key for teachers and students. Teachers and students can even try these ideas together in a group. Shakespeare’s words are egalitarian, even if they have the opposite reputation. It is just a question of experiencing them for yourself rather than as an academic exercise.

These gems of knowledge seemed to definitely inspire the teachers at the workshop. One teacher was particularly enthused with the new ways to engage better with the text, “I discovered how language should not be a barrier and we picked up techniques to get children more engaged with Shakespeare.”

Have you had experience of teaching Shakespeare? What worked best for you?


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4 thoughts on “How to make Shakespeare come alive

  1. Ram Chan

    Hamlet for instance ;Screen the movies first!
    Take the “Climax” first and allow them to utter the lines as a dialogue on the stage.
    Then make clear what it does not mean.
    The standard passages for Annotation….Try to move forward and backwards to bring out the convergence and divergence.
    This approach is possible only after they see the movie. This paves the way for a scholarly approach and puts them on the track. The rest is simple.They live through it!
    Try and enjoy sharing heir learning to enjoy Shakespeare.Make the Teachers corner a wooden ‘O’.


  2. Jen

    While I was a kid, I never gave a thought on Shakespeare as the “thous and thees” never enticed my mind. But as the time passes by, one learns new things hence I never miss a chance to watch Shakespearen plays. On my recent trip to Delhi, I had a chance to watch a play and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Though teaching is not my cup of tea but I do talk a lot about him.

    1. britishcouncilindia Post author

      Hi Jen,

      Great to hear that your love of Shakespeare continues to grow. We will hopefully be doing more Shakespeare projects soon, it would be great to see you there. We’ll have more details shortly.


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