Shakespeare’s England

Great background information to inform you study of Shakespeare

Lots of great information here to help when teaching ShakespeareUnderstanding a few things about the era that Shakespeare lived can make reading his plays simpler and more meaningful.

Shakespeare was born during the rein of Queen Elizabeth 1, or the Elizabethan Age. For an actor and a playwright, this was a boon. Before this time actors were at the bottom rungs of society. Most assumed actors were cheats and scoundrels, and public theaters rarely lasted long.

However, Queen Elizabeth enjoyed the theater and great advances in the Arts were made during her reign. She was the last ruler of the Tudor dynasty and she was a force to be reckoned with. She had beaten the Spanish Armada, a feat that had seemed impossible at the time, and had emerged as a dominant power in Europe and the New World.

Within England she was a patron of the arts, and they were thriving. The Renaissance had arrived in England and with it incredible advances in art, science, scholarship and literature. (Italy had started the Renaissance, or rebirth, of Europe over 100 years earlier.) For the first time actors and playwrights were financially thriving and gaining respect and status.

This was also the era of the Reformation, a time of Religious upheaval that had many groups breaking from Catholicism and loyalty to the Pope.  In England this movement began when Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church and founded the Protestant Church of England. This was done because the Pope refused to allow Henry to divorce his first wife and marry Anne Boelyn, Queen Elizabeth’s mother. The Reformation took on different characteristics in different countries in Europe. In England it caused a great deal of unrest and violence, both before and after the reign of Elizabeth. However, during her reign, their was relative peace within England. (more…)

Why Shakespeare?

To teach or not to teach Shakespeare that is the question.

Don't let your fear of Shakespearre keep you from enjoying and teaching it. I admit, I’m one of the nerds who loves Shakespeare. I was introduced to the Bard in Jr. High in a drama class, and was asked to compete in a Shakespeare Festival performing a soliloquy from King Lear. While I’m sure my performance was sadly lacking, I was able to watch performances by some very talented students, and I was hooked.

In high school I had excellent English teachers (Thank you Miss Irwin) who furthered my appreciation. Then, the summer after high school, I had the good fortune to travel and study in Europe. During that summer I visited Stratford (Shakespeare’s home town) studied Hamlet at Cambridge, and saw several productions by the Royal Shakespeare Company. It was glorious and I was officially a fan.

Perhaps your experience with Shakespeare was a little less positive, and frankly, if you never have to read or see another play you’ll be perfectly content. You are certainly not alone

But, as Hamlet would say, “There’s the rub.” You’re homeschooling now. You’re responsible for your child’s education…and Shakespeare seems to be on everyone’s list of subjects that should be tackled. But why? Perhaps if you understand why Shakespeare and why a play, you’ll be motivated to give it another chance. And, at the end of this article, I’ll link you to a few excellent resources to help you in your endeavor.

Shakespeare deals with enduring themes that remain relevant to every new generation of readers. The emotions and situations that are explored are at once familiar and recognizable across time and cultures.

If you are human, the characters, plots, and themes are relevant. The plays explore family relationships, love, power, morality, politics, wealth, and death. Emotions such as hate, anger, despair, jealousy, courage, and wonder are examined and expressed with passion and empathy, (more…)