Director of Education Robert Young, The Folger Shakespeare Library- Teaching Shakespeare

Robert Young: We ask teachers from around the country who have participated in our workshops to send us some of their favorite lines, lines that they think would be engaging for students. We got a couple of hundred of them.

We selected forty, we put them on laminated cards, put in our tool kit. We give each student a line, they walk around the room just saying the line out loud so nobody is really hearing them individually, so they can make mistakes with pronunciation, it doesn’t really matter. And then at some point we say, “Freeze.” The person closest to them becomes their scene partner. They use those two lines and create a scene. They can use anything in the room as props. And then we just run through those scenes. They’re having fun.

Sometimes it comes out really bizarrely, sometimes it’s really touching, sometimes it’s very funny, but they have just spoken Shakespeare’s language, nobody has told them whether it’s right or wrong, they’ve created a situation, they’ve delivered the scene, and then we talk about it. And they’ve done Shakespeare. They’ve had the language in their mouths, they’ve spoken it. It’s no longer frightening to them, it’s no longer disconcerting that people are going to look at them or think they’re not very smart because they can’t make any sense of it. And they’ve just done it.

And often when teachers take lines from the play they’re going to be doing with students and later they hear those lines, or they speak those lines – “Oh, I remember when Bob did that line. He did it a really different way.” And now you start about comparing and contrasting. You know, analyzing, critically looking at the language. What does it really mean?

So I think those kinds of activities – putting the plays on their feet for students, getting them to engage in it – is the best way to do it.

Director of Education Robert Young, The Folger Shakespeare Library- Teaching Shakespeare from CultureWorks on Vimeo.

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