Studying Shakespeare -

Studying William Shakespeare

To be, or not to be… – is a stupid question, unless you have a fatal illness or have already led a full life. DUH – it’s “to Be!” … & … To BE it to the MAX! Live life to the fullest! Live, love, laugh, and learn!

There. I’ve answered it for you. Moving on…

When I was younger I just read about WHO William Shakespeare was and WHAT he was known for. Now that I’m older, I’m starting to read his plays. I’m not at the high school level yet, but have enjoyed the following books and movies. See below for how we study these plays chronologically.

A nice introduction to works of Shakespeare is the book by Charles & Mary Lamb called Tales from Shakespeare. This book does not contain the full-length works of Shakespeare using Old English, but paraphrased versions, worded so that children can easily understand.

Although a classic, it is a nice resource for homeschool families. Those with younger children can use this book as a Read Aloud. Since I’m older we do Shared Reading – where we have multiple copies of the same book and take turns reading and following along. I like this, since sometimes it feels as if we are acting out the play as we read it aloud to each other. We have the cheaper paperback version that has the black & white drawings by Illustrator Arthur Rackham (shown in the link below).

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I know people are looking for the version of Charles & Mary Lamb’s book with the color pictures, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere. I would suggest trying used bookstores or estate sales.

Another great resource is a collection of animated videos called Shakespeare: The Animated Tales. It comes with 4 DVDs containing 12 different stories – all well-suited for upper elementary or middle school kids. They also take the original plays and make them into an understandable version in cartoon form. We typically switch back-n-forth using the video first and then reading from the book above. Or, sometimes, so the video doesn’t skew our imaginations, we will read the book first and watch the video second. It is a little pricey (& mom said the price has gone up over the years) but we pull it out every couple of years and watch these classics.

Another fun book that I used when I was younger was You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Shakespearean Actor!: Some Roles You Might Not Want to Play by Jacqueline Morley. I absolutely loved the You Wouldn’t Want to… Series of books. I believe I started reading them around 3rd-Grade or age 8 & up. I loved them even though I’m a girl, but boys will definitely love how these are written and how they’re drawn.

Another good book for both elementary & middle school kids is Who Was William Shakespeare by Celeste Mannis. It’s a quick 1-day book for a middle schooler, or a 3-5 day read for elementary age kids…it really depends on how quickly they can read. I used the Who Was Series books starting around age 8 or 3rd-grade.

During Read Alouds, I typically do art (or dust & fold laundry – getting my chores in). I love to color. Here are some coloring books dedicated to Shakespeare.

Here are some books that were not published when Crazy JCGirl was little. After looking at these, I would recommend these as well.

Mama Sez: Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk by Jane Sutcliffe looks to be a wonderful picture book for elementary aged children. It takes famous phrases from Shakespeare’s plays that have made it into our modern-day lingo. It also goes on to explain what the phrase means and where it originated.

Mama Sez: Another interesting picture book is by Usborne titled Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare. It looks to be appropriate for young elementary age children. Not only a great resource for introducing Shakespeare, but a way to include younger siblings as well.

Mama Sez: Another wonderful excellent resource is the BBC Teach website that has a ton of videos geared towards introducing elementary age children to Shakespeare. It’s worth a look!

Back to Crazy JCGirl: I know that Shakespeare wasn’t even born until 1564, but he wrote about events that took place back in history. Note: He wasn’t there so almost all of these are historical fiction! As we study history chronologically these past few years, we have read the Shakespearean plays as they coincide with the time frame we’re studying. Below is a listing of how we scheduled our readings. (Thanks for the info mom!)

Chronological listing of Shakespeare’s Plays

Shakespeare’s PlayLamb
Mystery of
500BCA Midsummer Night’s Dream
(Ancient Athens)
Timon of Athens
(5th Century BC)
321BCPericles, Price of Tyre#20MOH1 –
443BC Pericles
The Comedy of Errors
(ancient city of Ephesus)
49BCJulius CaesarDisk2MOH1
37BCAnthony & CleopatraMOH1
(King of England c. 10-14AD)
#8MOH2 –
King Lear
(pre-Christian England)
#9MOH2 –
St. Patrick
1040ADMacbeth, King of Scotland#10Disk4MOH2
(Prince of Denmark)
1348Romeo & Juliet#17Disk3MOH2
All’s Well that Ends Well
(women isolate to escape
#11MOH2 –
1348 Blk
Death of
Richard IIIDisk2MOH3 –
1455 War
of Roses
The Merchant of Venice
(after 1290)
#7MOH3 –
1464 Italian
The Taming of the Shrew#12Disk4MOH3 –
1464 Italian
Much Ado About Nothing
(when Aragon ruled Sicily)
#4MOH3 – 1492
Lorenzo the
1590sOthello#19Disk3MOH3 – 1592
?The Tempest#1Disk1
?Twelfth Night
(or What You Will)
?As You Like It#5Disk1
?The Winter’s Tale#3Disk3
?Measure for Measure#14
?The Two Gentlemen of Verona#6

So while we’re on the topic of Shakespeare, I absolutely love the following movie. I watch it every few years. Elizabeth Taylor makes an awesome, yet believable shrew, as well as obedient wife. What a transformation! 😊

The link below will take you to the movie, where you can either Buy it at full price or the option to Rent it.

This post may contain affiliate links. You can read my full affiliate disclosure here.