Primary Primary Drama Primary History Primary Literacy

Shakespeare in his Time – for Years 3 to 6

Learning Focus: Understand the differences between theatrical entertainment in Shakespeare’s time when compared to today.

Be able to write, practise and perform a play in a short time frame, much like Shakespeare and his fellow playwrights would have done in Tudor times.
Shakespeare was one of the most important people of the Tudor era and as such plenty has been written about him, despite the man being considered an enigma; so much remains unknown about him, including his date of birth.
He makes a great topic for research for new information about him is being discovered all the time. My favourite way of finding out about him is through the topic of Tudor entertainment.

Use a website like www.shakespearesglobe.com which has loads of free resources and information on the topic, everything in fact that’s necessary to put on some entertainment ‘Shakespeare style’.

You needn’t do a Shakespeare play or even a part of it because what you’re after is the atmosphere that surrounds a play staged in his time.
Shakespeare and other playwrights of the time were believed to write a play overnight then give it to actors to rehearse in the morning, find their costumes and then perform it for a matinee and evening performance before the whole process begins over again. Certainly chaotic, but a recipe for great fun.

Show the group the virtual tour of the globe so they know what kind of venue their ‘play’ should be performed in. Tell them, a lot like pantomimes, that their play involves audience participation. There’s gender swapping in the roles and the actors can expect instant criticism from the audience who will be packed in, standing room only.

Ask if any of the pupils have been to the theatre and talk about their experiences. Once they’ve got an idea of how different going to the theatre was in Shakespeare’s time, split the pupils into groups of around six. Tell them they’ve got to write a five minute play with parts for all members of their group and then give them half an hour to practise it. If you have a dressing up box, allow them to rifle through it for costumes. They will then be asked to perform it to the rest of the class, or school, involving members of the audience where possible. Let each group have a go and at the end of the performances, ask the pupils to write a critic’s review of one of the performances, highlighting the quality of the script, the entertainment value and the best actors/actresses.

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