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To celebrate the life of William Shakespeare, who was born and died in April, we’d like to show you some extracts from our Shakespeare books! They’re perfect for the classroom!

by Jeannie Brown

Ok, so I know that you may feel slightly overwhelmed to read this but yes, the rumours are true…you are in the presence of greatness. I did indeed play the STARRING role in my primary school play: Cobweb the Fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. Sure, I had minimal lines and was mainly stood in the background behind a pillar…BUT when it was my turn to speak (cue spotlight) and I was asked ‘what shampoo do you use?’ (it was a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s work…) I delivered the line of: ‘FAIRY liquid of course,’ with such conviction and humour that the adoring crowd started to slap their knees, collectively hyperventilate from laughing so much and then threw roses at my feet because they were so in awe of my comedic talent. Am I exaggerating? A tad perhaps…it was a long time ago the memory is a bit vague.

The work of William Shakespeare has proven to be timeless. It has been suggested that he was born on the 23rd April 1564 (although his birth date was never officially recorded) and died on the 23rd April 1616 but even to this day his plays are studied and celebrated all over the world. His stories cover an array of enticing themes: from forbidden love in Romeo and Juliet, murder and revenge in Hamlet and magic and misunderstanding in A Midsummer Night’s Dream to name but a few! Shakespeare lived in Stratford-upon-Avon and married Anne Hathaway. They had three children, Susanna and then twins, Judith and Hamnet. 

There have been numerous film adaptations of his work with many famous actors and actresses vying to play the iconic characters which indicates how popular his stories are. For example, the 1993 film Much Ado About Nothing is packed with Hollywood A-listers such as Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh, Imelda Staunton, Keanu Reeves, Kate Beckinsale and Denzel Washington. In 1997, playing the roles of Romeo and Juliet helped to launch the careers of Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. In 2011 a children’s version of Romeo and Juliet was made entitled: Gnomeo & Juliet which starred James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Maggie Smith, Ozzy Osbourne and Michael Caine.

The Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is an impressive space which shows a variety of Shakespeare plays, they also host workshops for schools to help children learn more about Shakespeare. This indicates how much value we place on Shakespeare’s work. His stories are seen as vital pieces of literature which children are often taught about from a young age through going to the theatre or watching films which are simplified so children can understand them – like Gnomeo and Juliet. Shakespeare is possibly the most well known playwright in the world, to learn about Shakespeare is to learn about the mind of a fantastic storyteller. So…let’s take a look at some of our Shakespeare book suggestions below:

William Shakespeare – A Very Peculiar History

Written by Jacqueline Morley

Age: 12+

William Shakespeare, A Very Peculiar History uniquely explores the life and works of the widely-regarded greatest writer of the English language. Through dispelling common myths (Could his father really not read or write? What really happened during ‘the Lost Years’? Why did he retire from writing while only in his early 40s?) and revealing fascinating trivia, this book attempts to answer many of the often-disputed questions surrounding the life of the nation’s favourite playwright. We learn about Shakespeare’s family and childhood, and, with much reference to his most famous works, why his writing has endured the test of time and remains endlessly adaptable. Fact boxes, a full glossary and index make the book both fun and informative to use. The text is enlivened with black-and-white line drawings and full-colour endpapers.

Truly Foul and Cheesy William Shakespeare Facts and Jokes Book

Written by John Townsend
Illustrated by David Antram

Age: 7+

This hilarious, fact-packed information book will have young readers laughing as they’re learning. Quirky illustrations and bite-sized text provide an accessible and entertaining introduction to William Shakespeare, including a biography of the playwright, context about the world in which he lived and worked, and outlines of the key plays.

Hamlet

Written by Penny Clarke
Illustrated by Penko Gelev

Age: 7+

This is a lively retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Follow the quick-witted Danish prince as he carries out his plan to avenge his father’s death, from the play that catches the king’s conscience to the gripping and bloody finale. Specially commissioned full-colour artwork brings excitement and atmosphere to this classic tale. Speech bubbles work with the main text to emphasise and enhance the retelling. A running glossary at the foot of each page helps young readers with any challenging vocabulary without disrupting their reading experience.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Written by Penny Clarke
Illustrated by Penko Gelev

Age: 7+

When fairies, gods and actors meet one night in a supernatural woodland, all heaven breaks loose in Shakespeare’s classic comedy drama. All of the comic verve and wit of the original is retained in this graphic novel adaptation, which features expertly drawn illustrations of Shakespeare’s much-loved characters.

How To Draw Shakespearean Characters

by Mark Bergin

The How To Draw series takes a highly visual and practical approach to drawing, featuring step-by-step instructions for each art project. This comprehensive drawing handbook covers all aspects of drawing iconic characters from Shakespeare’s plays – from Caliban to Macbeth – including essential concepts such as light, tone and composition.

Take a look at some of our other Shakespeare books:

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