Understanding Shakespeare’s Literary Works

Shakespeare is a very important part of the syllabus for ICSE students. Merchant of Venice and The Tempest is the most commonly included literature plays in the syllabus of students in high school.

It cannot be expected of every student to understand Shakespeare at once, or even make sense of the complicated language used. Because the place that they read is nothing but the script which has to be performed on a stage, the most fun way to make them understand is by acting it out.

Layout the stage

  • Introduction

You have to first introduce the theme of the play, either through the LMS portal if you are still following online class procedures, or by uploading a summary to give an idea of the story to your student. It can be done through the school management system so that they can keep visiting the introductory portions again and again unless the entire concept and idea of playing out a Shakespeare script on stage is clear.

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  • Skill building and recognition

All the students in the class might not be actors, some could be great at performing the role of a spirit, and some can just stick to making animal noises and participate in the background music. There are a lot of fun roles that could be assigned to students depending on their area of specialization.

Before this, students have to be self-aware and recognize their specific skill sets. A parent-teacher meeting could be arranged so that teachers can discuss relevant skillsets with students and parents if they are still in middle school. For high school students, on the other hand, teachers can just make careful observations for some part of the semester before understanding how different students are uniquely abled.

  • Auditions

Without an audition, you cannot select the students to play parts. Heaven opened an audition where every student can take part in deciding so that they feel included in the play and there is no partiality going around.

For the big roles, you should always select two main characters rather than one. This way you can have a backup roll ready if there is a mishap right before the play is scheduled, or you can allow both the actors to play alternatively so that there is no feeling of superiority and inferiority involved. 

  • Adapting to the script

Adapting to the script will be the most difficult part because to understand the concept and play out the scenes, students have to understand what is going on. For this understanding, they will have to read the text. As a teacher, it is now your responsibility to effectively teach them provided the advantage that your students are listening and paying attention since it is something fun that concerns them instead of being a boring literature class.

  • Use the plot

The plot could be changed in some portions only if your students have read the text thoroughly enough to make critical analyses and changes for the better. The plot is the main backbone of the play, in which you and your students get to be the support to this backbone by developing the scenes not only two forms of literature but by forms of speaking similarly as people used to in the old times. It includes a form of cultural diversity and indicates to students not only Shakespeare’s plays but also the error during which he existed.
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  • Perform

In the end, all that there is left to do is perform. keep reminding your students that this performance is for educational purposes only. In another instance, you can allow different groups of students to present different parts of the scenes in the plays of Shakespeare as a part of their project. Hence, they are under the obligation to understand the play properly not only because they will have fun acting out, but also because they will be marked.


Sometimes, some students cannot act at all. This does not mean that they will not learn about Shakespeare, or not use other innovative methods of understanding or play. Hence, teachers can always make an effort to introduce other roles which are not on stage. For example, they can introduce a narrator who has great reading or comprehension skills, or a script changer who can introduce some funnier jokes which are not a part of the original syllabus.

Remember that the goal is not only to make them act out the play but to make Shakespeare fun again. As soon as they like his place, they will like the subject which will eventually lead them to score more and understand literature better.

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