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Shakespeare

by Gordon Lamont

Suitable for Key Stage 2

Aims

To explore and celebrate William Shakespeare and his work.

Preparation and materials

  • None required, but you might like to think about the tableaux in advance (see Step 3 below).

Assembly

  1. Ask the children, first, ‘Who has heard of William Shakespeare?’ and, then, ‘What do you know about him?’

    Explain that people all over the world celebrate his birth in April. No one knows the exact date he was born, but he was baptized on 26 April 1564 – well over 400 years ago.

  2. Why do we celebrate him? Draw out the fact that he is considered to be a brilliant playwright (writer of plays) and poet.

  3.  Say that, today, you are going to concentrate on the plays. Shakespeare wrote 37 plays that we know of. We can’t be sure exactly how many he wrote, because carefully produced copies of the plays were not made until after his death, but there’s a huge range of different stories and that’s what you want to show them today.

    There are swordfights  . . .

    invite a group of four or five children to the front and ask them to form a tableau illustrating a swordfight

    there are love stories  . . .

    to save embarrassment, perhaps ask just one child to enact blowing a kiss

    there are shipwrecks  . . .

    ask some other children to form another tableau of the crew of a ship struggling as their ship is sinking

    there’s comedy  . . .

    ask one child to look proud and another to pretend to be hiding, laughing and pointing at the ‘proud’ character

    there are dark, supernatural tales of witches and ghosts  . . .

    ask three children to pretend to be witches, gathered round a pot, stirring

    there are wild animals  . . . 

    ask one child to pretend to be running from a bear, played by another child

    and much, much more.

  4. Ask the children to hold their positions while you explain that these scenes could be from Romeo and Juliet (swordfights, love story), The Tempest (shipwreck), Twelfth Night (comedy), Macbeth (witches, supernatural) and A Winter’s Tale (wild animals).

  5. Say that sometimes people find the words used in Shakespeare’s plays hard to understand because they were written nearly 400 years ago, but you’d like the children to listen to and think about these words from As You Like It (Act 2, Scene VII):

    All the world's a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players;
    They have their exits and their entrances;
    And one man in his time plays many parts.

    Suggest that Shakespeare is saying, in our lives, we’re like actors who play different parts at different times. 

    Applaud those who have taken part in the tableaux and ask them to sit down.

Time for reflection

Listen to the words from As You Like It again in a moment and see if you think they’re true – are you sometimes one sort of person and at other times a different sort of person?

What parts have you played in your life so far? Family member, friend, schoolchild  . . .

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.

Prayer
Dear God,
Thank you for plays and stories, for poems and all the ways we can use our imagination to think about the world we live in.
Thank you especially for William Shakespeare.
Amen.

Song/music

‘Round, round, round go the seasons’ (Come and Praise, 111)

Publication date: April 2014   (Vol.16 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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