From Monday 15 March until 21 March 2021, Shakespeare Week takes place in schools and libraries throughout the country. Organised by The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, it is a national annual celebration giving primary school aged children opportunities for enriching and enjoyable early experiences of Shakespeare (though of course, anyone can join in!)
There are lots of resources available to help celebrate the Week – from craft activities to history resources, aimed at all ages, from families to teachers and, of course, libraries. You’ll find guides to telling Shakespeare stories, factsheets about the history and language of the plays and there are even Shakespearean recipes for you to try.
For our blog this week, we’re sharing a few of our favourite quotes from Shakespeare plays and some of our favourite plays and books about Shakespeare that you’ll find in our collections – either in our libraries or in our BorrowBox collection.
(stage directions). [Enter OBERON and squeezes the flower on TITANIA’s eyelids]
Oberon. What thou seest when thou dost wake,
Do it for thy true-love take,
Love and languish for his sake:
Be it ounce, or cat, or bear,
Pard, or boar with bristled hair,
In thy eye that shall appear
When thou wakest, it is thy dear:
Wake when some vile thing is near.
I played the part of Oberon(!) at my school’s adaptation of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ 😊 so this brings back lots of happy memories
My favourite Shakespeare quote is “Though she be but little she is fierce”, also from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
It always makes me think of a very good friend of mine who is vertically challenged but a force of nature and hugely kind!
There are lots of books written about William Shakespeare, about his plays, about the history of the period he lived in and about the town in which he was born (FYI, that’s Stratford Upon Avon! 😉 ). There are novels based on his characters, based on his plays, that feature William Shakespeare or that are retellings of the stories.
Here are just a few reading suggestions:
Reimaginings of Shakespeare’s best known stories written by such huge authors as Jo Nesbo, Margaret Atwood and Jeanette Winterson? Don’t mind if we do!
The Hogarth Shakespeare series features seven titles that retell Shakespeare in such settings as Baltimore and a 1970s suburban school playground and with characters such as a SWAT Team Leader. You’ll find them all either on our library shelves or on Borrowbox:
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (The Tempest)
New Boy by Tracy Chevalier (Othello)
Shylock Is My Name by Howard Jacobson (The Merchant of Venice)
Macbeth by Jo Nesbo (Macbeth)
Dunbar by Edward St Aubyn (King Lear)
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (The Taming of the Shrew)
The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson (The Winter’s Tale)
You may have come across Maggie O’Farrell’s recent prize-winning novel ‘Hamnet’ – a story that focuses on the life of Shakespeare’s wife and family rather than the man himself. If reading that has sparked your interest in finding out more about Ann Hathaway, why not give ‘Shakespeare’s Wife‘ by Germaine Greer as read?
Reflecting on the content of Shakespeare’s play might be more your area of interest. If so, Emma Smith’s ‘This Is Shakespeare: How To Read The World’s Greatest Playwright‘ would be worth giving a listen to. It “introduces an intellectually, theatrically and ethically exciting writer who engages with intersectionality as much as with Ovid, with economics as much as poetry: who writes in strikingly modern ways about individual agency, privacy, politics, celebrity and sex. It takes us into a world of politicking and copy-catting, as we watch him emulating the blockbusters of Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd, the Spielberg and Tarantino of their day; flirting with and skirting round the cut-throat issues of succession politics, religious upheaval and technological change. The Shakespeare in this book poses awkward questions rather than offering bland answers, always implicating us in working out what it might mean”. Phew!
Of course, you might be new to Shakespeare or think that Shakespeare isn’t for you. If so, we’d recommend taking a look at (or a listen to) Bill Bryson’s short biography of William Shakespeare or ‘Shakespeare For Grown-Ups‘ by Elizabeth Foley and Beth Coates – “the essential book for anyone keen to deepen their knowledge of the Bard’s key plays and sonnets. For parents keen to help with their children’s homework, casual theatre-goers who want to enhance their enjoyment and understanding of the most-performed plays and the general reader who feels they should probably know more about Britain’s most splendid scribe”.
If Shakespeare’s Sonnets are more to your liking, a recently published books by Shakespeare scholars Sir Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson might be of interest. It’s called ‘All The Sonnets of Shakespeare‘ and arranges the sonnets in chronological order, interspersed with the sonnets from the plays among them. It is a lively introduction that provides essential background, while explanatory notes and modern English paraphrases illuminate the sonnets’ meanings. Sir Stanley Wells and Paul Edmondson sat down with our Head of Service, Ayub Khan, last year and you watch their discussions here.
You may also want to know more about Shakespeare’s Stratford – if so, we have some suggestions for you:
A-Z of Straftford Upon Avon by William Adams
Famous as the birthplace of William Shakespeare, the Warwickshire market town of Stratford-upon-Avon has attracted visitors to its streets and ancient buildings for centuries. Its status as a market town in the medieval period is in evidence in the fifteenth-century stone-built Clopton Bridge over the River Avon and the Holy Trinity Church, as is the wealth of the later Elizabethan and Georgian buildings. Today visitors come to see Shakespeare’s birthplace and the buildings associated with him, attend the Royal Shakespeare Theatre or the other theatres in the town, or just explore the historical streets. In this book, author Will Adams reveals the history behind the town, its streets and buildings and the people connected with it.
Stratford Upon Avon by Terry Deary
A jolly jaunt around the town where Shakespeare was born! Stratford-upon-Avon may be a cute tourist town today – but its history is far from pleasant, with fatal fleabites, bloody battles and brutal beheadings to see! In this gruesome city guide, Terry Deary takes you on a gore-tastic tour of the streets of Stratford-upon-Avon, exposing all of its most scurrilous secrets.