Shakespeare – Module 1: Introduction to Shakespeare’s Life and Times – 3 of 3

WHAT: Today you will learn about some of Shakespeare’s struggles during his career as a playwright.

By the end of this study session you will be able to:

✔ Say how the plague affected Shakespeare’s work
✔ List some of the things that made his life hard

Today you will need:
✎ A pen
☰ Some paper to write on
♫ Some headphones or a space where you can play videos out loud

YOU DO: Let’s very quickly recap what the plague was and how it affected London.
1. Watch the video (3 minutes)

This video summarises how the plague affected and influenced Shakespeare’s plays (watch for 9 minutes). We are all now working and studying from home, but at least we have the internet! How did Shakespeare cope during a London lockdown?

2. Watch the video (you might need to play it more than once, or pause it to make notes)
3. Answer the questions underneath the video. Write down your answer on your note pad, then click on the question to check if it’s correct.

Did Shakespeare write during plague outbreaks?


When the death rates exceeded 30 people in a week, what happened to the theaters? How did this affect Shakespeare?

They were shut and performances were cancelled. Shakespeare’s actors were out of work.

During this Coronavirus pandemic the government has told us not to get together in large groups. Londoners during the plague were told the same thing, but what were the most popular places that people gathered together in close proximity?

Play houses/theaters.

Why did Shakespeare write poems during plague outbreaks?

People thought that poetry could banish the plague!

What real life aspect of the plague did Shakespeare include in his play, Romeo and Juliet?

Infected people were locked in their houses and not allowed out. This is why the messenger carrying Juliet’s letter never reached her: he got caught up in a plague!

4. Read this information:
William Shakespeare wrote King Lear in quarantine” is exactly the type of exaggerated story you’d expect to see spread during a wild news cycle, but this is one viral tidbit that’s rooted in truth. Shakespeare was an actor and shareholder with The King’s Men theater troupe when the bubonic plague forced London theaters to close in the early 17th century. The official rule was that after weeks, when the death toll exceeded 30, public playhouses had to shut down. This meant that the theater industry was paralyzed for much of 1606 when the plague returned to the city. After suddenly finding himself without a steady job and lots of free time, Shakespeare got to writing. He composed King LearMacbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra before the year was over.

5. What have YOU been doing during out lockdown? Write a list.

6. Read through this Prezi presentation about some of Shakespeare’s struggles in his life:

7. List 3 things that made Shakespeare’s life hard: