Shakespeare – Module 1: Introduction to Shakespeare’s Life and Times – 2 of 3

Hello Year 7 and Year 8! In the last blog post, you learned about who Shakespeare was and found out lots about his life. In this post, we will look more closely at what he wrote.

Image result for works of shakespeare
To read or not to read…

WHAT: read and understand information about the works of William Shakespeare.

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

✓ list some of the most famous plays by Shakespeare
✓ summarise the features of Comedy, Tragedy and History plays
✓ list the main features of a sonnet

Today you will need:

✎ A pen
☰ A word document, notepad or paper to record your ideas

YOU DO: Which of these are famous plays by Shakespeare? Write down the ones you think are plays by Shakespeare. Remember to check your answers by clicking below!

Great Expectations
Private Peaceful
Noughts and Crosses
Romeo and Juliet
Bone Talk
The Tempest
A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Answers: Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The others are all great texts and worth a read but they are not written by Shakespeare!

Shakespeare’s Life and Inspiration
YOU DO: Click on the link below and watch the short video. It is about 3 minutes long. As you watch, write down three interesting things you find out about Shakespeare.

Shakespeare’s Plays:

So, we know that Shakespeare is most famous for writing plays. In fact, it is thought that he wrote at least 37 plays! We can not be sure of the exact number.

The plays he wrote can be broken into categories: Tragedies, Comedies, Histories, and Problem Plays. They were mostly written between 1589 and 1613.

CHALLENGE: Do you want to know more? Click on the link below to see a chronological list of Shakespeare’s plays by decade.

So what is so special about Shakespeare?
YOU DO: Watch the video below. It is about 8 minutes long. The video is of Michael Rosen (a famous children’s writer and poet) explaining why Shakespeare really is special. As you watch, write down three reasons why Michael Rosen believes Shakespeare is special and important.

We will now look more closely at the differences between Tragedy, History and Comedy.

YOU DO: What do these words mean to you? Write down each word and then mind-map or list five things you think of when you hear each word. For example, ‘Comedy’ might make you think of laughter.

1. Comedy
2. History
3. Tragedy

You will now need to read the information below about the types of play Shakespeare wrote. We will learn more about these later in the unit but here is a quick summary:

Things you might find in Tragedies:

• Plays with serious themes and dark endings
• Death and destruction of people who meant well
• Flawed heroes
• Fate
• Spirits/evil forces

Things you might find in Comedies:
• More light-hearted plays
• Clever use of language to create wordplay, metaphors, and smart insults
• Love, mistaken identities, and complicated plots
• The lovers are always reunited in the end

Things you might find in Histories:
• Despite the name, not actually historically accurate stories
• Set in Medieval England and explored class systems of that time
• Based on English monarchs (kings/queens)

Problem Plays:
• Shakespeare’s so-called “Problem Plays” are plays that do not fit into any of these three categories.
• The problem plays shift rapidly between truly dark events and comic material.

YOU DO: Read the plot summaries of the plays below. Write down if you think the play sounds like a Tragedy, a Comedy or a History play. Make sure you check your work by clicking to reveal the correct answer!

1. ‘Much Ado About Nothing’: Beatrice and Benedick are tricked by their friends into falling in love with one another
Tragedy? History? Comedy?

Answer: Comedy

2. ‘Richard III’: Richard of Gloucester wants to be King of England and uses manipulation and deceit to achieve his goal. He murders his brothers, nephews, and any opposition to become King Richard III.
Tragedy? History? Comedy?

Answer: History

3. ‘As You Like It’—the daughter of an French ruler falls in love with the wrong man and must flee and disguise herself as a man
Tragedy? History? Comedy?

Answer: Comedy

4. ‘Macbeth’—a Scottish king’s ambition turns him into a murderer
Tragedy? History? Comedy?

Answer: Tragedy

5. ‘Romeo and Juliet’- a tragic love story where the two main characters, Romeo and Juliet, are supposed to be sworn enemies but fall in love.
Tragedy? History? Comedy?

Answer: Tragedy

6. ‘Henry V’- King Henry V of England invades France to claim the throne he believes should be his
Tragedy? History? Comedy?

Answer: History

Wait..don’t forget the poetry!

So, we know Shakespeare wrote a lot of plays. He was also a great poet. Shakespeare was most famous for writing sonnets. A sonnet is a type of poem which follows very strict rules.

Sonnet 116

YOU DO: Read and learn the facts below. You could write them down in your notebook.
A sonnet is a poem.
A sonnet always has 14 lines.
Shakespeare wrote over 100 sonnets.
A sonnet always has 3 quatrains.
A quatrain is four lines of poetry.
A sonnet ends with two lines, called a couplet.

Well done! That was lots of new information which we will return to later in the unit.

Just one last thing to do….

Find someone in your home who can quiz you! Ask them to read out these tasks/questions to you and see if you can tell them the answers without looking back at your notes.

1. Tell me one fact about Shakespeare.
2. What were the three types of play he wrote?
3. What are the main features of a Tragedy?
4. What is a sonnet?
5. Name three plays by Shakespeare.

Well done! See you next time for more learning about Shakespeare the struggling playwright…