I am guilty of trying to make Shakespeare seem cool. I use the word ‘trying’ here, though I really do avoid it when giving instructions: “Try to memorize” or, “Try to speak clearly” doesn’t sound as though I am giving my students any direction at all. “Do or do not, there is no try.” But I digress.
I say I try to make Shakespeare seem cool, but the only way to really pull that off is to simply commit to the Bard without apology. Just love him as he is. If your students think that’s lame, no worries. If you don’t care what they think, ‘lame’ can become ‘interesting’, and ‘interesting’ to ‘cool’ is not such a stretch.
In a bit of downtime I came up with a little ditty to put Shakespeare’s plays in order for my students. Sadly, there is no definitive timeline for his works. I arranged the rhyme based on performance history rather than the order in which the plays were written as there is slightly less guess-work involved. Here it is, Bard Rap. Please feel free to steal it if you think it would be useful:
Gonna tell you bout a boy who knew how to get a rave on,
Born in Stratford… Upon Avon.
He married girl named… Anne Hathaway:
Eight years older in a family way.
She was 26, he was just 18,
But they had to get married if you know what I mean.
They had a baby named Susannah…. that girl was a cutie.
Then twins came along named Hamnet and Judy.
Will was a bard and he knew he had to write
So he left the kids with Anne and the man took flight.
He moved to London to get his start
Where a poet could make a living at his art.
He wrote some words that got some attention,
But a guy named Greene expressed condescension.
Greene wrote a letter that gives us a clue
About the timing of the writing career of you-know-who
Shakes performed where the royalty stays.
He spent most of his time writing 39 plays.
Funny plays and dramas, romance and mystery.
They were listed as comedy, tragedy and history.
Bill spent some time writing now famous poetry.
The plague meant theaters were all closed locally.
He might have used the time to write some more pages
But soon the doors were open to the London stages.
Richard the Third showed a king’s worst sins.
Then The Comedy of Errors was all about twins.
The next work had a magical theme;
He called this play A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Some land was purchased to build a new space
Nicknamed the Globe. It was a popular place.
While Shakespeare was writing his poetry and plays
His only son Hamnet saw the last of his days.
Most people think that The bard got sad
Cause he wrote a play that started with a guy’s dead dad.
The play was Hamlet; best play ever penned.
But the worst part is they all die in the end.
All’s Well That Ends Well is a problem play
But it still ends well or that’s what they say.
Then in As You Like It Jacque calls the world “a stage”.
He’s a little bitty crazy and a little bit sage.
King Lear might have been about the bard and his daughters.
The play focused on a family’s troubled waters.
Cardenio‘s a play we never will see.
It was lost so it won’t be on a marquee.
Thirty-nine plays we attribute to the Bard.
But the reason we hold him in high regard
Is his wit, his poetry, his style were unique.
But most of all he transformed the English we speak.
His rival Ben Johnson later thought better
Of the Bard and he wrote one great big letter
That his friends included along with their praise
In the first folio containing 36 plays.
Though Willy went bald and he didn’t have a car,
Back in the Renaissance he was a rock star.