Archive for December, 2009

So ’tis the season to be jolly and maybe think about Shakespeare.  Here are a few tidbits for your holiday pleasure.


At the end of act 2, scene 7, Shakespeare gave us a lovely song, “Blow, blow, thou winter wind” with the great line “”Heigh Ho, the Holly.”

There are two references to Christmas in Love’s Labor’s Lost:

“At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth”

and Berowne describes a Christmas comedy here:

                                      “I remit both twain.
I see the trick on’t: here was a consent,
Knowing aforehand of our merriment,
To dash it like a Christmas comedy:
Some carry-tale, some please-man, some slight zany,
Some mumble-news, some trencher-knight, some Dick,
That smiles his cheek in years and knows the trick
To make my lady laugh when she’s disposed,
Told our intents before”

In Hamlet, Marcellus refers to Christmas while discussing the Ghost in act 1:

“Some say that ever, ‘gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long.”

A  fanciful story written by Maria Hubert called, “William Shakespeare’s Christmas” imagines a performance for Queen Elizabeth in 1597.  And the Gutenburg Project offers a free download (available to read online or as an eBook) titled  Shakespeare’s Christmas Gift to Queen Bess by Anna Benneson McMahan, originally published in 1907.  

And finally, while it’s not strictly about Christmas, there’s the Winter Song that ends Love’s Labor’s Lost:

When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail
And Tom bears logs into the hall
And milk comes frozen home in pail,
When blood is nipp’d and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl, . Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
When all aloud the wind doth blow
And coughing drowns the parson’s saw
And birds sit brooding in the snow
And Marian’s nose looks red and raw,
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,
Then nightly sings the staring owl, . Tu-whit;
Tu-who, a merry note,
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

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Imagine everything you needed to get started teaching Shakespeare all in one place. This summer, Folger Education developed exactly that in our newest teaching resource, the  Shakespeare Set Free: Doing Shakespeare Right toolkit.

We unveiled the toolkit at last month’s NCTE Convention in Philadelphia.  Teachers were incredibly excited and are already seeing success in the classrooms. One teacher from California even reported:

“I LOVE the toolkit.  The pictures on the flash drive really generated excitement among my students.  We looked at the pictures, and I told them ‘tantalizing tidbits’ about the plays the picture represented.  By the time I started the lesson plan for A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Shakespeare Set Free, they were totally engaged.”

So what’s in the kit? Essentially, all the resources you need to get your students started on an enjoyable and enriching experience with Shakespeare. Shakespeare isn’t about just reading the plays; its about getting students up on their feet and actively engaging with the text.

The kit contains:

  • The Shakespeare Set Free curriculum
  • A getting started guide
  • A DVD of Folger Theatre’s smash stage production of Macbeth, with special features designed for classroom use
  • Printable classroom activities
  • 40 laminated cards with lines from the plays for our two-line scene exercises.  Teachers have been asking for cards like these since we began offering our performance-based teaching workshops – they’re a great introductory exercise for students just getting started with Shakespeare.
  • and more!

Perhaps the most exciting feature of the toolkit is the flash drive with both edited and unedited scenes for classrom use, copies of our podcasts and videos from our YouTube site, and many other terrific teaching tools.  The toolkit is available for purchase online for $75.

We welcome hearing your feedback on your experiences using the toolkit. How have you used the materials to engage and challenge your students?

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