400 Years since Shakespeare’s Death
This year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death on 23rd April 1616, a day which, as Clarisse Loughrey in The Independent rightly says marked a day when ‘a man died but a legend was born.’ His legend, in fact, is still very evident in the very language we speak. He is a character who is very dear to our hearts here in Verona, so I decided to dedicate a blog post to him today.
One of the things it was hard to miss at the recent Iatefl Conference in Birmingham was the centre stage in the middle of the exhibition area, where mini performances had been scheduled for the whole conference, an excellent idea.
One day when I was wandering around the book stalls and being handed cupcakes and sparkling wine (just thought I’d add that detail) I heard the amazing sound of Shakespeare as ‘hip-hop’. So I found out who was doing this amazing performance and it turned out that this was a group of people who, among other things, perform educational events. They come under the name of THSC or The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company. Check them out to hear Shakespeare as you’ve never heard him before. Here is a video to see what I mean: a comparison of hip-hop with Shakespeare followed by the hip-hop version of Sonnet 18:
Shakespeare and Our Language
Whether you like the hip-hop version or not is probably a matter of taste, but one thing is clear: much of the language we speak today (and this is true not only of English but others too) has been influenced by Shakespeare, partley because so many have read his works or seen them performed, but the pervasive nature of expressions that he coined is a tribute to the poetry of the language he uses itself, I think.
Yesterday, Sian Morgan, a friend of mine on Facebook shared an image of ‘Things we say today which we owe to Shakespeare” which is a picture of a notebook page written by 20-year-old Becky in London and published in September 2011 on Tumblr (See the link above). It was simply an image of the notes she had taken of simple expressions from everyday language that come from Shakespeare’s work, but it very quickly went viral. Sian’s post reminded me of this image, so I have decided to celebrate the Bard by giving you all a mini lesson plan. It could be used as the starter to a lesson or as a follow up activity and may be related to:
… and many more.
Here is the updated image and the original, which Becky generously gives her permission to everyone to use. (I actually prefer the original, spelling mistake and all!)
Mini Lesson Plan
- Project the image of the language without the heading and ask learners what the connection between these ‘chunks’ is or where they think they originate from;
- Ask learners to choose the chunk or saying they like best (this is best done quickly, instinctively);
- Ask them to write their saying on a slip of paper;
- Collect the slips of paper and redistribute them randomly to everyone in the class;
- Ask learners to ‘mill’ around the classroom and their aim is to find the ‘owner’ of the ‘saying they have been given. They can do this by asking questions or guessing but they cannot simply ask; did you write X? They could, for instance, for a saying like ‘vanish into thin air’ ask:
- Did you choose something about escaping/ superhuman powers?
- Did you choose an image related to ‘air’?
- Finally group learners in small groups (with their original slips of paper) and ask them to discuss why they chose their expressions with questions such as:
- Did you like the sound?
- Did you like the image?
- Did you like the idea?
- Did you like the language?
- Optional stages:
- ask them discuss what they think their choice says about the way they are feeling at the moment;
- ask them discuss the influence of Shakespeare on their language: do they recognise any of these expressions?
- ask them discuss the influence of similar literary figures from their own culture: in Italy an obvius candidate would be Dante, for instance.
I coould go on but I think that is enough for today. Any comments or more ideas would be very welcome 🙂