Books we love…

…Playwrights we love!

In preparation for Shakespeare Week, Zvezdana from Chelsea Library has given us the context, history and importance of Shakespeare in today’s world, as well as her experience of using Shakespeare’s works to engage with our communities.  We’ve also got an intriguing activity too! 

Over to Zvezdana to tell us more… 

If you were not aware, Shakespeare Week is almost upon us (15-21 March 2021). It is a national annual celebration giving primary school children opportunities to enrich their early experiences of Shakespeare. This celebration has been organised by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in collaboration with many other organisations, writers, actors, illustrators… The most important partnership is with the schools, parents and children.  

This year all the activities are online. Visit the website, register and enjoy the stories, art, craft and various fun materials prepared for you, available all year round – perfect whether school is in, or out. (https://www.shakespeareweek.org.uk/

Perhaps someone would ask – why Celebrate Shakespeare? 

He lived 400 years ago, and his language and his style of writing are so old-fashioned, so complicated and difficult to understand. NO! Completely wrong assumption!  “Shakespeare’s language can cast a light on the complexity of human emotions and is a wonderful way to explore and understand our own and others’ feelings.” 

Many British children encounter Shakespeare only in their teens as a mandatory topic in secondary schools. Therefore, Shakespeare Week opens the door to Shakespeare and ensures that children are given a chance to have a great first experience with one of the world’s most famous playwrights. 

Do you know that Shakespeare is a named author on the curriculum in 65% of countries, studied by around half of the world’s schoolchildren every year? And if you were not aware, William Shakespeare has been hailed as the UK’s greatest cultural export?  

And what about Shakespeare’s language!? Many words were invented by Shakespeare, introduced to the us through his plays! Can you spot in this short text any words that were coined by Shakespeare? 

Maria’s birthplace was an old farmhouse. She shared her bedroom with two siblings. It was a gloomy and noiseless late evening when she tiptoed downstairs and heard her aunt’s gossip about an alligator found in the well.”  

                                                              You will find the answer at the bottom of this blog. 

If you are too young to read Shakespeare’s plays, find in libraries retold versions, or read information books about his life and life in the Elizabethan era. Arguably, Shakespeare’s biggest achievement was not writing the sonnets or Hamlet, but, plainly surviving his first year in plague-ridden England. We do not even know for sure when he was born. By tradition, it is agreed to be 23 April, St George’s Day. This is the national day of England and, coincidentally also the date on which Shakespeare died fifty-two years later. Since Shakespeare was born under the old Julian calendar, not the Gregorian, there are many very curious combinations coming out of the calendar chaos! Check Bill Bryson’s book “Shakespeare” about that and many other interesting, inquisitive and eccentric facts from that time. 

To conclude, I am happy and privileged to meet some young enthusiastic readers while running Chatterbooks. On 6th of March we had a great Shakespeare themed Chatterbooks session- All the World’s a Stage. The children showed great knowledge about Shakespeare’s time, his comedies and his tragedies. Twelve years old, Maximilian Lubin recorded Puck’s famous soliloquy, ‘If we shadows have offended’, from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. You can listen to his audio on Our Community is Reading. Thank you, Max.   

To reward the Chatterbookers, I invited a special guest – an actress, Maya Barcot, who has performed a few Shakespeare roles in the theatre – Titania and Hermia in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, Rosalind in ‘As you Like it’ and Lady Macbeth.  

Image of staff with special guest Maya Barcot!

Maya talked about why we’re still doing Shakespeare today and performed, especially for us, Titania’s “forgeries of jealousy” monologue.  Titania and Oberon’s quarrel can be seen as the driving forces behind the climate change.   

So, if you didn’t know, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is not “only” about love and mischief! Titania certainly knows the best! 

Why not have a browse of the rest of our Shakespeare collection in our libraries catalogue – https://trib.ent.sirsidynix.net.uk/client/en_GB/rbkc/search/results?qu=shakespeare&te=

Please join us next week for more interesting insights into the world of Shakespeare! 

ANSWER: Maria’s birthplace was an old farmhouse. She shared her bedroom with two siblings.  It was a gloomy and noiseless late evening when she tiptoed downstairs and  heard her aunt’s gossip about an alligator found in the well.