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Apr 14

Celebrating the Bard

Posted on April 14, 2016 at 1:43 PM by Craig Jacobson

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This April 23rd marks the 400th anniversary of the playwright William Shakespeare’s death. Though he lived be only fifty-two years old, the legacy Shakespeare left behind continues to endure. The work of Shakespeare serves as the inspiration for countless reinterpretations in the form of plays, film, television, novels, and more. From the 16th century to the present, a defining characteristic of Shakespeare’s work is that it can be enjoyed by all, no matter your level of education or wealth. Even though the lower and upper classes were severely divided, Shakespeare plays were performed for all; from serfs and beggars to the Queen of England herself. This fact remains true today, but the antiquated language continues to be a barrier to many. However, going beyond Shakespeare’s original work, people with an interest in Shakespeare can find something to enjoy that has been inspired by the playwright. From literary collections to non-fiction to modern-day retellings, there is an abundance of work; the suggestions below only scratch the surface! 


  • Shakespeare Basic for Grown-Ups by F. Foley & B. Coates – If you are looking to get a quick introduction to Shakespeare’s life, use of language, and overview of each play and the sonnets, this guide is an excellent place to start.
  • Shakespeare’s Insults: Educating Your Wit by Wayne F. Hill – Already a bit familiar with the work of Shakespeare? The book is made up entirely of insults from each play. Broken up into individual lines, this allows the casual reader and scholar alike to see the unique ways that Shakespeare used and manipulated the English language.    
  • ludwig.jpgHow to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig – This book is an excellent introduction to both teaching and appreciating the work of Shakespeare and a perfect example of how his works can be made accessible to all. 
  • Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt – Will in the World is a thorough biography of Shakespeare that is accessible to the casual reader by examining the life of Shakespeare in the greater context of the historical period and culture which nurtured his success.


  • lockhart.jpgBoth A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart were inspired by the tragedy of King Lear which focuses on the family dynamics of an aging patriarch and the difficult task of divvying up the inheritance between his three daughters.
  • Street Love by Walter Dean Myers and Juliet by Anne Fortier both reimagine the family rivalry and tragedy of Romeo and Juliet set in the modern day.
  • Hamlet is told anew in The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski, which is set in rural Wisconsin, and Ophelia by Lisa M. Klein, telling the story of Hamlet from a new perspective.