We recommend the whole family’s studying a Shakespeare play every other year. We realize that Charlotte recommended more, but frankly, we were concerned about over-exposing our children to what can be bawdy plots and lines, racial prejudice, and witchcraft—all of which are included in some of his works. The plays listed below are the plays we recommend and the youngest grade levels for which we recommend them. Some of the plays we feel are simply too intense or inappropriate for younger children, but you know your children better than we do. So select an appropriate play based on the ages of your children and enjoy it as a family.
The links below will take you to a public domain source where you can read each play.
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream—Humorous play about several couples, magic spells, fairies, and a bumbling troupe of would-be actors.
- The Comedy of Errors—Humorous play about the confusing adventures of identical twins and how they eventually save their father’s life.
- As You Like It—Humorous play about two girls, one posing as a shepherd boy, who find a banished father and loving husbands in the forest.
- Twelfth Night—Humorous play about a girl, posing as page to a duke, who finds her identical twin brother and wins her true love amid a series of confusing events.
- Romeo and Juliet—The classic play of forbidden love and its tragic end. Young people from rivaling families pledge love to each other and choose rather to die together than to betray that love.
- The Taming of the Shrew—Humorous play of how a belligerent woman becomes a submissive wife.
- Julius Caesar—Tragedy about the death of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March.
- Hamlet—Tragedy of the prince of Denmark who is doomed by his father’s murder to plot a bloody revenge.
- Macbeth—Tragedy of an ambitious nobleman who is driven by an evil wife to murder his king.
Notes on Shakespeare
It’s easy to do Shakespeare with a three-step approach:
- Read the play in story form to get familiar with the characters and plot. Two great books for this step are Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare for Children by E. Nesbit and Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb.
- After that introduction, assign various people the roles in the play to read or dramatize. Concentrate on one Act or Scene at a time, and spread out the reading over several days.
- Last, watch a recorded or live performance of the play you’re reading. (Be sure to do your research and preview to avoid any unpleasant surprises when watching with your children.)
Check the CM Bookfinder for resources on the play of your choice.