Shakespeare Learning Commons
The Shakespeare Learning Commons is a new resource on the CASP website that aims to be the largest collection of teaching and learning resources related to Shakespeare on the Internet. This release is a small taste of what is to come as we continue to develop resources that use adaptation theory to study and teach about Shakespeare's work and their cultural effects.
CASP's Teachers' Guides help teachers make use of the research and resources we have collected on the CASP website in the classroom. Based on the strategies developed by the Ontario Ministry of Education's Think Literacy initiative, and in consultation with a team of curriculum consultants, these guides repurpose CASP's unique creative and critical work for literacy and curricular goals. Each teachers’ guide provides links to all of the resources needed to complete the lesson, including teacher and student instruction sheets, student worksheets and handouts, and links to further resources as needed.
Course One — 'Speare: The Literacy Arcade Game
Course Two — Slings & Arrows
Course Three — Smoking Shakespeare: Tobacco Sponsorship in the Arts
Course Four — Designing Shakespeare
Course Five — Death of a Chief: Adapting Julius Caesar from a First Nations Perspective
Activity 1: Shakespeare Trivia
William Shakespeare was a product of the Elizabethan period’s social and political climate. His plays were adapted from previously existing works and his texts had very different meanings to audiences of the period. He was also an innovator of language, theatre, and cultural production. The Shakespeare Trivia Anthology explores the culture that produced Shakespeare’s unique mind and works.
Activity 2: Shakespeare Timeline
William Shakespeare’s influence on modern media, theatre, and culture is continually growing. To illustrate the playwright’s ever-evolving influence, CASP has created an Adaptation Timeline (1700-2005) based on the Shakespeare Trivia Anthology. After examining this timeline, your students’ task is to create their own timeline to show the social and political climate that shaped and moulded William Shakespeare.
Activity 3: Reading Ancient Code: War and Peace in the Romeo and Juliet adaptation 'Speare
‘Speare adapts the basic narrative of Romeo and Juliet, “two households divided,” and expands this to an interplanetary level. The conflict becomes one between the planets Montagor and Capulon (Montague/Capulet). It is not until a common enemy encroaches that the Montagors and Capulons are able to recognize what their civil war has cost; as the Montague and Capulet families bury their children a similar realization is made. What brought these planets and these families to war? Is Romeo and Juliet an anti-war text or is war seen as an inevitable part of our civilization? In this activity students will analyze a passage from Romeo and Juliet to answer these questions and to find new questions of their own.
Activity 4: Romeo and Juliet in Space
It is not hard to find Shakespeare in space. Forbidden Planet (1956), a space adaptation of The Tempest, found Shakespeare’s narrative transported to a desolate planet in the outer reaches of the universe. Influenced by this adaptation, Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek, which often depended on Shakespeare’s narratives as can be seen in episode titles such as “By Any Other Name,” “Dagger of the Mind,” and “The Conscience of the King.”
Why is Shakespeare so at home in space? How easily can the narrative and themes of Romeo and Juliet be transported to a universal setting?
In this activity students will create a space adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Students can move from poison to an alien virus, from paper messages to holographic transmissions, and from street scenes to weightless space walks.
Activity 5: Romeo and Juliet — A Second Chance
The balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, scene 2, lines 1-192) is a passionate and urgent encounter in which Romeo and Juliet display rash and impetuous emotions for one another. What would it be like if the two met for a second time under different circumstances in a world where their families weren’t feuding, sometime in the not-too-distant future? The literacy arcade game ‘Speare proposes such a setting, where peace reigns between the warring families. Will Romeo and Juliet still agree to marry although their love is not forbidden? Is marriage still on their minds? You choose whether the lovers have a second chance…
Activity 6: Gamers Write Back
‘Speare uses the most addictive parts of video games to teach literacy skills and knowledge about Shakespeare. The plot of ‘Speare is based on Romeo and Juliet: Two families at war with each other ignore what is important and as a result lose what they value most. When ‘Speare and Romeo and Juliet are understood this way, they become anti-war stories, showing the dangers of failing to communicate. The problem with ‘Speare, however, is that the gamer is charged with restoring peace by shooting enemy droids. This activity invites students to question the ethics of this game and others like it, and to propose alternatives.
Activity One: A Musical Adaptation of Something Rotten in the State of Denmark
Parody can be used to highlight the elements of a text (literary or social) that is problematic or controversial. Parody is a useful critical tool as it wraps sometimes difficult truth in humor. Through parody, a writer can lift these difficult issues from the influence of the original and deal with the problems on their own. In this activity, students will use parody in this way to adapt a familiar character from one of Shakespeare’s plays.
Activity Two: A Note from the Margins: Point of view in Hamlet and Slings & Arrows
Through the eyes of a secondary character a student can gain new insight on an old story. In Slings & Arrows there are a number of secondary characters who offer an occasional critique of their director and administration. Using the plot of Slings & Arrows and of Hamlet (or another Shakespeare play that your class is currently studying), students will explore point of view by asking: How might a story end differently if secondary characters had a greater say?
Tobacco advertising was banned in Canada in 1988 when Parliament passed the Tobacco Products Control Act. Thus, today’s teenagers have never witnessed tobacco ads on television, in magazines, or as part of sponsorship for sporting events or the arts. Because the tobacco industry’s growth depends on enticing new smokers, many tobacco advertisements target teenagers. By examining a series of print advertisements from Canada’s Stratford Festival, this module asks students to explore how tobacco companies use the arts and William Shakespeare to market their products. This is particularly important for high school students who are likely being directly exposed to cigarettes and Shakespeare for the first time. Recent anti-tobacco legislation in Ontario and throughout the world has brought tobacco issues back to the forefront of health awareness. Ontario students are likely aware of The Smoke Free Ontario Act, which replaced the Tobacco Control Act and prohibited smoking in all enclosed public places and workplaces as of May 31, 2006. Similar legislation has been passed across Canada as well as in other nations.
As theatrical texts, Shakespeare’s plays were not meant to be solely read, but performed and seen. The role of the stage designer and the visual design of the stage has historically been an overlooked element of theatrical production, despite its importance in the creation of meaning in a performance. To fully understand Shakespeare’s works as performance, it is important to explore the act of engaging visually with a play, and to analyze what that visual interpretation can bring to the play text.
Jani Lauzon as Antony. Scene from the October 25, 2006 workshop/performance of Death of a Chief, an adaptation of Julius Caesar held at the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph, Ontario. Photo credit: Ric Knowles
What does the “abuse of Greatenesse,” a quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar mean? Does its meaning have any connection to Canadian history and present day power-politics? What does it mean when Brutus stabs Caesar? Is the character a hero or a villain? Julius Caesar is a story of leadership and community, government and responsibility, power and the abuse of power, spectatorship and participation. CASP Researcher Sorouja Moll, in concert with Yvette Nolan (Native Earth Performing Arts) and Kennedy Cathy MacKinnon (ShakespeareLink Canada) the co-adaptors and co-directors of a First Nations adaptation of Julius Caesar called Death of a Chief, created activities that encourage students to discover new ways to gain understanding of their own personal histories and communities, the leadership and governance structures of First Nations communities in Canada, and their relationships to Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar.
|Native Earth Performing Arts, Death of a Chief, October 25, 2006 workshop/performance promotional poster (8" x 6").|
Professor Leanore Lieblein, McGill University
Is it meaningful or useful to speak of a "Canadian Shakespeare"? What (if anything) makes a Canadian Shakespeare different from all other Shakespeares? How do regional differences in Canada affect the performance and reception of Shakespeare? Does a postcolonial perspective on Canada as a "settler" culture help us to understand Canada's relationship to the cultural icon of the "mother" country? And how, given our situatedness in Quebec, does the place of Shakespeare in Quebec shed light on Shakespeare in the rest of Canada? This course will consider such things as nineteenth-century touring productions, amateur vs. professional productions, CBC and Radio Canada radio and TV productions, the establishment of the Stratford Festival as Canada's "national" theatre, the role of Northrop Frye in the creation of one of our Shakespeares, and recent Canadian re-visions of Shakespeare. It will also pay special attention to the Shakespeare who is a prince du Québec.
Anuja Varghese: Kerala Meets Kingston through Kathakali
Catherine Oakleaf: Colonial Canadian Shakespeare: West Meets East at Stratford
Jacquie Daigneault: Shakespeare Moot Court Project
Nick Hune-Brown: My Kingdom For a Canadian Alternative Theatre
Rachelle Solomon: Shakespeare’s Dream, A Canadian Reality
Professor Daniel Fischlin, University of Guelph
“This [changes to the curriculum] is not about compelling all students to remain in a traditional classroom setting. Many of us remember friends in our high school days for whom studying Macbeth was cruel and unusual punishment, but who could take apart a car engine and put it back together again like nobody else could.”
— Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario, Saturday, September 3, 2005 (Toronto Star “Province launches bold assault on soaring high school dropout rate” A1, A17)
The above quote demonstrates anxiety about Shakespeare as a key locus of achievement and empowerment––and disdain. And it suggests a re-ordering of traditional values associated with Shakespeare as a cultural icon—in this case now opposed by that other marker of high cultural attainment, the car. And yet, reductive notions of how a play like Macbeth actually circulates in contemporary culture also point us in the direction of adaptations of Shakespeare––re-writings that challenge, extend, and re-think conventional notions of originality and authenticity.
This interdisciplinary course will examine the receptions, adaptations, and distributions of Shakespeare in the late nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries, through a variety of media including film, theatre, and the Internet. Shakespeare, often identified as the most unique and innovative user of the English language, the most produced playwright on the planet, was also the most inventive adapter of others’ works. Moreover, he was also extraordinarily proficient in the popular culture of his day and made constant use of popular culture referents in his plays.
This course examines how Shakespeare’s writing practice, especially in relation to adaptation and the use of popular culture, carries on today through the extraordinarily varied adaptations that remake Shakespeare to suit a variety of aesthetic, ideological, and cultural interests. The course will focus on the adaptations of four plays: Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, Othello, and Macbeth. Students are expected to be familiar with these plays already: if you have not read the originals of these plays you should do so as soon as possible.
Using a variety of critical methodologies such as materialism and historicism, postcolonial and race, postmodernism, globalization, and gender/queer theory the course explores how these are relevant to emergent theorizing of adaptation as both a localized literary process but also as a much larger form of cultural sampling.
The course also includes a trip to the Stratford Festival to view a production. Since some of the course materials are audiovisual it will be crucial that you attend all viewings––and that you make sure you receive all study questions related to course materials. These will form the basis for the written and oral course work. A significant portion of the course will be devoted to Canadian materials and work for the course will explore the interface between humanities research and computing via materials derived from the Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project website.
CASP gratefully acknowledges the input of curriculum consultants Heather Buck, Greg Rhyno, and Vince Campolongo in creating the template for these activities and for their ongoing input to the CASP Learning Commons.
Disclaimer: This site has been designed with only non-commercial, academic uses in mind. Although every effort has been made to secure permission for materials uploaded on the CASP site, in some circumstances we have been unable to locate copyright holders. Links may be made to our site but under no conditions are the texts and images to be copied and mounted onto another site server. Researchers using the site should accredit it following standard MLA guidelines on how to do so. Correct citation of information from the site is as follows:
Fischlin, Daniel. Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project. University of Guelph. 2004.