Wherefore Art Thou, Shakespeare?

Learning is never boring with the Bard!

Born in 1564, William Shakespeare is one of the world’s best known playwrights and poets. His plays have been translated into every major modern language and are performed to this day across the globe, remaining some of history’s most read, watched, and reinvented.

Born in the small town of Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare moved to London to become an actor and playwright. Over his lifetime, he penned 154 sonnets—14 line poems written in iambic pentameter—and 39 plays, including Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, Macbeth and many more. He also wrote several narrative poems, considered to be “high-art” in his day.

William Shakespeare produced many of his works between 1589 and 1613, retiring back to Stratford at the age of 49. Dying only three years later on April 23, 1616, the author’s immense catalogue of written works lives on in the public’s imagination and heart, proving he was “not of an age, but for all time”.

Explore resources examining the history, plot, characters, and contemporary interpretations of Shakespeare’s timeless plays with the PBS LearningMedia collections below. And then, check out articles, videos, and activities to bring poetry and drama alive in your classroom or home!

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Explore Shakespeare on PBS LearningMedia

Shakespeare Uncovered

Grades 6-12
Shakespeare Uncovered combines history, biography, iconic performances, new analysis, and the personal passions of its celebrated hosts to tell the stories behind the stories of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. Resources for the series on PBS LearningMedia explore plays ranging from Macbeth to Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet to Merchant of Venice, and beyond.

Great Performances: Julius Caesar

Grades 6-12
Set in a women’s prison, Great Performances: Julius Caesar offers a powerful dramatization of the catastrophic consequences of a political leader’s extension of power beyond constitutional confines through an all-female lens. In this acclaimed Donmar Warehouse production directed by Phyllida Lloyd, Shakespeare’s famous discourse on power, loyalty, and tragic idealism is heightened against the backdrop of female incarceration. Learn about the production with the PBS LearningMedia collection featuring videos, a behind the scenes guide, student activities, and more.

Great Performances: Romeo and Juliet

Grades 6-12
This stylized film of Shakespeare’s masterpiece from the National Theatre celebrates the theatrical imagination. In this contemporary retelling, a company of actors in a shuttered theater bring to life the tale of two young lovers who strive to transcend a world of violence and hate. Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley star as Shakespeare’s immortal star-crossed lovers.

The Hollow Crown: Shakespeare’s History Plays

Grades 9-12
The Hollow Crown is a Great Performances series showcasing four filmed adaptations of Shakespeare’s most gripping history plays: Richard II; Henry IV, Part 1; Henry IV, Part 2; and Henry V. The interactive and video resources in this collection are designed to aid teachers in exploring these complex plays with their students. Use the viewing guide, supplemental teaching tips, discussion questions, background essays, and activities to analyze and compare the films with Shakespeare’s original text, discover major themes, and delve deeper into the stories’ historical backgrounds.

Learn About Drama & Poetry

Your Child’s a Poet, and Here’s How to Show It

Grades PreK-3
There’s a really easy way to spice up your child’s reading and writing routine: poetry! Sprinkling poems into your usual mix can keep reading time fresh while boosting literacy skills. 

7 Ways for Kids to Learn Empathy Through Acting

Grades PreK-3
Although acting may just seem like a fun game to your kids, it’s also giving them amazing practice at understanding emotions and developing empathy. 

Drama Arts Toolkit Glossary

Grades 3-12
Want to learn the A-B-C’s of acting? Check out this handy glossary of commonly used drama arts terms and vocabulary.

History of Theater

Grades 3-12
Instructor Elizabeth Jewell discusses the history of theater from ancient Greece to the 20th century. She covers the Greek development of the stage, the Roman contribution of pantomime, the processionals of the Middle Ages, commedia dell’arte, Shakespeare, 17th century French comedy, and the contributions of Henrik Ibsen and Anton Chekhov to the modernization of theater.

Poetry Everywhere Collection

Grades 6-12
Explore the power of language, look at the world with a fresh sense of wonder, and build reading and writing skills. These video segments, drawn from the PBS Poetry Everywhere series, capture some of the voices of poetry, past and present.

Games, Activities & More

Grover’s Rhyme Time Game

Grades PreK-K
Learn all about rhyming with Grover in this fun train game! Conductor Grover leads the way as you drive the train and pick which words rhyme. Don’t forget to blow the whistle! Choo Choo!

Theater Warm-Up Games | Ford’s Theatre

Grades PreK-12
Energize your class, or household, for learning and performance! These games and vocal warm-ups get everyone moving, thinking creatively and working together.

Exploring Shakespeare: An Immersive Experience | Great Performances: Romeo and Juliet

Grades 6-12
Explore the world of Shakespeare using this immersive interactive featuring Great Performances: Romeo and Juliet. Interactive slides include video clips, infographics, graphic organizers, and different activities to engage students through a visual and immersive setting. Enter the Globe Theater and click on objects to explore the space and learn more about Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet.

Elements of Poetry

Grades 6-12
In this interactive lesson, discover how literary techniques like figurative language, imagery, and symbolism contribute to the overall meaning of a poem. Explore how a poet establishes and builds on a theme. Learn how to tell the difference between tone and mood. Through a close reading of Maya Angelou’s famous poem “Caged Bird” (1983), practice unpacking the language of poetry while learning about some of the various tools a writer can utilize when writing a poem.