Playing with Shakespeare

Author: John Clark, Publisher: Phoenix

A Theatrical Approach to Teaching Shakespeare

Playing with Shakespeare looks at all aspects of Shakespeare and his plays, with insights, information and activities and provides an approach to teaching Shakespeare’s plays in a way that generates a sense of fun and enjoyment that is essential to good theatre. Written by one of Australia’s most experienced directors of Shakespeare’s plays, it shows how theatre practitioners look at Shakespeare, and at the techniques directors and actors use to make the plays come alive.

There are practical activities throughout the book which will help students see and understand how the plays work as theatre, rather than simply words on a page and to connect with the play and develop a personal involvement.

The activities are intended in the first place to be used in a classroom, in an English or drama lesson, but teachers intending to produce one of Shakespeare’s plays will get added value from the material in this book. The activities and exercises place the student in the role of the director who has to work out how to make the play exciting, how to talk to an actor about character and action and how to brief the lighting, costume and set designers.

John Clark is one of the more experienced practitioners of Shakespeare and drama generally. He was head of The National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) for 32 years, and has been responsible for numerous productions of Shakespeare’s plays and other works in Australia and overseas.


1. Discovering Shakespeare

  • Imagining Shakespeare
  • Selecting plays
  • Published texts
  • Popular entertainment

2. Shakespeare’s Stories

  • Story-telling
  • Shakespeare’s audience
  • Shakespeare’s theatre
  • Female roles and boy actors
  • Shakespeare’s stories
  • Reading the play
  • Imagining the story
  • Playing with the story
  • Inventing stories
  • Story-telling techniques
  • Prologues
  • Epilogues
  • Dramatic structure
  • Length
  • Acts and scenes
  • What kind of story is it?

3. Shakespeare’s Language

  • Words, words, words
  • Language and education
  • Shakespeare’s vocabulary
  • Household words
  • Using a dictionary
  • Shakespeare’s bawdy
  • You, thou and O
  • Punctuation
  • Character and text
  • Poetry, prose and verse
  • Blank verse
  • Iambic pentameters
  • Other metres
  • Figures of speech
  • Sonnets
  • Prose
  • Shakespeare on acting
  • Grammar

4. Acting Shakespeare

  • Actor, character and text
  • Asking questions
  • Who am I?
  • What am I doing?
  • Actions
  • Who am I talking to?
  • Soliloquies
  • Where am I?
  • When am I?
  • Why am I doing it?
  • Imagining in detail
  • Super-objectives
  • Finding the journey

5. Directing Shakespeare

  • The role of the director
  • Different approaches
  • Theatrical research
  • What is the play about?
  • The world of the play
  • The production concept
  • Designing the production – scenery
  • Designing the production – costumes
  • The design process
  • Light and sound
  • Casting the production

6. Shakespeare in Performance

  • Living Shakespeare
  • The history of Hamlet
  • The history of Shylock
  • The history of Henry V
  • Shakespeare in Australia


  1. Shakespeare on Film
  2. Shakespeare Music-Theatre
  3. Shakespeare Bibliography
More Information
Edition 1st
Date of Publication 2007
ISBN 9781921085321
Subject English