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Shakespeare Week at Hesketh House

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Junior Girls have been participating in the first ever Shakespeare Week to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.

This new annual celebration took place nationwide. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust offered the perfect springboard for the Year 6 pupils’ study of Shakespeare. This year the girls are exploring the comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream in detail, and have also begun learning about the three different genres which the Bard wrote: comedies, tragedies and histories.

Mary Worsley, the Year 6 teacher who organised the Shakespeare Week, was really excited to bring the Bard to the pupils at Hesketh House: “Shakespeare is as relevant today as it was in Elizabethan times. His work is timeless because it simply deals with human beings and their experiences. Wonderful storytelling is at the heart of his work and I want our pupils to have the privilege of learning about that from an early age. Some people may think that Shakespeare is too sophisticated for seven to eleven year olds. On the contrary, I believe it is essential for children to be introduced to his works, for them to enjoy them and that the stigma and fear factor associated with studying Shakespeare is removed.”

To launch the Shakespeare Week, all pupils were given a ‘Shakespeare passport’ with a series of nine challenges encouraging them to become Shakespearean Travellers. Their quest involves finding out as much as possible about the man himself: inventing new words just as Shakespeare did, learning lines, seeing a play, designing postcards and a host of other activities. One of the challenges is to follow in his famous footsteps by visiting Stratford–upon–Avon – using Google Earth for a virtual trip, if the traveller cannot physically get there!

Once all passport challenges are completed, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will send the pupils a personal letter of congratulations from ‘William Shakespeare’ himself!

Stephanie Holland from Year 6 said, “My favourite part of Shakespeare Week was going to the Library and reading all of his stories. I also read about him and his life. My favourite story was Hamlet because it is very sad. I love English and Shakespeare is inspiring.”

As well as dipping into Shakespeare’s stories, some girls created storyboards of different plays; others made masks and invitations for the Capulet Ball; many designed both Elizabethan and modern costumes for Titania, the fairy queen, and for tragic protagonist Juliet Capulet.

“Shakespeare Week was most enjoyable for many reasons,” said Year 6 pupil Eleanor Murray. “Mostly I liked designing and dressing up little dolls in modern day catsuits that I designed for Queen Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I enjoyed dressing up myself to perform in the play!”

Scenes were acted out from Much Ado About Nothing, Julius Caesar and Macbeth – and donning costumes helped bring the characters to life!

Ellie Bridge, who is also in Year 6, said, “I really enjoyed dressing up in Shakespearean clothes as I love acting as other people. Acting is a big part of my life and I found acting out Julius Caesar really fun. I think Shakespeare is amazing. The pieces that he wrote are hard to understand at first, but when you get to know them they become so interesting.”

Year 6 pupils enjoyed the added treat of an invitation to watch the dress rehearsal for the School’s Joint Production of the iconic tragedy Romeo and Juliet! They are really looking forward to the performance which, after months of rehearsals, is finally being staged this week by pupils from Year 10 through to the Sixth Form.

In the melee of activities in this busy week, Year 5 pupil Holly Stevenson went a step further: she used her initiative to bake Hard Tack biscuits, used in Tudor times aboard ships. Her friends were keen sample this Elizabethan recipe and find out what it was like!

As Shakespeare Week has been such a delight, the Junior Girls’ School has decided to make to run until the end of term to provide pupils with ample time to savour the delights of Shakespeare’s work.

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Puck learns about Shakespeare

'Puck' learns about Shakespeare's life and works

The girls discuss their storyboards for The Tempest

The girls discuss their storyboards for The Tempest

Julius Caesar was lots of fun for the girls to perform

Julius Caesar was lots of fun for the girls to perform!