Remember the torture of learning Shakespeare in school, especially if you were expected to be part of a production yourself? Ugh. I can’t imagine anything more nightmarish. Particularly if you’re an extreme introvert.
We’ve been short-changed. There are far better ways of appreciating Shakespeare than class discussion, school plays, or psychoanalyzing a couple of fictional teenagers who lived hundreds of years ago.
And they’re actually fun.
Watch a play being performed by people who know how to perform Shakespeare
Have you watched a really outstanding performance? After all, it is how Shakespeare was meant to be enjoyed. I can also tell you with some confidence that people who don’t understand Shakespeare on the page understand his plays better on the stage.
The language may still be a barrier, but the meaning is a lot more obvious.
Don’t have time to get to a theater? Or the money for a night out?
For those of us not fortunate enough to be close to London, Shakespeare’s Globe lets you stream performances over the internet for less than the cost of a night out. And the performances are outstanding.
Need an idea of what to watch? They did their 2012 production of Twelfth Night in “original practice”. This means men play all the girls’ parts. There’s nothing so ridiculously hilarious than watching a male actor play a woman who is pretending to be a man. I can almost guarantee you’ll fall over with laughter.
Did I mention Stephen Fry is in it too?
The Royal Shakespeare Company also tours the U.S. and you can stream performances through Marquee TV. Or, support your local arts community and try a local performance.
Check out Amazon Prime Video if going to a theater at all doesn’t appeal to you. Seriously. Look at a series called The Hollow Crown, which features Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal/Henry V and Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III. Yes, Loki and Dr. Strange do Shakespeare. You also have all the greats like Patrick Stewart, Judi Dench, and Jeremy Irons.
Try a recipe or three to get the flavor of Shakespeare’s Food.
Shakespeare’s Kitchen by food historian Francine Segan provides the background for a lot of the foodstuffs available, gives you ideas for throwing your own Renaissance-inspired banquet, and the recipes are straightforward.
A lot of the flavors we take for granted weren’t available in Shakespeare’s day. For instance, vanilla and chocolate were new imports from the Americas but not available to the common human being. They used sweet wine, honey, and rose water instead for a lot of their flavorings.
What I like about exploring Shakespeare through food is that enough variety exists to fit within just about any diet you care to name. You get new skills, new recipes to share, and new points of conversation at your next gathering.
On my to-make list from Segan’s book are Herb Tart, Sauteed Mushrooms “In the Italian Fashion,” and Cornish Game Hens with Sage.
Have Shakespeare Inspire your Next Cocktail or Mocktail Hour
Yes, this is a way to appreciate Shakespeare. If you don’t believe me, scoop up a copy of Shakespeare, Not Stirred by Caroline Bicks and Michelle Ephraim. This is a hilarious little gem filled with cocktail recipes, playful puns, snack recipes, and insights into the plays and characters.
You’ll impress everyone with your Shakespeare knowledge and your mixology.
Going alcohol-free? Pick it up anyway and use your imagination! You may come up with some alternatives yourself.
Try a bit of gardening with Shakespeare in mind.
Shakespeare was born in the country and there are myriad of references to English flora throughout the plays. Try your hand at a big of gardening if you’re so inclined! Or Google for Shakespeare-inspired garden exhibitions. There are more than you think!
Experiment with your hedges and herbs. An herb garden was considered a life essential in Shakespeare’s day—it was where all the medicine came from! With the rise of alternative healing, herbs are coming back into the limelight as not only flavorful but healthful.
Hedges were planted because they could be easily shaped, and they were also natural divisions between different parts of the garden. Mind you, only the ultra-wealthy in Shakespeare’s day could afford fancy hedges, but they’re low maintenance for a modern gardener.
Just be careful if, like me, you’re in Florida. We’ve got giant primordial lizards who can climb chain-link fences. And flying, six-legged vampires that occasionally carry Zika and West Nile.
Use Shakespeare to Express Your Frustrations
If you are trying to cut down on your cussing, try out a few choice invectives from Shakespeare.
- Thrasonical—This means conceited. What makes it fun to use is that in Shakespeare, it’s a woman who uses it to describe Julius Caesar AND it’s derived from the name Thraso–a character in a Roman play called Eunuchus.
- Churlish—This means refers to someone who’s been intentionally rude and mean. E.g. “He/she is a thrasonical, churlish varlet.
- Harpy—Consider this as an alternative to “bitch” with potentially more positive connotations.
- Varlet—Alternative to “son of a bitch.” In its more archaic form, it refers to a man who lacks principles and honesty.
There are, of course, Shakespearean insult kits all over the internet. But these are my favorites to use since they are short, sweet, and easy to remember.
Please note, I am NOT recommending you insult every person who frustrates you.
Shakespeare is only as boring as you make him.
So, make Shakespeare fun for yourself, and for any students you may know. Shakespeare is more than what is taught in the classroom. Take a leap and try it again with something a little less serious and see where it takes you!
Have you discovered more ways of having fun with Shakespeare? Let me know in the comments or on my social media channels!
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