The following posts are by a guest author, Andy McLean, and for Bell Shakespeare in Australia.  But, they are so good, that I have to post and share their great work!

7. PRINCE HAL aka HENRY V (Henry IV, Henry V)
Yes, yes we know. Prince Hal is a hero. One of Shakespeare’s most inspiring, in fact. A gallant fighter, and a brilliant orator. A man who conquers every battlefield he steps onto.

So why is he on our list of villains?

Well for starters: He’s disloyal. Before he becomes king, Hal is happy to party with Falstaff and Bardolph in the den of inequity that is the Boar’s Head Tavern. But the moment he becomes king, Hal publicly turns his back on Falstaff. Later still, he shows no hesitation in sentencing Bardolph to be hanged for theft.

So far, so bad. But that’s nothing compared to what else Hal is capable of. As John Bell points out in On Shakespeare, as soon as Hal is crowned Henry V, he embarks upon a patriotic war that “will deflect rebellion, unite the country and make the new king a national hero.” The inevitable casualties are but a trifling detail.

“The new king bullies and blackmails the Church into sanctioning his cause,” says Bell. Then Henry V undertakes a war of invasion, executes anyone who stands in his way and, during the Battle of Agincourt, commands his soldiers to commit the ultimate war crime: slaughtering thousands of prisoners.

If you’re still in any doubt about Henry V’s villainous credentials, just read the bloodthirsty threat he issues to the besieged inhabitants of Harfleur.

Who is your favourite Shakespeare villain? Do you agree or disagree with our experts? Share your views on Twitter and Facebook.

6. RICHARD III (Richard III)
When it came to history, Shakespeare never let the facts get in the way of a good story. There are those who believe King Richard III was, in real life, a good and progressive monarch but there’s no trace of those qualities in the character that Shakespeare creates. In the play, Richard III cons his way to the English crown, and clings to it, thanks to a relentless campaign of conniving, executions and warmongering.

“Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard III is still controversial today, with armies of ‘Ricardians’ angrily protesting that it’s Tudor propaganda,” says Pat Reid, editor of Shakespeare Magazine. “Personally, I wonder if Shakespeare makes Richard so monumentally grotesque as a way of hinting that it shouldn’t be taken too seriously.”

Reid nominates the famously hunchbacked villain as his favourite: “He’s so gleefully malevolent that he almost becomes a kind of devil in human form, but he’s also laugh-out-loud funny.”

Reid adds: “He resembles a modern-day serial killer in that we know he’s going to keep on killing until he’s stopped. The whole issue of Richard’s physical deformity adds another dimension. I thought Benedict Cumberbatch played Richard superbly in The Hollow Crown2 – he’s an arch-manipulator, but at times he seems horror-stricken to be possessed by forces beyond his control.”

Bell Shakespeare’s new production of Richard 3 will hit stages in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne from February to May 2017.

Read Shakespeare Magazine and follow on Twitter and  Facebook.

5. MACBETH (Macbeth)
Shakespeare obviously had a bit of a thing for villainous kings – and Macbeth is possibly the most treacherous of all. With his mind poisoned by prophecies from three witches, Macbeth murders the King of Scotland in his sleep and takes the crown for himself. But once on the throne, paranoia overcomes him. He spends his brief reign ordering the deaths of any potential enemies (and even his best friend Banquo) before the whole thing comes crashing down in a bloody battle at Dunsinane Castle.

Macbeth is a villain so heinous and despicable that actors are actually afraid to say his name out loud. “The curse of Macbeth” is infamous in theatre circles where (according to legend) if you speak his name, disaster will befall whatever play you’re working on.

Sounds like a tall story, right?

Maybe. But the last time Bell Shakespeare staged Macbeth at the Sydney Opera House,  in 2012, half the cast were struck down with food poisoning – and opening night had to be postponed. Now, we’re not saying there’s any truth in the superstition but, then again, we’re still not saying “Macbeth” out loud either…

Read about villains 10 (Regan), 9 (Goneril), and 8 (Claudius)

Read about villains 4 (Tybalt), 3 (Lady Macbeth), and 2 (Titus Andronicus)

Read about villain #1 – Othello

TOP 10 SHAKESPEAREAN VILLAINS: NUMBERS 7, 6 AND 5 was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books


Top 10 Shakespeare Villians

The following posts are by a guest author, Andy McLean, and for Bell Shakespeare in Australia.  But, they are so good, that I have to post and share their great work! TOP 10 SHAKESPEAREAN VILLAINS 10. REGAN (King Lear) 9. GONERIL (King Lear) Author Jane Caro picked King Lear’s elder daughters for our gallery of rogues, though she does have some sympathy for…

Top 10 Shakespeare Villians was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

Why Drama is so Important in School – PART 5 – EDUCATION

Part 5 of the 12 part series: Why Drama is so important in School. – EDUCATION One of the best byproducts of drama is in-depth education into a specific subject matter.  There are two sides to this: On Stage Backstage ON STAGE Whatever you are performing, there is always a place and setting for it. Many…

Why Drama is so Important in School – PART 5 – EDUCATION was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

Backyard Shakespeare – A Homeschool Experience

Backyard Shakespeare. What is that, you may ask. Well, it’s a very ingenious and creative way to engage homeschooled kids with Shakespeare, education, language arts, drama, and most importantly, fun!  

I recently had the privilege to teach a group of 7 kids Playing With Plays The Tempest for Kids and we had a BLAST! Best part, we did it in the backyard of a house of one of the homeschooling families.  Their deck was a natural stage. So, a few costumes, a few scripts, a few rehearsals, and BAM! We’ve got a fun, melodramatic Shakespeare play performing in the backyard!

I’ve seen this done in the past with many of my plays, but this was the first time I got to do it. The best part, you can do a performance ANYWHERE! The parents bring a blanket or lawn chairs, and you have an instant theater!


Backyard Shakespeare – A Homeschool Experience was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

Why Drama is so Important in School – PART 4 – PRESENTATION SKILLS

PRESENTATION SKILLS – is part 4 of the 12 part series: Why Drama is so Important in Schools. No matter where you go in life, you’re going to have to Get up in front of a group, a class, or an audience and present an idea for a project, a report, a paper, or some other…

Why Drama is so Important in School – PART 4 – PRESENTATION SKILLS was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

Why Drama is so Important in School – PART 3 – SOCIAL SKILLS

Part 3 of the 12 part series: Why Drama is so important in School. – SOCIAL SKILLS

why drama?In a day and age where we see more and more kids with their noses buried in a phone screen, the social skills naturally generated on the school and play grounds are drifting away.  We are creating a society that will physically come together in a room and not actually BE together.  We need to create opportunities that allow our kids to be in environments that help foster social skills. Enter drama.

Drama is fantastic for social skills on a variety of levels. Let’s think about it, how often is an actor on stage by themselves? Answer: Hardly ever. It’s typically about back and forth communication between two or more individuals and the constant practice of that skill. 

Drama is naturally social. From simply hanging out with the same kids week after week, to interacting on stage with other actors, to drama games which create personal interaction. They all focus on the same piece, how to interact socially. Kids learn social skills such as:

  • Self-Confidence:29024151271_8210f85db9_b
    • Probably the biggest piece of being social, is having the self-confidence to put yourself out there where you can possibly be rejected. Bringing up a suggestion in class or with a group on the playground can sometimes be intimidating, if you don’t have the confidence to do so. However, in drama, when you have a suggestion, and your peers and director agree, it builds self-confidence. When you perform and the audience applauds your work, it builds your self-confidence. 
  • Reacting appropriately in a social situation:
    • Many people will tell you a good actor is a “re-actor”. In other words, how you respond to what someone has just told you or has physically done. The best part about drama, is you get to practice this again and again (rehearsals) with the help of a mentor (director) so you can work on this skill and react appropriately in a given situation. This may be something as simple as someone walking in a room and saying, “Hello.” and reacting to it. It could be something more complex such as Hamlet saying, “I’m going to get you Claudius!” 28616020746_0073a92372_zwhere Claudius has to react appropriately to the situation.
  • Simple back and forth communication:
    • Just working with someone else practicing a dialog back and forth that may cover 10-20 lines is enough to help some kids break the fear of social communication. In drama, you get to practice and practice a skill until one day, when you don’t even realize it, you generalize it outside of drama. It’s all because you have mastered a skill.
  • How to communicate using body language:
    • For many, this is one of the fun parts of acting. Saying a line, then following that line with a certain hand motion, or some type of body movement which suggests to the other actor what they are supposed to do. Talking without words. For example, the crossing of the arms, the stern look, and tilt of the head to show disappointment. Learning how to use your body to communicate is a skill we use throughout our entire life.
  • How to read and react to facial expressions:
    • As with the previous point, being the actor that sees the facial expression, you need to react correctly to it. Learning to read facial expressions and body positions is another great social skill.
  • Being aware of others:
    • When on stage, we are always practicing when to say our lines. What is our “cue”. For some, it’s the line before theirs, however, many times it’s an action or a character entering a room.  If we are not paying attention on stage, we miss these cues.  We have to practice again and again in rehearsals to be aware of our surroundings, to make sure we see and catch these cues. No difference than when someone enters a room, we need to be aware and address them, “Hello!”
  • Improvisation:
    • As with the previous two points, many times on stage an actor misses their line or cue. At that point, we have to react and respond appropriately to keep the story going until we are all back on script! Being aware of our surroundings and reacting to them is all part of the social skills we learn in drama.
  • How to talk in front of a group of people:
    • Yep, you’re on stage… and there’s a lot of people watching you.  Wait, you’re in front of the class, and there are a lot of kids watching you.  No, wait, you’re in the board room, and the board is watching your presentation for your new project. No, wait, you’re on the playground and the 6 kids around you are listening to you explain directions to the game. Getting used to being in front of an audience and speaking is another great social skill to learn.
  • How to properly be within someone else’s “personal space”:
    • Almost always you are on stage with someone else.  Learning how to orientate yourself to the other actor is sometimes challenging as many kids don’t know how to do this in day-to-day life. Another social skill we are always working on.

From a social perspective, this list can go on and on…

Over the past 12 months, I’ve taught 16 different theater productions with kids. Ranging from homeschool to after school to week long camps.  From Hamlet for Kids to Christmas Carol for Kids.  One thing is consistent, social opportunities are ALWAYS presenting themselves. So, be sure to get your kid into drama, and have fun improving those social skills!

caesar for kids bigger

Why Drama is so Important in School – PART 3 – SOCIAL SKILLS was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books

Ophelia’s Crazy Song

Did you know Ophelia actually sings a lunacy song in Hamlet?  It’s sprinkled throughout the act, but here’s the basic text. Enjoy!

Ophelia crazy 1

Crazy Ophelia – from O’my Theater’s production of my Hamlet for Kids

How should I your true love know

  From another one?

By his cockle hat and staff,

  And his sandal shoon.

He is dead and gone, lady,

  He is dead and gone,

At his head a grass-green turf,

  At his heels a stone.

Ophelia crazy 2Larded all with sweet flowers,

Which bewept to the ground did not go

  With true-love showers.

Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,

  All in the morning betime,

And I a maid at your window,

  To be your Valentine.

Then up he rose, and donned his clothes,

  And dupped the chamber door.

Let in the maid that out a maid

  Never departed more.

By Gis and by Saint Charity,

  Alack, and fie, for shame!

Young men will do ’t, if they come to ’t.

  By Cock, they are to blame.

Quoth she, “Before you tumbled me,

  You promised me to wed.”

He answers,

“So would I ha’ done, by yonder sun,

  An thou hadst not come to my bed.”

They bore him barefaced on the bier,

  Hey, non nonny, nonny, hey, nonny,

And in his grave rained many a tear.

And will he not come again?

And will he not come again?

  No, no, he is dead,

  Go to thy deathbed.

He never will come again.

His beard was as white as snow,

All flaxen was his poll.

  He is gone, he is gone,

  And we cast away moan,

God ha’ mercy on his soul.—

Ophelia’s Crazy Song was originally published on Shakespeare for Kids Books