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Happy Death Day, William Shakespeare!

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. Well, that was certainly the case during William Shakespeare’s life. This year marks Shakespeare’s, or the Bard of Avon, (assumed) 457th birthday on the 26th of April and 405th death anniversary on the 23rd April.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

And pray tell, who was William Shakespeare?

Well, he was an English poet, playwright and actor who is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. People all over the world have come to recognise the image of William Shakespeare and would heard of his plays, but what do we know about the man himself, or even what went on behind the scenes during the performance of his plays, or even who his plays were being performed for?

How dost thou celebrate?

In addition to the traditional birthday party, cake and presents, why not read all about his life, from his early and humble beginnings in Stratford upon Avon, England to conquering the stage in Queen Elizabeth’s court and the Globe Theatre.

image courtesy of syndetics30-second Shakespeare : 50 key aspects of his works, life and legacy, each explained in half a minute.

’30-second Shakespeare’ features 50 of the key moments, works and lasting influences of the Bard, all explained clearly and without the clutter. Each entry is summarized in just 3 seconds – using nothing more than two pages, 300 words and one picture. Leading Shakespeare scholars present an expert guide to his life and works.

image courtesy of syndeticsWill in the world : how Shakespeare became Shakespeare.

Read all about the real-world sources of Shakespeare’s language – of his fantasies, passions, fears, and desires – lie outside the scope of these earlier books. Will in the World will set out to recover the links between Shakespeare and his world and with them to construct a full and vital portrait of the man.


image courtesy of syndeticsShakespeare : the world as stage.

Bill Bryson explores the life and work of Shakespeare as a travelogue of sorts, narrating his quest for the Bard: his conversations with Shakespearean actors, with the curator of Shakespeare’s birthplace, with academics who have dedicated their lives to studying the plays and poems, and of course, reporting on his own exploits in Stratford-upon-Avon.

image courtesy of syndeticsA year in the life of William Shakespeare.

In 1599, an epochal year for Shakespeare and England, Shakespeare wrote four of his most famous plays while Elizabethans sent off an army to crush an Irish rebellion, weathered an Armada threat from Spain, and gambled on a fledgling East India Company. Shapiro brings together the news and the intrigue of the times in this gripping account of an inspiring moment in history.

Also search our catalogue for more biographies about Shakespeare and his remarkable life.


Read Shakespeare’s plays… and novels based on Shakespeare’s plays!

image courtesy of syndeticsThe plays of Shakespeare : a thematic guide.

Read and relive your favourite Shakespeare plays. Wellington City Libraries holds a huge array of plays and teen novels adapted from Shakespeare’s plays. Identifies the core topics of Shakespeare’s plays and allows students to compare and contrast the thematic connections that recur throughout the canon.

image courtesy of syndeticsThe complete works by William Shakespeare.

A compact edition of the complete works of William Shakespeare. It combines impeccable scholarship with beautifully written editorial material and a user-friendly layout of the text. Also included is a foreword, list of contents, general introduction, essay on language, contemporary allusions to Shakespeare, glossary, consolidated bibliography and index of first lines of Sonnets.

Plays from the Royal Shakespeare Company

This Shakespeare series has titles such as Much ado about Nothing, Macbeth, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to excite Shakespearian fans of all ages. This exciting series, produced in partnership with the RSC, is designed to introduce students to Shakespeare’s plays. Using trusted and established RSC approaches and vibrant RSC performance photographs, the series brings Shakespeare’s plays to life in the classroom and establishes a deeper understanding and lasting appreciation of his work.
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Plays from the Cambridge School Shakespeare

image courtesy of syndeticsHamlet.

A new edition of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in accordance with the work of the Shakespeare and Schools Project and the national curriculum for English.

image courtesy of syndeticsRomeo and Juliet.

A new edition of Romeo and Juliet in the Cambridge School Shakepeare series.

image courtesy of syndeticsOthello.

A prose retelling of Shakespeare’s play in which a jealous general is duped into thinking that his wife has been unfaithful, with tragic consequences.

Novels adapted from Shakespeare’s Plays

image courtesy of syndeticsThe diary of William Shakespeare, gentleman.

Part comedy, part love story, this book threads together Shakespeare’s life drawn from his plays. Could the world’s greatest writer truly put down his pen forever to become a gentleman? Based on new documentary evidence, as well as textual examination of his plays, this fascinating book gives a tantalising glimpse at what might have been: the other hands that helped craft those plays, the secrets that must ever be hidden but – just possibly – may now be told.

image courtesy of syndeticsHamlet.

This wonderful book, by one of Australia’s most loved and most read writers, takes Shakespeare’s famous play and makes it into a moving and full-blooded novel. John Marsden follows the contours of the original but powerfully re-imagines its characters and story lines, rather as Shakespeare treated his sources. We are aware not only of the strength of Marsden’s own writing but the sensitivity of his insight into Shakespeare. Hamlet, A Novel will be adored by adults whether young or old.

image courtesy of syndeticsThird Witch.

A searing story of passion, betrayal, battles and love, this is Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ stripped of superstition, and its power and beauty refined into fewer words where good balances the evil and there is a happy ending – for some. Following on from OPHELIA, QUEEN OF DENMARK and I AM JULIET, this is the third title in the series for young people that focuses on the reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s classic and enduring plays.

image courtesy of syndeticsThese Violent Delights.

A retelling of Romeo and Juliet set in 1926 Shanghai, China. Eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, heir of the Scarlet Gang, and her first love-turned-rival Roma Montagov, leader of the White Flowers, must work together when mysterious deaths threaten their city.– Provided by Publisher.

OMG Shakespeare!

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Also search our catalogue for more plays.


Ace your exams and homework!

Read the CliffsNotes on Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets that will help ease your homework headaches and help you score high on exams. Check out the following CliffNotes which includes As You Like it, Hamlet, Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet:

image courtesy of syndetics

image courtesy of syndetics

image courtesy of syndetics


You can search our catalogue for more CliffNotes. Also, check out more Shakespeare on the CliffNotes website.


Watch movies inspired by Shakespeare’s plays:

A midsummer night’s dream.

image courtesy of amazon.com

When two pairs of star-crossed lovers, a feuding pair of supernatural sprites and a love potion gone awry all come together in an enchanted moonlit forest, the result is a delightful mix of merriment and magic. Shakespeare’s romantic comedy is brought to life.

Hamlet.

image courtesy of amazon.com

In this first-ever full-text film of William Shakespeare’s work, the Prince of Denmark, Hamlet, returns home to find his father murdered and his mother remarrying the murderer. Meanwhile, war is brewing.

Love Labour’s Lost.

image courtesy of amazon.com

The King of Navarre (Alessandro Nivola) and his friends think that they cannot love again. When the Princess of France (Alicia Silverstone) and her attendants arrive for a visit, their plans are completely turned upside down in this 1930s-musical-style version of Shakespeare’s comedy featuring Berlin, Gershwin, Kern, and Porter song numbers.

Double dose of Much ado about Nothing (1993) and Much ado about Nothing (2013).

image courtesy of amazon.comimage courtesy of amazon.com

Two different retellings of  Shakespeare’s classic comedy about the story of sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick offers a sensual, tragic and occasionally absurd view of the intricate game that is love.

image courtesy of amazon.com image courtesy of amazon.com

Double dose of Romeo and Juliet (1968) and Romeo and Juliet (1996) .

Two different retellings of Shakespeare’s classic of star crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. The 1996 version staring a very young and impressionable Leonardo Dicaprio is a modern adaptation of the classic love story, moved to the futuristic urban backdrop of Verona Beach.

Also search our catalogue for more DVDs adapted from Shakespeare’s plays. 


Where to find more information?

Doing Classics at School? We got ya!

So, school is still a thing? Right?! I’m betting it is pretty hard to do school stuff from home as well as be around your family/bubble crew all day, as well as deal with what’s going on in the world. Lots of stuff happening, we can all agree. As I’m sure you know your teachers are doing everything they can in these hard times to keep your education ticking so be sure to say a massive thank you to the teachers in your life whenever you get a chance!

I thought I would put together a list of resources for anyone who is a CLASSICS student and is studying The Big Three.

Zeus, Poseidon and Hades, you ask?… (remembering the good ‘ol days of Percy Jackson)

No. The Odyssey, The Iliad and The Aeneid. These are three really common texts for senior High School Classics students to come across. If you’re doing something else at school -I’m sorry!- I’ll include some general resources in the bottom of this post.

Note: just like Shakespeare there are lots of different versions of ancient texts, with different page numbers, line numbers and even order of events. If you remember that a lot of these works are actually works of epic poetry it makes sense that depending on interpretation there might be quite different methods of presentation.  Remembering that some of it is poetry helps with reading it too, stick to the beat and rhyme rather than getting caught up in all the particulars and then later on go back and look up individual words you need to.

So: Check with your teacher what version of the text you are meant to be using!!!

Also: Heads up! Lots of ancient texts contain stories and imagery of violence and sexual violence, so look after yourself and check ratings of stuff (or avoid it completely if you need, talk to your teacher) if you are watching film versions.


Odyssey / Homer

Overdrive coverMini bio: Odysseus, after fighting in the Trojan War, tries to return back home to Ithaca and his wife Penelope, but because a lot of weird stuff happens to him, it takes ten years…you heard that right: ten years! 

  • This is a foundational example of a heroes quest.         
  • Odysseus is repeatedly shown to have the traits of Ancient Greek heroism through the ways that he defeats and overcomes the trials/tasks of his journey.
  • This story has been incredibly influential on storytelling since and is considered a fundamental text in our understanding of the time and ideas around manhood, heroism and what a quest is. In the end this is ultimately an adventure romp with villains, monsters, hot women with ulterior motives and a fair bit of magic.
  • In the context of this time and story, Odysseus’ decisions (somehow including the seven year fling) are meant to show that he is ultimately faithful to his his wife and overcomes temptation. I know, I know…MASSIVE double standards for men and women around sex and marriage… but back then they thought he did good!

The Iliad / Homer

Overdrive cover

Wee bit back in time from The Odyssey. Essentially a prequel to it with overlapping characters but different leads. Takes place during the Trojan War.

Mini bio: This book is set in the final weeks of the Trojan War, which if you think about it it a pretty interesting plot device, to start at the end of something. Lots of previous events are spoken of and implied but not shown. Essentially the Greeks are surrounding Troy because Paris, a prince of Troy took Menelaus, the King of Sparta’s wife Helen back with him from Greece to Troy. She is ‘the most beautiful woman in the world blah blah blah.’ Spoiler: the Greek side wins because of the horse, you know the rest. It’s in pop culture big time.

Featuring famous characters like: our old friend Odysseus, Achilles, Hector, Paris, Helen, many other mortals and a whole bunch of gods such as Zeus, Hera, Athena, Aphrodite…

If you want to see a film version of this with some seriously famous leads watch 2004’s TROY. Not a substitute for reading the text, the plot varies a bit, but a pretty fun movie.


The Aeneid / Virgil

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While the other two are GREEK stories this one is ROMAN. This story is written to detail the story of the founding of Rome. So basically when the Greeks storm Troy via a very crafty wooden horse, most of the Trojans are killed but Aeneas gets together a group of survivors who escape and sail out of Troy go on an adventure and eventually make it to Italy where he founds Rome. Dido, who is the Queen of Carthage falls in love with Aeneas for a period, eventually the gods remind him of his destiny and he leaves her to continue on his journey to Italy.

Importantly this story has as much to do with the Roman politician and ruler at the time, AUGUSTUS, as it does the foundation of Rome. There are constantly parallels made between Augustus and Aeneas and the Roman political state of the time this text was being written. It can be understood as political propaganda in this way, a statement and praise of Virgil’s political moment in time. This said, Virgil’s motives and ideas are not that straightforward and he also uses this text to comment negatively on the politics of his time, it’s a double whammy.


In summary

Episode one: The Iliad, The Greek armies win the war against Troy with a wooden horse. Lots of other stuff happens.

Episode two: The Odyssey, Odysseus takes a really ridiculously long amount of time to get home after fighting in the Trojan War. He does get home eventually. Lots of stuff happens.

Episode three (takes place at the same time as The Odyssey, kind of in a wiggly ancient history way, well at least starts after the Trojan War like The Odyssey): The Aeneid, Aeneas takes a really ridiculously long time to get to Italy and found Rome after he escapes from Troy after the Trojan War. Lots of other stuff happens.

If you want to learn things and read something entertaining check out Stephen Fry’s Mythos and Heroes! For something less serious, Courtney Carbone’s Greek Gods (#squadgoals) really hits the spot.

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