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Why and how teachers should teach The Globe Theatre and Shakespeares Globe in the English classroom

Seminararbeit 2005 45 Seiten

Didaktik - Englisch - Pädagogik, Sprachwissenschaft



1. Introduction

2. Why should students learn something about The Globe Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe in courses on Shakespeare and his plays?

3. A teacher’s task: Planning lessons about The Globe Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe and organizing material

4. Ideas on how to start teaching the topic

5. Using the movie “Shakespeare in Love” for teaching the theatre topic

6. Some more ideas on how to teach The Globe and Shakespeare’s Globe

7. Conclusion

8. Bibliography

9. Attachments

1. Introduction

Rex Gibson says in his book “Teaching Shakespeare” that teachers who work with their students on a Shakespeare course are mainly looking at the plays or in most cases at one particular play of the playwright. The teacher’s focus on the play that he or she chose often results in lessons that are usually concerned with “story, characters, language, themes and dramatic effect” of the chosen play but “how far other elements are included in students’ Shakespeare experience is decided by the professional judgement and interests of each teacher.”[1]

Although the topic ‘William Shakespeare’ in the English classroom should be centred around one his plays, those “other elements” that are connected with Shakespeare’s plays should not be neglected altogether.

One important sub-topic of a Shakespeare course is the Elizabethan theatre and especially The Globe Theatre where Shakespeare worked as an actor, playwright and shareholder[2]. There are many reasons to explain why the Elizabethan theatres, or The Globe as probably the best example for a theatre of Shakespeare’s times, should be dealt with in a Shakespeare course in school.

The most important reason to cover the theatre topic in the Shakespeare classroom is, of course, the fact that the world-famous dramatist wrote his plays to be acted on stage[3]. But the Globe also played an essential part in Shakespeare’s life and the personal history of the author has manifold connections with the historical theatre. But despite the undisputable importance of teaching students at least something about The Globe and despite the fact that “Shakespeare’s life and times is a popular subject with students, relatively little space is given”[4] for dealing with the topic in schools.

In this seminar paper I want to discuss why and how The Globe as the best example for an Elizabethan theatre – or playhouse, as it would have been called in Shakespeare’s days – and Shakespeare’s Globe as a modern copy of The Globe should be included in a Shakespeare course aimed at German Sekundarstufe II students of English at a Gymnasium or at an Integrierte Gesamtschule.

I will also attach some material that can be used for the purpose of teaching students about The Globe to the seminar paper. I designed some of it myself, but also found some useful material on the internet. Since a seminar paper only offers limited space to discuss ideas in an exemplary manner I can not comment on all attached material, although every attached material offers different ways to use it for the topic.

Before I start discussing why the theatre topic should be an essential part of any Shakespeare course and how it could be done, I have to mention that despite a seemingly endless number of books on Shakespeare, his times and literature focussing on teaching Shakespeare, there are only a very small number of publications featuring suggestions and ideas on teaching students about The Globe and Shakespeare’s Globe.

2. Why should students learn something about The Globe Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe in courses on Shakespeare and his plays?

There are manifold reasons for teachers of English to work with their students on the topic of the Elizabethan theatre and The Globe when dealing with one of Shakespeare’s works.

I already mentioned that it might be quite exciting for students to learn something about the time in which the dramatist lived and what he did in his life besides writing plays that teachers still want to – or have to – read with their students. A journey into the past, the days of William Shakespeare, might be even more interesting for some students than just reading one of his texts. One of the reasons why it is motivating for students to acquire knowledge about Shakespeare’s time might be that it was so very different from the world they live in today. Many of the habits and customs, beliefs and traditions that characterize the Elizabethans and their theatre culture may seem somehow strange to German students of English and may therefore be an inviting topic. It can also be interesting and motivating for students to explore not only differences but similarities, too when they compare today’s theatre culture and the one that Shakespeare was a part of. Since students generally like learning about the world William Shakespeare lived in[5] teachers should use this fact and incorporate motivating lessons about the Elizabethan Theatre into their Shakespeare courses rather than just reading one of his plays. Since there are so many ways to create interesting lessons about The Globe and since it – with its close ties to Shakespeare’s life – was probably the most important of all Elizabethan theatres it shouldn’t cause too many difficulties to include this important topic in a motivating course on Shakespeare.

But working on the topic is not only interesting and motivating for students. Another reason for teaching students about Shakespearean theatre culture and The Globe is that it is often essential to have some knowledge about life in Elizabethan England to understand details of his plays. And in many of Shakespeare’s textual references to the theatre culture of the dramatist’s days can be found as well[6] that are only comprehensible for students if they have acquired the necessary knowledge before.

Furthermore it is generally recommendable for teachers who read a piece of literature with their students to offer them some insight into the historic circumstances in which the respective work was produced as this can lead to a better understanding of text that might be very unfamiliar to students at first[7]. And as Shakespeare in the first place wrote his plays to be performed on stage to entertain the audience of his times this advice is of course to be considered for the didactic planning of a Shakespeare course, too. The argument that literary texts shouldn’t be dealt with in class in isolation is also put forward in the “Rahmenplan Englisch für Gymnasium und Integrierte Gesamtschule” [8] .

Another reason for working with German students in their English lessons on the theatre topic is that it offers possibilities to cooperate with teachers of other subjects, too. Teaching students about The Globe and Shakespeare’s time in English lessons provides opportunities to work with teachers of history and arts. The students could benefit from acquiring some more background knowledge of England in the 16th and 17th century in their history lessons and from discussing architecture or costumes of Elizabethan times in arts lessons and learning more about theatres and especially The Globe in their English lessons. Dealing with the topic or various related aspects of it in other subjects – no matter if in the students’ mother tongue German or as part of bilingual classes in English – will certainly deepen the students understanding of Shakespeare’s times and therefore his plays.

But not only students would benefit from an interdisciplinary approach to the theatre topic in different subjects. Teachers that work together can share resources and their specialist knowledge among each other to learn more about the topic and Shakespeare’s time in general. It is also likely that cooperation improves the atmosphere among colleagues or in the school as a whole. An important precondition of this sort of cooperation is, of course, that the teachers know what their colleagues plan to do or did in their past lessons. That interdisciplinary forms of teaching – presupposed they are well prepared and performed – have very positive results for students and teachers in most cases can also be underlined by the fact that the “Rahmenplan” advocates this way of teaching, too[9].

There are several more didactic principles stated in the “Rahmenplan” that can also be applied for explaining why The Globe Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe should be included in courses on Shakespeare. Because it might be tiresome to mention and explain all of them I want to pick up one more aim that, according to the “Rahmenplan”, should be realized in English lessons. It says that teachers should not only focus on teaching the foreign language, but also the culture of the English speaking world[10]. One must admit that not only the plays William Shakespeare wrote are an essential part of the culture of Great Britain but that it is also the Shakespearean theatre culture which is an important part of British cultural identity and since Shakespeare and the theatres of his time also influenced European culture of the following centuries it should be implicit to teach students about The Globe.

The fact that The Globe and Elizabethan theatre culture in general are at the heart of British culture can also become obvious to students through the existence of Shakespeare’s Globe – a replica of the original Shakespearean playhouse and one of London’s most famous attractions which is “a major cultural landmark”[11] of international reputation today.

3. A teacher’s task: Planning lessons on The Globe and Shakespeare’s Globe and organizing material

Every teacher should ask him- or herself two basic questions before planning details to work on a new topic with his or her students: What is the relevance of the topic that I want to teach and do I have or will I find enough material to prepare lessons on this topic?

I hope I showed the relevance of the theatre topic in the previous chapter so that the next question to be answered is that for the material. As I said before there are many publications on Shakespeare and how to teach him and his plays and lots of useful material but in my research for this paper I hardly found anything in printed form on how to work on the topic The Globe Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe. The same has to be said for appropriate material for the classroom. Therefore it is a challenge for teachers to teach the topic but the importance of it justifies trying to overcome the problem. In preparing the topic and in organizing the material for the topic the teachers have to be creative and often need to make their own material – a task that every teacher should be used to anyway.

Despite the lack of good didactic literature and material on the theatre topic a lot of useful texts, pictures and some ideas on how to teach students about The Globe and Shakespeare’s Globe can be found in the internet.

Not only in this chapter but in the following ones as well I will assume that the topic is prepared for and dealt with at Sekundarstufe II, because I believe that working on it requires a good knowledge of the target language English as well as experience in organizing and performing rather difficult tasks that students rarely won’t have before the Sekundarstufe II level.

But before thinking about and looking for adequate material each teacher needs to decide how many lessons he or she wants to work on the topic. This is an important question if we assume that it is only a sub-topic in a course on Shakespeare and that it, in my opinion, should precede the more time extensive work on one of his plays. Although it is possible to work with German learners of English on one of the dramatists plays in Sekundarstufe I – sometimes this is even done to some extent in German lessons – I would advocate teaching students about The Globe and Elizabethan theatre culture in three to four lessons as initial part of a longer Shakespeare course in Sekundarstufe II. Although this should be done in a more detailed way in a Leistungskurs Englisch there are good reasons for a least sparing one or up to three lessons for the important and interesting sub-topic of a Shakespeare course in a Grundkurs Englisch class as well.

Finding good material of course means to take into account the level of proficiency in English that the students who are to work with the material possess. Many adequate texts about the original Globe-theatres – as there were more than one – of Shakespeare’s days and about Shakespeare’s Globe can be found online if teachers just use search engines, like google, with the right terms (e.g. “The Globe Theatre”, “Shakespeare’s Globe” etc.). It is of course the teacher’s task to check whether the information in the texts is correct. Some online-texts also contain spelling mistakes[12] which need to be corrected – if a print-out form is handed to students – or mentioned if students visit the text-pages themselves.

It is recommendable to use English texts on the topic since it should be aimed at to talk about the topic as part of a foreign language class in the target language for which texts in the target language – and the necessary vocabulary work on them – provide a solid foundation. The “Rahmenplan” also puts forward the idea of using authentic non-fictional texts to be chosen by the teacher in class[13] which could be used in this case to collect information on The Globe and Shakespeare’s Globe.

The fact that most texts and also good pictures and photographs that are useful for the classroom are available online doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem for preparing and teaching the topic but it also offers opportunities. Since the “Rahmenplan” says that it is a required skill of students in Sekundarstufe II “sich englischsprachige Informationen zu beschaffen”[14] it is, in my opinion, a good chance to include a lesson on the topic where students are asked to search for certain bits of information in the web themselves. Although this means that the teacher has to book the IT-room in advance – and that there has to be an IT-room in his or her school in the first place – it is probably worth the little effort. Today’s students usually don’t need much help in handling computers and finding their way in the world wide web and it might be a motivating activity for them to use a computer and the internet in English lesson, too. If the school does not have an IT-room or access to it is difficult it is also possible to ask students to work in groups to find material and texts on the topic. This can be done in form of a homework and the results of the research can then be presented and evaluated in class with the students.

Using the internet and the numerous good pages on the original Globe theatres and Shakespeare’s Globe will also train the “Methodenkompetenz” of students which is marked out in the “Rahmenplan Englisch” as part of the “Kompetenz-Ansatz”[15] and which is therefore a competence that has to be trained in the English classroom, too.

Finally, it needs to be said that teachers who plan working on the Globe-topic should try to design motivating lessons for their students in which essential skills – reading, writing, understanding and speaking – required in a foreign language class are trained. So although “each teacher decides what constitutes appropriate choice and variety, taking into account his or her view of ‘Shakespeare’, the characteristics of the students, and the school context: time and space available”[16] it is necessary to find or design interesting and motivating exercises that are suitable – neither too easy nor too difficult – for the students to practice and advance in these four fields of English besides acquiring new knowledge on such an interesting topic as The Globe Theatre. Rex Gibson says in his book on teaching Shakespeare that “appropriate methods and tasks are those which are appropriate to students’ abilities, and which always seek to extend and deepen those abilities”[17]. And it is of course not only the teacher’s task to find good and adequate material but to think of the best methods to work with it as well. Each teacher has to find the way he or she thinks most fitting for him- or herself and the students.

4. Ideas on how to start teaching the topic

In this chapter I want to discuss some ways in which a teacher could introduce the theatre topic in his or her classroom. Every teacher knows the students he or she has to work with so that in the end it is, of course, the individual choice of each teacher to decide for a fitting introduction to the topic.

But since it is a fact that “der Erkenntnisdrang des Schülers durch die Spannung zwischen Wissen und Nichtwissen ausgelöst wird”[18] teachers can use this knowledge to start with the topic. One possibility would be to ask students which theatres – maybe also of international reputation – they know. I believe that teachers can expect their students to name at least one theatre – usually the one in their hometown or in a neighbouring town because it is very likely that students have visited a performance with teachers of German or English before. It is also likely that they know the “Kodak Theatre” – the place where international movie stars are awarded with the Oscars /Academy Awards – or they may remember it if useful hints are given by the teacher. It is also possible that students know other international theatres that they might have seen or been in during holidays with their families.

If teachers began their course on Shakespeare with a lesson on Shakespeare’s life – which would then offer a good chance to continue with the theatre topic – students will hopefully also still remember the name of the theatres for which the dramatist worked.

Teachers could also use pictures of various theatres that students know or might not know yet. Material containing pictures and photographs of theatres are easy to design since it is not difficult to find pictures of theatres online. Attachment 1 shows different theatres and teachers could ask their students for example which of the theatres they know or give the names of the theatres shown and ask the students to guess which one is which. Another possible question when using the attached material 1 would be ‘Which of the theatres shown could be The Globe Theatre?’. If students already know by that time that The Globe was the theatre – or playhouse – that Shakespeare worked in and wrote plays for it is certainly easy for them to guess but then the material still shows some more theatres that the students could speculate about. They could also be asked to speculate which of the theatres are reconstructions of the original Globe.

Another approach to the topic is to let students speculate on how performances and theatres in Shakespeare’s days might have been like before actually learning about it. For this teachers might use pictures of The Globe and outlines and ground plans of the theatre. It is not difficult to find these things online[19] and to present it in class – in form of an overhead transparency or enlarged print-outs. Students will possibly think of theatres and theatre-goers nowadays and might think that theatres in the Elizabethan days were something like the theatres they know. So the approach to let them speculate about theatre culture of the past offers some room to surprise them as there are so many differences – besides the few similarities – that this could also be a another good way to introduce the topic in the classroom. Furthermore, to start a new topic with students’ speculations might keep them interested in the topic because they possibly want to find out if they were right or wrong.


[1] Gibson: Teaching Shakespeare, p. 150.


[3] Gibson: Teaching Shakespeare, p. 7.

[4] Gibson: Teaching Shakespeare, p. 212.

[5] Gibson: Teaching Shakespeare, p. 212.

[6] Hilda D. Spears mentions for example a prologue from “Henry V.” where the audience is addressed to use its imagination to recreate a battle in France in its mind.

[7] Rahmenplan Englisch für Gymnasium und Integrierte Gesamtschule, 11-13, 2002, S. 12.

[8] Rahmenplan Englisch für Gymnasium und Integrierte Gesamtschule, 11-13, 2002, S. 12.

[9] Rahmenplan Englisch für Gymnasium und Integrierte Gesamtschule, 11-13, 2002, S. 5.

[10] Rahmenplan Englisch für Gymnasium und Integrierte Gesamtschule, 11-13, 2002, S. 6.


[12] for example the text “Performanaces in the original Globe” at which besides the spelling mistake in the headline contains some more mistakes but offers a lot of useful information on the topic in English that Gernan English learners of Sekundarstufe II can easily understand.

[13] Rahmenplan Englisch für Gymnasium und Integrierte Gesamtschule, 11-13, 2002, p. 11.

[14] Rahmenplan Englisch für Gymnasium und Integrierte Gesamtschule, 11-13, 2002, p. 7.

[15] Rahmenplan Englisch für Gymnasium und Integrierte Gesamtschule, 7-10, 2002, p. 5f.

[16] Gibson: Teaching Shakespeare, p. 23.

[17] Gibson: Teaching Shakespeare, p. 23.

[18] Rahmenplan Englisch für Gymnasium und Integrierte Gesamtschule, 11-13, 2002, p. 5.

[19] pictures of the original Globe are available at:, and outlines and ground plans are to be found at: and


ISBN (eBook)
1.5 MB
Institution / Hochschule
Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald – Institut für Anglistik / Amerikanistik
Globe Theatre Shakespeares English



Titel: Why and how teachers should teach The Globe Theatre and Shakespeares Globe in the English classroom