What Was Christmas Like for William Shakespeare?
Paul H. The Shakespearean Student
In this one-hour course, students will learn and play games that will explore the history behind Christmas traditions. We will also discuss the themes, characters, and famous quotes from Shakespeare's play "Twelfth Night."
US Grade 8 - 11
The goal of this class is to learn about both Shakespeare and the Elizabethan period through the lens of Christmas. I will begin by asking the class "What traditions do you think of when you think of Christmas? We will then contrast the traditions of Christmas from the 17th century and now, including a brief period when Christmas itself was illegal. Once I have contextualized this period, we will then go through the plot, characters, and themes of Shakespeare's most famous Christmas play-...
This class is taught in English.
1. Students will learn popular Elizabethan Christmas traditions in the country and the court such as wassailing, caroling, local plays, feasting, and games. 2. We will touch on the turbulent history of the Protestant restoration, and how the Puritan radicals briefly succeeded in banning Christmas. 3. We will learn about the famous Christmas celebrations at Hampton Court Palace, where Shakespeare's company frequently performed before the king and queen. Students will take a virtual tour of the palace, and imagine themselves as actors in Shakespeare's company performing before Queen Elizabeth herself! 4. I will delve into how all these Christmas traditions factor into Shakespeare's play that is literally named after a Christmas celebration, "Twelfth Night," including the games played in the play, and analyizing the song "O Mistress Mine, (which appears in Act II, Scene iii), and the play's general theme of learning to slow down and enjoy life for a little while.
Learners will not need to use any apps or websites beyond the standard Outschool tools.
This class will approach the traditions of Christmas strictly from a secular perspective. I will not endorse, criticize, or even examine the religious aspects of Christmas. None of the games and songs I mention actually mention the story of Jesus. I will briefly make a reference to the story of Herod because Shakespeare references it frequently in his plays. I use these traditions as a backdrop to explain how they might have inspired Shakespeare's play. For instance, the song I reference "O Mistress Mine," is not at all a Christmas song. As you can see here, the lyrics mention nothing of the biblical Christmas story: "O Mistress mine, where are you roaming? O stay and hear! your true-love’s coming That can sing both high and low; Trip no further, pretty sweeting, Journeys end in lovers’ meeting— Every wise man’s son doth know. What is love? ’tis not hereafter; Present mirth hath present laughter; What’s to come is still unsure: In delay there lies no plenty,— Then come kiss me, Sweet-and twenty, Youth’s a stuff will not endure." In short, the class is not concerned with the history of Christmas as a religious holiday, but mainly its status as a time of merriment and riotous fun, which directly ties in to the themes and characters of "Twelfth Night."
I will refer to the play "Twelfth Night" by William Shakespeare as a backdrop for the course. If the students wish to study the play beforehand, here is the full text of the play: https://shakespeare.folger.edu/shakespeares-works/twelfth-night/
Meet the teacher
I specialize in Shakespeare and Astronomy, having worked in theater for over 10 years, and for two years as a professional astronomy assistant. I teach courses in Shakespeare Appreciation and Shakespearean acting, as well as basic astronomy for...
Completed by 5 learners
Live video meetings
3-6 learners per class