Click here to listen to the podcast version of my post “Shakespeare and Five Nights At Freddies.”
New Trailer/ Special offer on my Murder Mystery Game!
This is my new trailer for my fully online, fully immersive murder mystery game based on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” You play as a detective hired to solve the mystery of Juliet’s murder. You will piece together the plot and characters of Romeo and Juliet, but also use forensic science to identify clues, interrogate suspects, and examine the crime scene just like a real detective! Register now at Outschool.com SPECIAL OFFER: Get $5 off the murder mystery class with coupon code HTHESSQ76F5 until Apr 22, 2023. Get started at https://outschool.com/classes/romeo-a… and enter the coupon code at checkout.
Romeo and Juliet Murder Mystery Course!
I’m pleased to announce my brand-new, fully immersive, fully online murder mystery game! Similar to my “Macbeth” and “Interactive Guide To London,” course, the course is a series of slides, videos, digital activities, and websites that you explore and complete based on your knowledge of a Shakespeare play. Unlike that course, this one also includes real-life science experiments and handy guides to both the play “Romeo and Juliet” and forensic science!
Background on the game
Through a series of slides, you’ll learn that you are playing the part of a detective, hired by Juliet’s parents to investigate her sudden death. You’ll read her obituary, look at a crime scene photo, and the story so far.
Parts of the course:
The class is divided into 8 parts that students can complete at their own pace over a 4-week period. Once you are signed up for the class, you will receive a link to a Nearpod Presentation that has links to all the online activities. You will also receive a detective case file, that will serve as your notes as you record your discoveries through the mystery. Finally, I will provide you with a course cheat sheet and a list of resources in case you need help through the various activities.
Week 1: The Scene Of the Crime
The student will learn, not only about the plot of “Romeo and Juliet,” but also the way real detectives and forensic scientists follow clues and try to solve crimes, in this case, an apparent death by poisoning.
Activity 1: Poison Analysis
In a pre-recorded video, The Investigator introduces himself. He is in the middle of doing a toxicology test on the vial found near Juliet’s bed. He explains that most poisons are either highly acidic or highly alkali (aka, bases). Testing the liquid’s PH will help you determine if the substance is poisonous or not.
In a short simulation via Nearpod, you will test multiple liquids for acidity or alkalinity. You’ll even learn how to test substances in your own home for acidity and for alkaline properties!
Week 2: Crime Scene Investigation
Using the Nearpod slides and a linked website, you’ll figure out what happened to Juliet’s cousin Tybalt the day before her own mysterious death.
Activity 3: Unlock Juliet’s Computer
Using Shakespeare’s text, you will decode a secret password to unlock Juliet’s website (Google Sites). Using Juliet’s (fake) Twitter account, you will read her account of the events of the play thus far. Each tweet is paraphrased from a line of Shakespearean
dialogue. Once you’ve read the fake tweets, you can play a game where you match them with the real Shakespearean dialogue.
Activity 4: Fingerprint Analysis
You will ‘scan’ a fingerprint found on the vial found in Juliet’s bed. The website will tell you who it’s from and you will record it in your case file. You’ll also learn how to take your own fingerprints, and the characteristics real detectives look for when analyzing them.
Week 4: Construct a Timeline/ Make the Arrest:
Using your case file, you will write the sequence of events thus far in your case file and write down information about the suspects (the characters in the play), in the format of a police dossier.
The activities will enrich the student(s)’ understanding of the plot and characters of “Romeo and Juliet” using the format of a murder mystery In addition, the students will learn the methods practiced by detectives, investigators, and forensic scientists when they solve real crimes including toxicology, fingerprint analysis, CSI, and interrogation techniques.
Please sign up now at www.outschool.com!
Announcing ROMAN MONTH!
In honor of “The Ides Of March” and Women’s History Month, I’ve planned a series of posts, podcasts, activities, and videos all related to “Julius Caesar” and Shakespeare’s female characters. Here’s a preview:
Play of the Month: Julius Caesar
Why “Mean Girls” is like Julius Caesar
Close Reading: Friends, Romans, Countrymen
The Fashion is the Fashion- Julius Caesar- Togas, helmets, etc.
Mock Trial- Julius Caesar
Shakespeare Recipes- Roman Pies
Crafting A Character: Brutus
The turbulent history of “Julius Caesar” in America
Special Promo Event!
Be sure to subscribe for all the fun!
Get $5 off when you sign up for my online class “The Violent Rhetoric of Julius Caesar” with coupon code HTHESIIAW75 until Mar 28th.
Review: Romeow and Drooliet by Nina Laden
What It Keeps
The book keeps the feud between the two families, has the young lovers meet in disguise at a ball, fall in love on a balcony, get married, and amazingly, DIE! Laden still manages to tell the story in a kid-friendly way, though giving it tragic weight.
The book opens with a rhyming prologue, which, although it isn’t in sonnet form, has the same function as Shakespeare’s prologue- to explain the plot before we see it played out in the book, thus giving the whole story a sense of dramatic irony. Plus, as you can see, Laden also imitates Shakespeare’s love of wordplay with metaphors and puns, (a tale of tails), and alliteration to give the dialogue some wit and effervescence. Reading it gave me giggles like I’d just popped open some champagne.
What it changes: Spoiler alert
All throughout, Laden makes small changes to simplify the plot and remove characters that don’t directly impact the main plot. The characters of Lord/Lady Capulet and Lord/Lady Montegue, The Nurse, Paris, Peter, the servants, and the friars are completely absent, turning an already brief play into an even more compressed story.
Like a lot of animal retellings I’ve seen of this story, the author recasts the human leads as animals that are natural enemies- in this case, cats and dogs. This makes the story easier for kids to understand- as I’ve said before, it’s often difficult to keep track of who belongs to which house in Shakespeare’s version. All you need to know is that Romeo and his brothers are cats and Juliet’s family are dogs.
Funnily enough, my daughter actually complained that the story would’ve been better if Juliet were a cat instead of Romeo, which I agree with for very specific reasons. The character of Tybalt is named after a character from a prose story called “Reynard the Fox,” who had the epithet, Prince of CATS. Mercutio annoys Tybalt by taunting him with this title before challenging him to a duel:
Tybalt: What would you with me?
Mercutio: Good Prince of Cats, nothing but one of your nine lives! Romeo and Juliet, Act III, Scene i.
It would’ve been a funny Shakespeare easter egg to have Juliet and Tybalt be portrayed as cats, but I understand why they went with dogs- Drooliet is a hilarious pun, and having Tybalt be a vicious, rabid dog helps set him up as a fearsome antagonist.
I suppose you’re wondering, how can the author keep Shakespeare’s tragic ending in a children’s book? Well, like Shroedinger’s cat, she manages to make Romeow die and not die at the same time. He gives Drooliet one of his 9 lives, allowing them both to ‘die’ and then come back for a happy ending. It’s a brilliant way to nod at the original, while also keeping the kid-friendly tone.
This book is really fun and very enjoyable for kids, parents, and teachers who want to introduce kids to Shakespeare at an early age!
Just below you can watch the book being read by actress Hayle Duff:
Free teaching guide from the SAG-Aftra Foundation
Graphic Novel Review: “Kill Shakespeare: VOl 4.” a Dark and angsty Shakespeare fanfic.
In this section, I review a Shakespeare book, movie, or TV show that I feel has some kind of value, either as an interpretation of Shakespeare, or a means to learn more about the man and his writing.
- Name: Kill Shakespeare (Vol. 4) by Connor McCreery and Anthony Del Col
- Media: Graphic Novel compilation, with accompanying website https://www.killshakespeare.com/
- Ages: Adult/ Teen. There’s some PG-13 language and a lot of fighting and gore, so it’s not really for kids
- Premise: William Shakespeare is more than just a simple playwright- he has a magic quill that brings his characters to life. Some of the characters worship him like a god or like a father. Many others, (as the title implies), want him dead. A faction of outlaw heroes who call themselves The Prodigals are trying to protect Shakespeare, including Juliet and Hamlet, but in this volume, they’ll have to face raging seas, bloodthirsty pirates, and the mind-altering effects of the island in Volume 3, which has pushed them all to near-madness.
My reaction: Volumes 1&2 was framed like a civil war between the heroes and villains of the Shakespeare canon- basically an Infinity War for Shakespeare nerds. This volume is in the context of a high-seas pirate adventure. It has a lot of cool fights and the drama between Cesario and Viola is great, but honestly, I thought it was poorly paced. Maybe it’s my personal taste, but it’s hard to keep myself invested in the story when everyone is stuck on a boat.
As I said in my review of Volume 2, what I like the most about this graphic novel is that the characters are consistent with how the real Shakespeare wrote him, yet they make different choices in the graphic novel. They also grow and play off each other in many interesting ways. Here are some examples:
Most of the drama of the graphic novel centers around Captain Cesario, a dashing rogue pirate, and his first mate/ girlfriend Viola. The main characters from Volume 2, (Shakespeare, Hamlet, Juliet, and Othello), have escaped the effects of the island run by the mad wizard Prospero, but are still shell-shocked at feeling the terrifying psychic effects of that island. This is a clever plot device that basically makes it makes all the characters unnecessary except for Hamlet and Juliet. You could look at this installment as the story of 2 couples, (dare I say twin couples) where Viola and Cesario are fighting over whether or not to join Shakespeare and the other Prodigals, to remain on the high sea as pirates, or to betray them and become ingratiated with the fearsome cannibal-pirate Lucius Andronicus.
I won’t give too much away (there are some spoilers), but let’s just say that the relationships in Volume 2 have been tested to the breaking point; Hamlet and Juliet are having extreme problems, (almost as bad as Hamlet and Ophelia). Viola and Cesario are also fighting constantly. In addition, the ship is constantly under threat from the feared pirate Lucius Andronicus. Will the characters solve their internal conflicts before a mutiny breaks out? Or will they all be cut to pieces by the cannibal Lucius? On this boat, tempests are not kind, and salt waves are fresh with DEATH!
Shakespeare Easter Eggs
Kill Shakespeare, Volume 4 is largely based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, which, although it mainly focuses on the courts of Duke Orsino and Countess Olivia, does have aspects of pirates, deception, and lovers quarreling. It is interesting (and I give the writers credit) for taking a light-hearted comedy with songs and dances and turning it into a swashbuckling pirate adventure; that takes real imagination, yet it works with the text; the first time we see Viola she is shipwrecked and the captain that saves her life is arrested offstage. This prompts Viola to disguise herself by wearing her twin brothers’ clothes and donning the non-de-plume Cesario, in order to freely behave like a man in a man’s world. Shakespeare already made Viola’s fate intertwined with the sea, so it makes sense that she might want to be a pirate. Kill Shakespeare takes Viola’s two identities and makes them two separate people, both intertwined with a love of the sea.
The graphic novel also conflates and expands other pirate characters from the play; there’s another captain in the play named Antonio who saves Viola’s brother Sebastian, and is accused of being a pirate, While Viola in Twelfth Night is a noblewoman who out of necessity disguises herself as a man and becomes a servant to a Duke, Viola in this version is trying to escape being a noblewoman and becomes a pirate by choice. Meanwhile, Antonio, who denies being a pirate, is changed into the roguish Cesario, who loves Viola as much as Antonio loves her brother Sebastian in the play. Like Antonio, Cesario cares about Viola’s well-being and is willing to sacrifice everything to keep her safe, even being a pirate. This causes friction between the two since again, Viola wants to continue to be a pirate and would rather die than give it up. Their conflicting roles as shipmates and soulmates keep them at odds during the play, sort of like how Cesario’s mask is split down the middle; half tragic, and half comic.
I think this graphic novel is poorly paced. Most of the first half consists of Cesario and Viola arguing about what to do with Shakespeare and the rest of the Prodigals. Their drama is good, but it supersedes everybody else, and I found myself wondering what was going to happen to Shakespeare and the rest, and wishing that they’d got more focus. Othello is reduced to a plot device because he is madly searching for Desdemona, whom he killed during the events of Shakespeare’s play. Othello is no longer the honest, loyal friend to Juliet that he was in the previous editions; now he’s more like The Incredible Hulk, filled with animalistic rage and unable to be controlled except by the love of his friend Juliet. In some ways, Othello was the most likable character in the previous volumes so I hated to see him like this.
In addition, the constant couples’ bickering gets a little bit tedious; I suppose that’s inevitable when you take all the comic elements out of Twelfth Night, (Sir Toby and Feste are back in Volume One, and Malvolio, Fabian, and Olivia are nowhere to be seen). I did enjoy the ending where Viola resolves her conflict with Cesario much the same way Viola solves the problem of her being Cesario in the play. I also like the way that they built up the antagonist Lucius from Titus Andronicus. Lucius is a good choice for a villain in this world because he’s seen some truly horrible things in his own play like his father mutilating people, his brothers and sister murdered, and the worst pie recipe of all time. Making Lucius a bloodthirsty, cannibalistic pirate is a great choice. Still I wish they spent more time fighting with him instead of sailing away from him. In short, the characters are compelling as ever but the action is lagging and the drama is reduced to mostly petty couple squabbling. I would like to see this series pick up in a more action-packed version more in keeping with a graphic novel.
Recommendation: I’d recommend this book to all mature fans of Shakespeare, anime, Manga, D&D, or any kind of nerd stuff!
Grade: 3 Shakespeare globes.
- Official Website:
Special Valentines DIscount
I’m offering a special discount for my fully online classes from now to February 20th.
Get $5 off my classes “An Interactive Guide to Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and “An Interactive Guide to Romeo and Juliet” with coupon code HTHES5P20Y5 until Mar 20, 2023. Get started at https://outschool.com/classes/an-interactive-guide-to-shakespeares-macbeth-jp7TIh9B and enter the coupon code at checkout.
Happy Twelfth Day of Christmas Everyone!
Hello everyone! I’m back from break and happy to celebrate one of my favorite holidays with you- the one that gave its name to one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies- Twelfth Night
How to throw a Twelfth Night Party
How To Throw A Twelfth Night Party
How to Make a Twelfth Night Cake
Intro to Twelfth Night (THe play)
I’ve been in this play three times and I’m continually struck by how fun, romantic, and progressive it is. It raises questions about gender roles, social norms, bullying, and even catfishing and heteronormativity! It’s a fascinating and thought-provoking play and it’s my favorite of Shakespeare’s comedies!
Shakespeare’s early comedies are about young love, infatuation, and being ‘madly in love’ (sometimes literally). His middle plays are about mature relationships between men and women and the need for commitment. I would argue that Twelfth Night, (and possibly Much Ado About Nothing), are the best examples of Shakespeare telling meaningful stories about romantic relationships.
Past Posts on “Twelfth Night”
- Play of the Month: Twelfth Night
- The Fashion Is the Fashion: Twelfth Night
- Crafting a Character: Malvolio
- Exquisite Artwork from Twelfth Night
Would you like to know more? Take a class!
In honor of “Twelfth Night,” I’ve created a coupon for my course on Shakespeare’s comedies from now till January 31st: Get $10 off my class “Shakespeare’s Comic Plays” with coupon code HTHESYTIT110 until Jan 31, 2023. Get started at https://outschool.com/classes/shakespeares-comic-plays-868BR5hg and enter the coupon code at checkout.
To finish I wanted to give you a complete production of Twelfth Night for your viewing pleasure, but I can’t decide which one, so I will post a bunch today!
1. 1996 TV movie starring Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of the Caribbean)
2.1996 Thames TV directed by Kenneth Branaugh
Keep calm and Podcast on: my 2022 wrapup
Thanks to everyone who’s been listening to my podcast over the last two years. I hope to make much more content and continue to write, talk, and teach about Shakespeare for a long time to come. Thanks for a good 2022, and here’s hoping for an even better 2023!