Holistic Shakespeare (Book)

An Experiential Learning Approach

Shakespeare's plays are staples of the classroom. Yet too often they are taught as antiquated works of literature with little reference to their theatrical life and enduring human themes. Applying the methodologies of the holistic education model to the study of four Shakespearean plays – Othello, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Measure for Measure – Holistic Shakespeare offers lively theatre-based activities to complement traditional analytical exercises. In keeping with the aims of holistic education, each play is studied in relation to a particular social or ethical topic addressed in the work.

Despite abundant scholarly works in the field of Shakespeare studies, few texts combine analytical and creative learning methodologies – and none before has specifically applied the principles of holistic education to the topic. Accessible to both teachers and learners, this book will be an essential tool for making Shakespeare come to life in the classroom.


The standard analytical approach to teaching Shakespeare does not tend to help students understand the theatricality of the Bard’s plays and can leave them with an overly dry, disconnected view of Shakespeare.

Designed to address this problem, Holistic Shakespeare combines analysis with creative learning methods. Holistic Shakespeare acts as a guide for teachers as well as enabling students to feel as if they are in the stands of the Globe Theatre actually watching the play. This book is designed to explain the methodologies and values of the holistic educational model, which is directed toward whole-brain, integrated and experiential learning that motivates students to think deeply about the interlinks between what they learn in the classroom and the significant moral and ethical questions that impact their everyday lives. Further, in the holistic Shakespeare classroom, application of these foundational concepts opens up a fertile pathway that leads students toward a more intimate understanding of how Shakespeare thought – about himself, his relationships and his environment. In holistic education, WHOLENESS (or holism) describes an integrated curricular approach that places value on the complete learner and cultivates every student’s unique potential to become active, thinking and caring contributors to the larger world.

Holistic Shakespeare embraces the text’s definitive status as a theatrical script, making performance-based activities an indispensable instructional tool. Like the exciting creative buzz that pervades the rehearsal room, the holistic learning environment is active, process-oriented, cooperative and exploratory, which restores true ownership of the educational journey to the place where it belongs – in the hands of the student. Performance-based teaching has reinvigorated the Shakespeare classroom in recent decades.

Debra Charlton is director of graduate studies in theatre at Texas State University.

Chapter I: Thinking Like Shakespeare
Chapter II: Stages of Green: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Chapter III: The Morality of Power: Measure for Measure
Chapter IV: The Rhetoric of Hate: Othello
Chapter V: Art, Science, and Mysticism: The Tempest
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