Introduction: The first thing a unit on Shakespeare should address is the big question: Why exactly do American 12th Graders need to read plays by some guy more than 400 years ago? The article for this lesson is “Why Does Shakespeare Still Compel Us?” by Adam Leipzig. In this piece, Leipzig offers his idea. As you read, take notes on why he thinks we still read Shakespeare today.  

Note Taking: First, read the article through to get a sense of it. Then, Annotate the article. Under Course Information is a resource that discusses how and why to annotate.

Read Actively: Leipzig is a literary expert, and so he will probably discuss a lot of plays you are not familiar with, films you have not seen, and quote lines that you haven’t heard before. As you read, keep your mind open and read actively. Try to put together Leipzig’s general meaning even if you don’t fully understand his specifics. Ask yourself: Can I use context clues to help me understand what his argument is? Or should I look this up? Read it through first to get a general sense and then dig into portions you did not understand.

Response: The author brings up a common argument that the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays is sometimes disputed, but asserts that who wrote Shakespeare’s plays is not important. What support does he offer for this argument? Paraphrase Leipzig’s argument using your own words.

Now, you will read another article about reading Shakespeare in modern day. This one has a light-hearted almost joking tone. As you read, read “between the lines” and look for what the writer is saying with the humor she uses.

Just like in the last reading, engage your brain as you read. You might not understand all of the jokes, but try to get a sense of what the writer’s point is anyway. If you feel like you cannot understand the point, then do some research on the internet and try to figure it out.

As last time, read the article through first; then, reread the article and annotate as you go.

Article: Is Shakespeare still relevant? 

Synthesize your reading: You have now read two articles discussing the importance and relevance of Shakespeare for current audiences. Using your notes, imagine that these two writers are speaking to one another on this topic. Write a short paragraph that summarizes and compares the writer’s points to one another.

Here is a resource called They Say/I Say. This is based on a book by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein. This will give you suggested structures for summarizing a source’s point and responding to it in an academic manner. Choose one or more of these sentences to fill out, or write your own similar ones. Your goal is to summarize both author’s arguments and respond to them.

They Say/ I Say Templates

You have now read two articles that both point out Shakespeare’s “timelessness” – the fact that his plays retain their importance because they are not about a time or place but about what it means to be human. The essence of this timelessness is called Theme. As you read the next article, take notes on what theme means, how Shakespeare uses theme, and some common themes in Shakespeare. 

Respond: The article names several common themes in Shakespeare’s plays. Choose one of the themes from your notes and do a five-minute free write. Think about what you would say about it if you were a writer beginning to work on a play featuring that theme.


The article you read by Leipzig discussed briefly that whether or not Shakespeare ever existed or wrote his own plays was not important. You did some writing on this idea yourself. Now, expand your thinking as you read the entry from on William Shakespeare. As you read, take notes on important facts. Also, pay attention to the unique way that the writer of this article tells you what is not known about Shakespeare.  

Oftentimes, writers will skip over information that they do not know and instead focus on what they do understand. This can create a skewed or incorrect impression for the reader. In this article, the writer attempted to show us the holes in the historical record.

For your writing activity, locate three passages from the article where the author acknowledged a lack of information and explained it. Then, reflect on your own writing. Why could it be important to discuss the spaces where your paper lacks solid information?


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