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Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare! Plan Some Literary Themed Fun for Your Residents This Month

William Shakespeare is said by many to have been born on 23 April 1564 – and to have died on the same date in 1616 – although exact dates are unknown. Therefore this time of year is ideal for celebrating the life and works of England’s greatest writer, who is also known as the Bard of Stratford-on-Avon. Shakespeare wrote almost 40 plays and more than 150 poems, based on powerful themes of love, comedy, history and tragedy. Countless films, musicals, TV series, ballets and more have been inspired by Shakespeare’s tales and he remains one of the most regularly studied writers across schools and universities worldwide.

Such is the enduring popularity of Shakespeare’s works that they remain a major source of inspiration for events and activities in many areas and organisations. This April, why not take some of this inspiration to set up some literary themed events for your care home residents? Take them back to their school-days’ studies and remind them of the beauty of Shakespeare’s language and verse.

Poetry readings

From some of the most beautiful sonnets ever written to familiar songs and witty rhyming couplets, Shakespeare’s poetry is as varied as it is prolific. Plan a poetry afternoon or evening for people to share their favourite Shakespeare verse. Participants can read aloud if they wish, or play recordings found online of famous actors delivering the verse. Or why not print out well-known Shakespeare poetry and provide paints and pencils to decorate the pages? You could create a book of everyone’s contributions to enjoy afterwards.

Film night

There have been numerous films made of Shakespeare’s plays over the decades. Many people love to revisit classic, period costume films of historical works like Julius Caesar, Henry V or Richard II. Meanwhile, films have also been based on, or inspired by the Bard’s plays, but given a modern twist. These include West Side Story (based on Romeo and Juliet), Kiss Me Kate (a musical adaptation of Taming of the Shrew), The Lion King (loosely inspired by Hamlet) and Ten Things I Hate About You (also Taming of the Shrew). Get out the popcorn, draw the curtains and enjoy a night or afternoon at the Bard-inspired movies.

Quotes and quizzes

“Neither a borrower, nor a lender be”… “the world is my oyster”… “vanish into thin air”… “for goodness’ sake.” These are just a few sayings first coined by Shakespeare in his writing that have entered into everyday parlance. Can you think of any others? Set up a fun quiz for residents asking them to name which plays these sayings have come from. Or list some famous Shakespearian lines “To be or not to be…” “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” and challenge people to identify which character says them. There are many different ways to run a quiz based on the Bard and his wisdom. After all, “all the world’s a stage…”

History brought to life

William Shakespeare lived and worked during the Tudor period and more specifically, the Elizabethan era, reigned over by Queen Elizabeth 1 from 1558 to 1603. The latter part of Shakespeare’s life also overlapped with the Jacobean period (the reign of King James I from 1603 until 1625). These times were rich with interesting developments in politics, music, fashion, food, medicine and education. Plenty of starting points for setting up a history club to explore this fascinating historical era. Invite a local historian in to give a talk. Residents could read a historical novel together, or the chefs could serve up some dishes that Shakespeare and his family would have eaten together.

Day trips Finally, there is nothing like watching live theatre. This obviously depends on where your care home is based, and how mobile and willing to get out and about your residents are. However, if you are close to a theatre that is putting on a Shakespeare play, or a cinema showing a suitable film, then this could be a really fun idea for a trip out this April. Or, if you are located close enough to places associated with Shakespeare, this could be another option. Examples might be Stratford-on-Avon, London, Windsor (setting for The Merry Wives of Windsor) or Inverness – home of that infamous “Scottish play” – Macbeth.

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