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How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 11, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0307951496 ISBN-10: 0307951499 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (June 11, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307951499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307951496
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.3 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,313 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Don’t be fooled by the title. This book is for anyone who wants to brush up on Shakespeare… Don’t buy this book to teach your children; take them along as you commit these beautiful speeches to memory.” --Kirkus 

"Ken Ludwig's enthusiasm for Shakespeare and his lucid, accessible and inspiring book on How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare is a rare treat. You and your children will be transformed into the magic and mystery of Shakespeare and his stories in an instant. I highly recommend the book to all who have a love of language and history."  - Sir Derek Jacobi, CBE

How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare is an inspired and inspiring book.  It’s also a deeply rewarding one that will bring a great deal of pleasure to many parents and children.  Ken Ludwig, a wonderful playwright, proves to be a superb guide to Shakespeare as well.”  - James Shapiro, author of A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare and Contested Will
"I wish someone had given this book to my parents. It would have made a life-changing task downright fun. Ken Ludwig is a smart, congenial and inventive guide, and everywhere in this remarkable book he takes the strangeness out of Shakespeare's work and leaves the enchanting mystery. A book for all lovers, and potential lovers, of Shakespeare. Like nothing else, it creates a magical home theater for parents and their children."  - J. D. McClatchy, Yale University

"I have been in [Ken's] home.  His children really do know Shakespeare.  Read the book and you'll see why.  It's scholarship dancing around with fun." - Hal Holbrook

About the Author

KEN LUDWIG is an internationally acclaimed playwright who has had numerous hits on Broadway, in London’s West End, and throughout the world. He has won two Laurence Olivier Awards (England’s highest theater honor), received three Tony Award nominations, and won two Helen Hayes Awards and the Edgar Award. His work has been commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and has been performed in at least thirty countries in over twenty languages. Some of his Broadway and West End shows include Crazy for You, Lend Me a Tenor, Moon Over Buffalo, Twentieth Century, and adaptations of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Treasure Island. He studied music at Harvard with Leonard Bernstein and theater history at Cambridge University in England. Visit him at

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Customer Reviews

The author's passion for all things Shakespeare shines through the pages and makes this a very enjoyable read.
Bradley Bevers
In this book, How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, Ludwig has provided a user-friendly and easy method for teaching children to memorize Shakespeare.
Stephanie Buckner
My kids and I had read some Shakespeare together, but this book will send us back to the plays equipped to mine the many riches we had missed before.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Ken C. TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I know, I know. If you're a classical music fan, you object to classical radio stations that play only PARTS of symphonies, and so, I suppose, you could object to HOW TO TEACH YOUR CHILDREN SHAKESPEARE, but really, is not a sampling of the Bard's greatest hits a worthy warm-up for more ambitious readings of entire plays in the future? Rhetorical question, of course.

Here playwright in his own right, Ken Ludwig, identifies 25 great speeches from Shakespeare to teach your children (as young as age 6). But really, the book's intended audience should not be confined to ambitious parents and precocious children. Teachers can use the book, too, to identify 25 terrific introductions to Shakespeare for their students. Not only does Ludwig order them from simplest (A Midsummer Night's Dream and Twelfth Night) to most challenging (Hamlet and The Tempest), he provides learned commentary along the way, helping with certain words and expressions in Elizabethan English. For instance, you'll learn that when Juliet says, "Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?" she does not mean, "Where are you, Romeo?" she means, "O, Romeo, Romeo, why do you have to be named Romeo -- and therefore a Montague?" This is because, as Ludwig informs us, "wherefore" meant "why" in Elizabethan times.

Meaning? If you are childless, you can brush up on Shakespeare yourself and just chuckle at the title. You'll read (or memorize) great lines from key scenes of such plays as Macbeth, Henry IV, As You Like It, and Henry V (in addition to those mentioned earlier). What's more, in the appendices, Ludwig provides 25 additional scenes from other plays that can be pursued individually. All told, a treasure trove of good stuff worthy of memorization and performing.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Cordelia VINE VOICE on July 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Memorization, once a key component of a child's education, has been derided in this computer age when information is available at our fingertips. Years ago, every child memorized poetry, famous political speeches like the Gettysburg Address, and much more. However, setting memorization aside in favor of simply understanding concepts has deprived a generation or more of a rich literary and cultural heritage that once nestled within the child's own mind instead of at the click of a mouse. Without appropriating this heritage, many connections to other works of literature, history, etc. become lost to the child.

And more than memorization is at work here. This book helps you to help your child understand Shakespeare starting from manageable bites to long soliloquies, richly savoring the meanings of words and phrases, and the humor and pathos of Shakespeare's characters, and learn that many phrases and idioms we take for granted in English originated with Shakespeare. The author even gives hints on how to read or recite Shakespeare with proper emphasis and expression. This book makes Shakespeare fun without "modernizing" it or making it silly in an effort to appeal to modern kids (an approach which I always found to be beneath the abilities and dignity of children.

I found myself wanting, at the end of the book, a "teacher's cheat sheet" that would summarize the steps. But that would miss the point and turn this into another rote lesson, instead of a chance for me to learn side by side with my kids, teaching them according to what inspires, interests, and touches us most as the author did with his own children, rather than from a strict lesson plan.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mark #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare is not a casual read. It is surprisingly effective though, not only at learning how to teach Shakespeare, but at learning about some of his key works yourself.

The author's approach centers on memorization. That is not something I thought I would have agreed with. However, actually reading the book and working through the author's examples, it's an approach that becomes surprisingly convincing.

The book centers on twenty five passages from various Shakespearean works. But the author uses the themes and techniques from these passages to highlight more universal ideas. In that sense, I think that one can not only come away having memorized these 25 passages. One can also have a better appreciation and understanding of the language and imagery of Shakespeare.

The author has also placed a lot of background information on Shakespeare in the book. These asides are carefully located in places where they add insight into his work.


This is a book that takes a traditional approach to a traditional subject. Yet it does it in a novel way. It is effective and highly readable. The author's admonition to memorize these passages out loud means this will not be ideal for the beach or the commute to work. But for those with an interest in learning Shakespeare and sharing his work with their children, this is a book that meets the objective.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By LRK VINE VOICE on July 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
So the book was great overall, but did not meet the expectation placed by the title regarding HOW to teach Shakespeare. The author give one chapter on HOW...which mostly consists of "say it over and over again adding lines as they are ready".

The value of the book is in the background given on the selections from Shakespeare offered for memorization. There is a lot of great information and history included all through the book...I found myself repeatedly wishing the author had included HOW to share this information...maybe some sort of lesson plan or "Read This With Your Child" section...nope. You have to read the book and figure out how to teach all of the information on your own.

I think the book is worthwhile, but was annoyed that the content did not actually match the isn't going to be the lazy way through Shakespeare I thought it might be...but there's enough info included that it is useful as long as you can read and re-word/present it on your own.
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