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Teachers: Literacy: Text

Last Updated: Tuesday November 15 2005 11:30 GMT

Shortened Shakespeare


Painting of Shakespeare
A new drive is encouraging students to perform Shakespeare's plays, rather than just read them in class.

The BBC has two excellent resources that could tie into this initiative: Bitesize plot summaries and a 60-second Shakespeare film/audio tape competition.

This lesson asks students to act out 60 seconds of a Shakespeare play. It is based on Macbeth, but could easily be adapted for another play.

Learning aims

By the end of the lesson, students should understand:

  • The key scenes of the play
  • A play consists of speech and actions
  • How to edit a play
  • Where to find Shakespeare resources on the BBC website


Read out this story to the class.

Main activity

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (Picture: Nik Milner)
60-second play

Reiterate the last paragraph: Five of the UK's top drama schools will put on shortened versions of the plays, which will be toured around schools in the UK.

Your students are also going to put on a shortened version of Macbeth; a 60-second version.

Distribute copies of the Macbeth worksheet. Click on the link in the top-right, dark-blue box.

It comes from the KS3 English Bitesize website. There are also plot summaries of Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing on the site.

Students write down one sentence to describe what is happening in each of the comic-strip cells.


  • Teachers, if you want a quick description of what is happening in each cartoon, click on the link in the top-right, dark-blue box on this page.

  • Students, if you wish to complete the KS3 English Bitesize exercise online, you can get the answers by clicking on the bottom right Mark it! button.
Explain that a play is made up of two main ingredients:
  • Speech or dialogue
  • Actions
First the speech.

Inside Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (Picture: Donald Cooper)
Round robin script writing

In small groups, students chose one picture to turn into a modern English 60-second play. E.g. The banquet.

They also decide which characters are needed for the scene (no more than four).

Each group person takes a clean sheet of lined paper.

They have one minute to write one line of script at the top of the sheet

E.g. MACBETH: What! I must be seeing things. Banquo, you're supposed to be dead!

They each pass their script one person clockwise.

Now each student has a minute to add a second line of script, which follows on from the first.

E.g. LADY MACBETH: My husband's ill. Please don't take any notice of him!

Repeat the exercise until there are 6-8 lines of verse.

Now the speech is written, student can concentrate on the action:

Act out plays

In their groups, students chose the most powerful lines to act out. They can merge round-robin scripts to create the best dialogue.

After an initial performance, they think of actions which will emphasise the words and incorporate them in the play.

E.g. Lady Macbeth could pour her guests some wine while she is saying the line "My husband's ill..." to show that she wants them to concentrate on eating and drinking, rather than listening to Macbeth's confession!

Now they edit the play to make sure it is 60-seconds long. This could mean cutting lines or adding silent actions.

Extension activity

Make a 60-second film/audio tape

The BBC is looking for UK school students to create their own 60-second interpretation of Shakespeare.

The work will be posted on the website, where it can be seen and shared with other schools. A selection of work may also be broadcast on BBC television and radio.

To help you, there are loads of resources at They include celebrity tips, plot summaries as newspaper articles, Shakespeare photo stories and video tutorials on editing and acting.

The BBC will also be organising a series of skills workshops for teachers across the UK

You can send in your students films and audio tapes from 14th November 2005 - 26th May 2006 for publication on the website.

For more information, click on the link in the top-right, dark-blue box.


Each group performs their 60-second script for the rest of the class. Students vote on their favourite performance, based on the choice of plot, the speech and the action.

Teachers' background

Curriculum relevance

English. Key Stage 3.

En1 Speaking and Listening.

11b. Devising, scripting and performing in plays
11c. Discussing and reviewing their own and others' performances

En2 Reading

8ai. The range should include two plays by Shakespeare, one of which should be studied in key stage 3

En3 Writing

2a. Plan, draft, redraft and proofread
2c. Analyse critically their own and others' writing
9a. Forms of writing should include play scripts

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