The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) Study Guide
1. Would Shakespeare approve or disapprove of this play and what it has done to his material?
2. Does this play teach us about Shakespeare?
3. Which of Shakespeare’s plays did you learn something new about? Were there some you hadn’t heard of?
4. Were there any moments of Shakespeare’s language that stood out to you?
5. In the notes to the play, the playwrights suggest that ‘topical references’ should be updated to ‘keep the show fresh and timely. Discuss the choices made in this production. If you were to update the script what are some current topics you could use?
6. How is humor used in this play? Describe various moments and how the humor worked?
7. How would you “reduce” the body of work of another famous author? Think of famous novelists, poets, journalists, songwriters. Could you condense the work of your favorite poet or songwriter into a single poem or song? Could you abridge a prolific novelist’s life work into a single short story?
8. Many of Shakespeare’s plays have been adapted, forming the basis for other plays, films, novels, etc. Find a contemporary adaptation of a Shakespeare play (e.g., Baz Luhrmann’s film Romeo and Juliet). What is successful about it? What has the adaptation retained or dropped from Shakespeare’s original?
9. If Shakespeare were alive today, what art form would he be working in? Can you think of anyone in today’s world who might be viewed centuries from now as the Shakespeare of the 21st century?
10. Choose a famous Shakespeare line, either in or out of the play, and rework it in at least three different ways. How much can you change it while still retaining the same basic meaning? Try including popular slang.
11. Identify and discuss a few of the comedic devices (cross-dressing, word play, popular references) that exist in both the play and in Shakespeare’s work. Think of other popular forms of comedy (a specific comedian or sitcom) and evaluate the similarities and differences in their work.
12. What moments did you enjoy in the play?
13. Who was your favorite character and why?
14. Lighting plays is an important role in any production. Explain the various uses of lighting and the overall effect that each one achieved.
15. What are the different ways that music and sound is used in the play? What effect did this create?
16. Explain how audience participation was used in the play. How does this contribute to the overall experience for an audience? Did this participation help to increase or decrease audience’s enjoyment of the performance?
17. Compare and contrast the three characters in the play and their different functions as storytellers.
18. This play was originally developed through improvisation. Discuss how this approach has affected the style and content.
19. Why do you think the playwrights specify in the notes to the play that actors performing the three roles should substitute the names depicted in the text for their own names?
20. What other famous playwright’s (or authors!) work could you rework and modernize? How would you execute this?