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Shakespeare study can be either an academic discipline or simply a love of his plays and seeing them in the theatre. Probably your study group will come somewhere in between the two and will, at least initially, need to cater for a wide range of starting points.  

The Royal Shakespeare Company has a three point education credo and I would suggest that it can be adapted for more mature learners and give a focus to your activities. As adapted, the principles are

  • start it now (i.e. it is never too late)
  • engage with the text as actively as possible
  • see it live

The first two principles are adapted from the RSC but the third remains an absolute in my view.   In starting a Shakespeare group you may want to consider a couple of general sessions dealing with his life, background etc. I have started with ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’ from Kiss Me Kate. You could then take a variety of scenes from and try to analyse how they work. (I can offer to help but a personal selection is good.) If you then find the appetite growing maybe it is the time to start thinking about individual plays. Any individual play studied should be offered in conjunction with a theatre visit if at all possible.  

This amounts to one approach but since Shakespeare has been performed and studied for over 400 years it is not perhaps surprising that there are many approaches and the knowledge and enthusiasms of the group leader are paramount. I hope that you will be able to share these with other groups throughout the country. It may be possible to suggest more collaborative sessions, for example regional theatre visits with a talk from the company. You could also explore local connections to Shakespeare. Here in Lancashire my group has explored the links with Rufford Old Hall.  

I only ever describe myself as an enthusiast, but my enthusiasm comes of 50 years of seeing the plays performed, teaching Shakespeare, attending courses and I am a member of the British Shakespeare Association.  

Please contact me as above and if you let me have a landline number I will happily get back to you. You could also check the Mawdesley U3A website to see what my group is up to (just as an example). You can also message me on Facebook. Just search for my name and the picture of the Stratford theatre is a slight giveaway!