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What might be good questions to ask William Shakespeare?For English, a partner and I...

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kelc520 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 7, 2008 at 8:18 AM via web

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What might be good questions to ask William Shakespeare?

For English, a partner and I are supposed to act out an interview with Shakespeare. It needs to be at least 6 minutes long and we've only asked a few questions so far.

When and why did you start writing?

How was your childhood and growing up?

Did any of your life experiences affect your work?

Since we are setting the time period as right after "Twelfth Night", we asked about his most recent play.

Then we asked for a sneak peek of his upcoming play "Hamlet".

After that we can't think of anything else which there are facts for an answer. Help would really be appreciated!

13 Answers | Add Yours

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pippin1313 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted September 7, 2008 at 11:47 AM (Answer #2)

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It is 2008 so why not go for the personal stuff? You could ask about his wife and children. Are they supportive? What's his relationship like since they live so far away?

Other options could be the political landscape. How helpful has patronage been to his writing? How does he respond to critics?

Who are his main influences? What contemporaries (other playwrights or writers) does he admire?

The answers to these types of questions are readily available with a bit of research.

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playsthething | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted September 7, 2008 at 12:09 PM (Answer #3)

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Another aspect of Shakespeare you could focus on would be the question of the authorship of his plays.  You could ask him why he thinks that people don't think he could have written the plays, and then you could ask him to respond to those questions.  

For example, there are some that question that he didn't have the proper education to read/understand the languages needed (Latin, Italian, etc.) to have used some of the sources he based several plays on (the Roman history plays, "Romeo and Juliet", etc.).  

You could also ask his opinion of some of his contemporaries that historians have suggested really did write the plays (The Earl of Oxford, Francis Bacon, etc.).

It shouldn't be too difficult to find sources for all of this.

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robertwilliam | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted September 7, 2008 at 4:40 PM (Answer #4)

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One of the most interesting things about Shakespeare is the more or less total absence of biographical information we have about him.

Questions about his authorship, about his family (for the most part, at least), about his specific likes and dislikes, or even (according to the Sonnets, some critics would argue) his sexual preference are ones you simply couldn't provide the correct answers to: it's going to be an imaginative exercise. Though, for what it's worth, I'd love to know why he only left his wife, Anne Hathaway, his second-best bed in his will? Remember too that Shakespeare buried his son Hamnet (name notably similar to Hamlet's!) in 1596, which might provide some interesting questions.

Two interesting questions you could tentatively answer with scholarly opinion on your side are:

  • Did you act in your own plays? (Shakespeare is listed in the First Folio as one of the actors, so the answer is a definite yes - scholars think he played Polonius in "Hamlet", and the title role in "Julius Caesar".
  • What costumes were worn in productions of your plays? (Look at the Peachum drawing of "Titus Andronicus", which shows actors wearing Elizabethan costume - the modern dress of the day - with Roman 'accessories').

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kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted September 7, 2008 at 6:31 PM (Answer #5)

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Why not ask him what the most difficult thing about living in his time was.  You also might ask him a controversial question, such as, "Did you really write every one of these plays?" You also might ask him how much he borrowed from other authors.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 7, 2008 at 8:46 PM (Answer #6)

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Shakespeare's perspicacity is amazing in all his plays.  I would inquire how he attained such insight into the human psyche and heart at his relatively young age.

"O what fools these mortals be!" exclaims Puck in Twelfth Night as he reflects upon the foolish errors of jealously and infatuation.   Then, in Hamlet Shakespeare proves the foolish error of the deadly sins of lust, pride, and anger. 

Perhaps in answering the question about his understanding of human nature, Shakespeare would then give the interviewer a "sneak preview" into the themes of Hamlet.

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted September 8, 2008 at 12:43 PM (Answer #7)

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Many author's first work seems to be autobiographical.  Given that, I'd like to ask him which character he created is MOST like himself. Perhaps all the plays are based on "external" sources, but maybe there is one characters (especially in the tragedies) that is more a part of "him" than any of the others

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted September 9, 2008 at 9:26 AM (Answer #8)

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What an interesting assignment. You've already gotten a lot of good suggestions. Why not ask him what sort of play he plans to write next. Who are his influences? Which actor would he love to have in one of his plays? Since he is such an innovator in other ways, why not be really innovative and use female actors?

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 12, 2008 at 8:28 PM (Answer #9)

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You might consider asking him how he overcomes writer's block and/or did he really commiserate with women and their plight in his time (think of all the strong female characters and the ones who dressed as men in order to really live). 

Have fun with this...how much fun!

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malibrarian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted September 14, 2008 at 11:02 AM (Answer #10)

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You could focus on the many film versions of his plays.  Ask if he's gotten a chance to see any of these (I'm assuming that if you can interview him, then maybe he could have the chance to catch a flick or two), then ask him what he thinks of the differences between film and stage.

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frizzyperm | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted September 23, 2008 at 5:20 AM (Answer #11)

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You could ask him where he stashed his unpublished stuff.

(I always wish W.S. could have written a play about God/religion/belief and the 16th/17th century clash of Catholic/Protestant dogma. I'm sure he would have nailed it perfectly. Sadly though it was just too red hot a topic and he never wrote about it. Well... he never published anything about it! I'd love a Shakepseare play to come to light about a Catholic priest dealing with doubts, sexual love, persecution and so on. Oh well.)

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beautifulkiki | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 23, 2008 at 8:20 AM (Answer #12)

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1.Who inspired you the most?.

 2.Why did you start writing?.

3.Were any of the plots of plays and dramas and sonnets a reflection on your own life?

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted November 23, 2008 at 9:49 AM (Answer #13)

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There have been many movies based on "Hamlet."  We just finished watching the Mel Gibson edition.  I'd ask Shakespeare to watch them all and let us know which most closely embodies his vision of the character.

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ragova | Student, Grade 9 | eNoter

Posted June 8, 2012 at 9:28 AM (Answer #14)

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The Following is an interview with Shakespeare for an imaginary newspaper I am doing for an english assignment- not quite finished yet

So William now you are living as one of the richest men in England but before your writing career started how did you live?

I was born on April 23rd, 1564 into a family of minor gentry in Stratford-upon-Avon. I was the eldest son and was educated at the King's New School in Stratford. When I was eighteen I married my wonderful wife Anne, soon after our daughter Susanna was born. Then a couple of years later Judith and our dear passed away son Hamnet.

So when and how did your career in the theatre begin?

I began as an actor in Pembroke’s Men and a few other troops. I wrote plays at the same time but was not as known then. In 1592, when the Plague closed the theatres I began to write longer stories and sonnets but when they re-opened I returned to play writing.

Who, if anyone inspired you to go into such a risky career in the theatre, primarily as an actor and then as a playwright?

 

 

 

I was influenced by the great work of Christopher Marlowe and I was shocked and appalled at his death at such a young age when he was achieving so much. John Burbage is also a remarkable man who has influenced my efforts in theatre. He really has carved a path in drama in which other actors and entrepreneurs can follow.

  

 

 

 

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