Review: The Comedy, History & Tragedy of William Shakespeare

by Ross Grainger
by Ross Grainger

He still doth live, such virtue hath his pen: The Comedy, History & Tragedy of William Shakespeare by Anna Claybourne and Timothy Knapman


Perfect for Upper Key Stage 2, The Comedy, History & Tragedy of William Shakespeare is a fantastic overview of the life, times and work of Avon’s most famous playwright. With fresh and artful illustrations, a clear layout and bold colours, this marvellous book will give children and pre-teens an enjoyable introduction to Shakespeare.

Comedy, History & Tragedy of William ShakespeareThe first two thirds of the book describe Shakespeare’s life (the ‘Seven Ages of Shakespeare)’, his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, the exciting Elizabethan world into which he was born, school life in Stratford (featuring scriveners, canes and Latin irregular verbs) and the ‘filthy, smelly, crowded, noisy and dangerous’ city of London, where Shakespeare began making his fortune and his name in 1592 at the age of 28.

There then follow a few pages on Elizabethan theatre, Shakespeare’s ‘Chamberlain’s Men’ theatre troupe and the playwright’s ‘Craft’ – if you think five acts is a lot, try writing it by hand with a quill by candlelight. The one drawback to the latter section is that there is no mention of Shakespeare’s use of iambic pentameter, though perhaps it would be too difficult to explain such a concept succinctly to children.

Then come one-page overviews of 12 of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, across the three genres of comedy, tragedy and history. These give a simple summary of the plot interwoven with lines from the play. As well as the tasteful motifs and colour schemes, the impressive thing about these summaries is a correct use of the word literally in the page on King Lear. ‘Lear and Gloucester are both blind to the truth about which of their children are good, and which evil. But Gloucester is literally blinded by Regan’s husband’. Encore! Encore!

Overall, this book would make a wonderful resource for an Upper Key Stage 2 classroom.

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