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Shakespeare: Then and Now
Home | Shakespeare: Then and Now

Shakespeare's World:


Then and Now

An Internet WebQuest on William Shakespeare's Neighborhoods





Introduction | The Task | The Process & Resources | Conclusion | HyperText Dictionary


Picture this: you and a team of learners are presented with the task of describing an elephant. But instead of looking to an encyclopedia or a zoo exhibit, you are each blindfolded and guided to a real elephant. Each of you touches a different part of the animal: one, the soft and delicate tip of the elephant's trunk; another, the hard tusk of ivory; and a third, the wrinkled hide around the elephant's belly.

Based upon what each of you learned, one thinks an elephant is smooth and soft, another would say an elephant is smooth and hard, while the last would conclude that elephants are rough and soft. What's the truth? When we study complex topics, we are often like the elephant examiners: there's usually a lot more to a topic that we don't learn about after only a quick exploration.

This is particularly true when we use the Internet for our research because many people post their personal opinions or only know a sliver of the whole story. In the following WebQuest, you will use the power of teamwork and the abundant resources on the Internet to learn all about Shakespeare's world. Each person on your team will learn one piece of the puzzle and then you will come together to get a better understanding of the topic.



The Quest

What, in your opinion, caused a middle-class English boy to become one of the world's greatest writers?



The Process and Resources

In this WebQuest you will be working together with a group of students in class. Each group will answer the Task or Quest(ion). As a member of the group you will explore Web pages from people all over the world who care about Shakespeare. Because these are real Webpages we're tapping into, not things made just for schools, the reading level might challenge you. Feel free to use the online Webster dictionary or one in your classroom.

You'll begin with everyone in your group getting some background before dividing into roles where people on your team become experts on one part of the topic.


Phase 1 - Background: Something for Everyone

Use the Internet information linked below to answer the basic questions of who? what? where? when? why? and how? Be creative in exploring the information so that you answer these questions as fully and insightfully as you can.

  • Holy Trinity Church - Stratford Upon Avon - This is the church where the remains of the 'immortal barb' rest. He was also baptised in this quaint churh that rests on the banks of the Avon River in the middle of England.
  • Shakespeare's Web - This site tells what's special about today in Shakespeare history.
  • Shakespeare's Works - Most of Shakespeare's plays are here, broken down by scene and with hyper-annotations. There is also a Shakespeare Search Engine that helps locate words and phrases that appear in Shakespeare's writing.
  • The Bringing to Life of Stratford-upon-Avon - Here we find plenty of graphics of places where Shakespeare spent his youth and his later years.
  • Yahoo's Shakesperare Links - Yahoo, one of the web's major search and categorizing sites, has prepared its very own Shakespeare links.
  • Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet - Here we find some outstanding links for Will from the close proxmity of England - San Marcos, California.
  • Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre - The Globe Theatre has been rebuilt using the same building styles that were used by the Elizabethians. The University of Reading in England hosts the official site on the web.


Phase 2 - Looking Deeper from Different Perspectives


1. Individuals or pairs from your larger WebQuest team will explore one of the roles below.

2. Read through the files linked to your group. If you print out the files, underline the passages that you feel are the most important. If you look at the files on the computer, copy sections you feel are important by dragging the mouse across the passage and copying / pasting it into a word processor or other writing software.

3. Note: Remember to write down or copy/paste the URL of the file you take the passage from so you can quickly go back to it if you need to to prove your point.

4. Be prepared to focus what you've learned into one main opinion that answers the Big Quest(ion) or Task based on what you have learned from the links for your role.



Use the Internet information linked below to answer these questions specifically related to Historian:

1.What was type of education did males in England get during the sixteenth century?

2. What do your think made the city of London during the Elizabethean times different from country towns like Stratford Upon Avon?

3. Do you feel that life was better during Shakesperare's or in our time?



Use the Internet information linked below to answer these questions specifically related to Scribe:

1. Write a description of life in Shakespearean England.

2. Write a description of life in today's England.

3. Write a short story about a teenager in England during Shakespeare's time.




Use the Internet information linked below to answer these questions specifically related to Screenwriter:

1. Using plots from Shakesperare's plays, create a blockbuster play or movie description.

2. Create a brief scene from your description.

3. Present the scene to the class and descrbe the choice of original source.



Travel Agent

Use the Internet information linked below to answer these questions specifically related to Travel Agent:

1. If you were to book a tour of England today, where would you send your clients on a limited budget to study Shakespeare?

2. If you were to book a tour of England today, where would you send your clients on an unlimited budget to study Shakespeare?

3. Write a detailed itinerary for each trip and describe why you selected the various places to visit.

Tourist Links

Welcome to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Stratford-upon-Avon City Guide

South East On Line


Phase 3 - Debating, Discussing, and Reaching Consensus

You have all learned about a different part of Shakespeare's. Now group members come back to the larger WebQuest team with expertise gained by searching from one perspective. You must all now answer the Task / Quest(ion) as a group. Each of you will bring a certain viewpoint to the answer: some of you will agree and others disagree. Use information, pictures, movies, facts, opinions, etc. from the Webpages you explored to convince your teammates that your viewpoint is important and should be part of your team's answer to the Task / Quest(ion). Your WebQuest team should write out an answer that everyone on the team can live with.


Phase 4 - Real World Feedback

You and your teammates have learned a lot by dividing up into different roles. Now's the time to put your learning into a letter you'll send out for real world feedback. Together you will write a letter that contains opinions, information, and perspectives that you've gained. Here's the process:

1. Begin your letter with a statement of who you are and why you are writing your message to this particular person or organization.

2. Give background information that shows you understand the topic.


3. Each person in your group should write a paragraph that gives two good reasons supporting the group's opinion. Make sure to be specific in both the information (like where you got it from on the Web) and the reasoning (why the information proves your group's point).

4. Have each person on the team proofread the message. Use correct letter format and make sure you have correctly addressed the email message to your teacher. Send your message and make sure your teacher gets a copy.




So is an elephant smooth, rough, soft, or hard? Well, when you're blindfolded and only *looking* at one part, it's easy to come up with an answer that may not be completely right. It's the same for understanding a topic as broad or complex as Shakespeare's world when you only know part of the picture, you only know part of the picture. Now you all know a lot more. Nice work. You should be proud of yourselves! How can you use what you've learned to see beyond the black and white of a topic and into the grayer areas? What other parts of Shakespeare's world could still be explored? Remember, learning never stops

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