Pupils struggle to relate to Shakespeare, survey finds

The TES is reporting that more than half of English teachers say their pupils find it difficult to connect to the playwright’s work.

And almost half of teachers say their pupils are convinced they won’t understand Shakespeare’s plays before they’ve read even a single verse, a poll finds.

In the survey of 500 teachers, 56 per cent felt that their students found it difficult to relate to the Bard’s plays. And 55 per cent said that their pupils were uninspired by his work.

“Shakespeare is an iconic author in this country,” said Anna Lobbenberg, a member of the Discovering Literature team at the British Library, which commissioned the survey. “Teachers love teaching his plays.

“However, the language is obscure and complex. And the plays are set in periods so far away from students’ lives that students really struggle to find a way to make the plays make sense.”

“…But there are so many ways in which Shakespeare’s plays are relevant to the 21st century,” Ms Lobbenberg said. “They explore subjects like gender, cross-dressing, sexuality, ethnicity, mental health, colonialism, power and social hierarchy. These are subjects that young people feel very strongly about…”

More at: Pupils struggle to relate to Shakespeare, survey finds


See more, including resources, from the British Library at: Discovering Literature; Shakespeare


Is it a question of over-coming initial preconceptions or would you argue that Shakespeare’s work no longer relevant in schools?

Please tell us what you think and how you make the works talk to your students…

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Categories: Secondary and Teaching.


  1. kazjohnson

    SchoolsImprove if educators think Shakespeare is irrelevant we must have a lot of very thick educators. U0001f631

  2. AlisonClemesha

    SchoolsImprove kazjohnson Relate?? What’s wrong with learning to be open-minded about any subject? #opportunity

  3. innerquest

    Since when was study supposed to be ‘easy’ and ‘relevant’? How about academic discipline? I worry that too many students never actually read a whole book but only selected parts to pass the exam.  Having said that, there are teachers out there who make texts accessible and relevant, perhaps more evidence based teaching and sharing of good practice amongst english teachers would help plus less dumbing down of texts into comic book versions of the real thing!

  4. thiskidsthinkin

    Some of us adults don’t really like Shakespeare either. As long as a child reads something that is what is important.

  5. mrsdrogba73

    SchoolsImprove Take the students to The_Globe and it will click! I saw ‘Twelfth Night’ with 31 last week and it was very relevant.

  6. Kathfanderson

    SchoolsImprove Shakespeare will be relevant for as long as death, love, ambition, jealousy & jokes are. Try Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo+Juliet?

Let us know what you think...