This post is by Rebecca Newland, the current Library of Congress Teacher in Residence.
William Shakespeare wrote more than 400 years ago, and his plays sometimes depict times and places even further removed from us. Despite the time elapsed, those who read the plays with students know that many of the issues and themes still apply today, as they have in the intervening centuries. Enduring themes, characters, and images from Shakespeare’s writing have long been woven into the fabric of other media and popular culture. Examining relevant primary sources from the collections of the Library of Congress may strengthen student connections to a particular work.
One play popular in contemporary high school classrooms is Macbeth. Consider engaging students with this newspaper article detailing the historical background of the play. Give students this article for comparison. If time allows, ask them to investigate further the historical Macbeth versus Shakespeare’s version. Look for additional allusions to Macbeth and its characters in newspapers from Chronicling America.
Stand not upon the order of your going, but go at once. Shakespeare, Macbeth 3-4. Enlist now, 1915
The news items offer a way to put the play into its historical context and explore the license taken by Shakespeare when creating a fictional Macbeth. Another way to engage students with primary sources related to the play is through primary source analysis of allusions to the play. Offer students this military recruiting poster. Select questions from the Teacher’s Guide for Analyzing Photographs and Prints to help students take a close look. Focus in particular on visual elements of the poster’s design such as color, font, and arrangement. Continue the conversation by asking students to examine the lines as they are used in the play.
- Looking only at the poster, what do you think is the intended meaning of the quotation?
- Look at the quotation in context in Macbeth. In what ways does the poster agree or disagree with its original meaning in the play?
- Why might the creators of the poster have chosen this particular quotation?
- Considering the play’s major themes, explain why Macbeth is an interesting choice for a recruiting poster.
To continue a discussion of allusions to Macbeth, offer this political cartoon from 1850, related to the abolition movement in the United States. Select questions and follow up activities from the Teacher’s Guide for Analyzing Political Cartoons to focus students on the visual and textual elements of the cartoon.
The hurly-burly pot, 1850
- How does each allusion to Macbeth support the message of the cartoon?
- Compare the text in the cartoon to the originals in the play. In what way do the differences reflect the message of the cartoon? Why might the creator have retained elements of the original?
How do you support study of Shakespeare’s work with primary sources?
Astronomy Day is April 25, and we at Teaching with the Library of Congress are standing by with a cluster of blog posts featuring primary sources that explore changing ideas of the solar system and what lies beyond it.
Historical documents may be rooted in the past, but they provide a powerful way for the scientists and stargazers of today to familiarize themselves with scientific practices, to observe the ways in which scientific knowledge changes over time, and to honor the legacy of those who have boldly gone before them.
Join us for a very special webinar with Teaching Tolerance on Thursday April 16th at 4 ET: Selecting Primary Sources to Examine the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Did you know that there are fourteen blogs published by various divisions of the Library of Congress? These blogs are full of useful information and can direct you to primary sources or other information that you can make use of in your classroom.
Ask your students if there are certain things that their families do at the same time each year. Do they start working on the garden at the same time? Do they go on vacation at almost the exact same time? Are certain events celebrated with the same kinds of foods every year? These are the sorts of questions folklorists ask when they visit communities to learn about the traditions and activities that make up the fabric of the community.
This post is by Rebecca Newland, the current Library of Congress Teacher in Residence. April’s Fool’s Day pranks are usually fairly short term: An entire class simultaneously falls asleep or a teacher assigns a forty-page essay due the next day, and everyone laughs once the trick is revealed. Hoaxes, on the other hand, have a […]
This is a guest post by Arline Troncoza, who is working with the education team at the Library of Congress as part of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) Internship Program. In 1962 in Delano, California, Cesar Chavez, along with other labor organizers, created a farm workers’ union unlike any other in the […]
This post is by Rebecca Newland, the current Library of Congress Teacher in Residence. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby is one of the most often taught in American literature classes. However, the further we move away chronologically from 1922, a time of economic boom following the devastation of World War I, the less […]
This post was written by Uhuru Flemming of the Library of Congress. Many teachers like to include mini-lessons or bell-ringers about “this day in history.” The Library of Congress offers two resources that recount what happened on a particular day using the Library’s collections of digitized primary sources: Jump Back in Time (introductory) and Today […]
This post is by Rebecca Newland, the current Library of Congress Teacher in Residence. Because of his tendency toward the macabre, the stories of Edgar Allan Poe are frequently associated with Halloween, but his writing has had a far deeper reach than connections to the holiday. As National Poetry Month approaches, students can explore his […]