The Shakespeare Conspiracy Lesson

Lesson by Mary Ellen Dakin

Conspiracy theories abound in popular culture, but few students know that William Shakespeare has been at the center of an ongoing conspiracy theory for the past 150 years.

Originally, I composed this lesson in April of 2012 to engage students in the Advanced Placement English Language and Composition course in a multimodal examination of conspiracies in popular culture and history. Timed to coincide with Shakespeare’s probable birth and death dates, April 23, 1564 and 1616, students in a course devoted to the study of literary nonfiction, rhetorical analysis, and argumentation had the opportunity to practice essential skills in a context not of Shakespeare’s dramas but of the drama surrounding his mythic life. Since that time, colleagues in other English classrooms have adapted this material to different grade and ability levels with much success.

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