Education, education, education

Is this an indictment of our education system—YouGov says that Shakespeare being "difficult to understand, and therefore [is] seen as boring by schoolchildren and adults alike… especially if their first exposure was in English lessons at school"—or just the outcome to be expected given that prior to the 1990s "Shakespeare wasn't a compulsory part of the curriculum in many schools".

Last year's survey by the British Library of some 500+ English teachers largely confirmed what YouGov had found: in something of a self–fulfilling prophecy, 43% of respondents said that students were put off Shakespeare’s plays by a pre-conceived idea that they will not understand them whilst 60% felt that their students struggled to understand the language.

83% of respondents felt that teachers need more support in making Shakespeare’s plays relevant to students. So, "from whence cometh this help?" Apart from generalist cultural centres such as the British Library and British Council, it appears the answer is from within the theatre industry itself through education programmes offered by, for example, The Globe and the RSC.

By necessity, many of the educational resources are online in order to reach pupils across the nation, and sometimes beyond, and technology has also allowed performance of Shakespeare's plays to be shared in classrooms.

And technology brings me back to the events marking The Bard's passing 400 years ago.

The British Council's programme of events stretched across the globe and included more than 900 screenings of material from the BFI film collection and the creation of new live performance work under its development fund, Shakespeare Reworked. It also launched a new digital platform, Mix the Play, with The Old Vic Theatre, that allows children to take on the role of director choosing from many variations of a scene to assemble their own version which they can then share through social media.

New platform, Hay Festival: Talking About Shakespeare, was also launched offering a wide variety of contributors such as Stephen Fry and Germaine Greer speaking on Bard related topics, and British Theatre Guide's own Gill Stoker created an online anthology, Shakespeare 400 Daily Readings, linking a Shakespeare text each day from 23 April to 23 April with a notable event along the year.

Apps released include National Theatre Shakespeare for iOS, providing access to its archive of Shakespeare material, and ShakeSpeak for Android users, which gives a Bardian twist to your text messages. I kiddeth thou not!

Non–play events included Shakespeare's Big Birthday Pub Crawl from Maverick Theatre, the team behind the London Literary Pub Crawl, and a mass of conferences and symposia from the University of Glasgow's Shakespeare and Scotland to The Shanghai Theatre Academy / Chinese Dramatists Society's conference, Shakespeare and Contemporary China.