April 23rd: Shakespeare Day

My vanity is surely not in vain,
for I see how I ladies fair affect:
they mark me for my vestments – far from plain,
I am in lynx and leopard print bedeck’d.
They also note my grandiose physique:
a single glance shall speedily apprise
each of the strong and vigorous technique
I must employ whilst I oft exercise.
When entering a room, the heads all turn
to look on me; ’tis what I’ve long observ’d.
My comeliness allows me to adjourn
t’ an inn sans shirt or shoes, yet still be serv’d.
– I’ll wiggle on; ’tis charity to show,
for I am sexy – that, I rightly know.

Sounds like Shakespeare and still seems to be familiar from another context? Maybe you’ll be amused to know that one Eric Didriksen took it upon him to transform some beloved songs from our times into an iambic pentameter delight – an homage to the Bard. Maybe you already recognised the origin of the above sonnet? If not, it’s I’m sexy and I know it by LMFAO and I must say, I quite like this version too!
It’s a fun way to get dive into the sometimes a little dusty topic of Shakespearean sonnets as it definitely shows that there can be a quite modern times turn to it. You may find lots of these pop sonnets online on TUMBLR and for those among us (like myself), there also is a book.

For some extra joy, I also recommend one of the Shakespeare insult generator which you may find online like this one. Scholastic provides a worksheet for combining words from three columns to get one powerful expression of contempt. An yet again, there of course is a printed version to be acquired online or, even better, at your local bookshop. This will definitely make the old playwright look cool again and I like to think that he would take much joy out of being remebered as a sharp and quick-witted guy whose weapon really were his words.

As Shakespeare’s exact birthday is unknown, Shakespeare day is dcelebrated on his death day. Shakespeare was loved in his time already and his popularity only grew, I would say. Today he is still one of the most celebrated and widely read British authors. In general, I don’t think reading Shakespeare’s plays is a very effective way to access the great bard as much of the feelings, wit, and atmosphere simply doesn’t come across. Shakespeare has to be experienced, has to be acted out, and/or watched to get a full grasp of his plays.

Usually, a Shakespeare festival takes place in Mühlheim an der Ruhr once a year with open-air performances of one of his plays delivered by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. The members are traditionally only male actors which might seem strange at first. A few years ago, I sat in the audience enjoying Romeo and Juliet, and despite even Juliet looking slightly brawny and having a teeny-tiny five o’clock shadow, I cried my eyes out when they parted and in the end died.
For is it not Shakespeare where the most lovely, most sorrowful, ghastly, and witty words are to be found?

Lit4School features some of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, adaptations, and related literature as they provide superb insights into the Elizabethan era, especially when looking at them in a more analytic and critical way by comparing the plays with the period itself. Apart from the originals, the occasional easy-reading edition is available as well, making Shakespeare more accessible for a younger audience as well, I, Shakespeare and Mr. William Shakespeare’s Plays being two examples.

The cornucopia of Shakespeare literature and media all around the world shows that the playwright has not lost his relevance, and may, as seen above, still inspire most creative and fruitful ideas.

On that note: “Fair thought and happy hours attend you!” (Merchant of Venice)
Cheers to Shakespeare and his spectacular legacy!


Make me immortal with a kiss.” – Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus

First things first: It is not Christopher Marlowe‘s birthday today but he was christened on February 26th 1564 – his exact date of birth remains unknown. Marlow, also known as “Kit”, was an Elizabethan author, playwright and translator. His most famous work is Doctor Faustus about whom Johann Wolfgang von Goethe later also wrote two popular plays. It’s based on the historical Johann Georg Faust, a German alchemist, astrologer and magician who became a figure of folk legend.

Legends and myth however surround Marlow’s life and oeuvre: Some scholars believe he faked his death and, henceforth, wrote under different pseudonyms, most famously William Shakespeare. Although the Marlowe-Theory has not been verified, it adds to the popularity of both playwrights.

Lastly, Christopher Marlowe is worth a read – also an interesting figure in regard to discussing authorship in the realm of Shakespeare with your pupils.

Kind regards and stay safe,


Who doesn’t know Vermeer’s mysteriously beautiful Girl with a Pearl Earring? The painting that creates so many questions: Who is the girl? Why does she look so solemnly? Where might she be, where come from? And what on earth is up with that very prominent accessory of her’s?

Tracy Chevalier is the women who told the painting’s story. She designed answers to many of the questions and gave the face a background, a “how it could have been”. Her novel Girl with a Pearl Earring (1999) is available in 38 languages and has sold over 5 million copies in 15 years. Additionally, a film starring Scarlett Johansson was produced, so all in all a major success.

She also wrote other historical novels inspired by characters, events or circumstances of the past like Burning Bright which follows painter-poet William Blake or Reader, I Married Him featuring short stories inspired by Jane Eyre. With New Boy she gave Othello a completely new setting making the story relatable and appealing to a wider readership. It shows that Shakespeare’s original still has relevance today.

It is delightful that the past still inspires adventurers and narrators in the present. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Tracy!