Students will have the opportunity to find out more about Shakespeare’s private life and will role-play the main characters of his family in the discussion stage 

Topic: the mystery of Shakespeare’s personal life and relations with his family

Level: B2

Time: 90 minutes


  • To give practice of comprehensive reading and deducing the meaning of phrases from the context
  • To develop students’ speaking skills for having a discussion
  • To revise and consolidate the usage of verbs ‘say’ ,‘tell’, ‘deny, ‘disagree’ in reported speech
  • To develop students’ knowledge about the life of William Shakespeare


  • Student worksheet
  • Letters to Susanna  


(From Education Research)

Introduction of myself: I am a bilingual Postmodernist teacher & learner working in my globalized 'channel' of multiple-disciplinary Education Research (English-Chinese languages). Today, I was very happy in encountering this teaching and learning material about Shakespeare. Every time when encountering some materials beautifully as this one, I would like to produce an educational research from theoretical explorations to practical operations. Today, it is my first impression about this case. I made some empirical conclusions:

1. This is a good-qualified teaching and learning material for understanding the true life of Shakespeare and his relationships with other family members;

2. The tasks have been designed well with the scientific approach in the root step by step, which were transcendentalist covering the stages from photographic impressions, to students' natural reflections accordingly, to background hypothesis, to reading and testing, to vocabulary conclusion, and to the senses of cooperation & team-work. The naturally logical line inside has been clearly cultivated, alongside which students' abilities such as hypothesizing, self-evidences' researching, information-collecting and communicating etc. have been enhanced;

3. If you let me add some my reasoning step upon, then the material will be looked much perfectly; I would say: the participant-observations of two letters' language itself. This is a critical thinking that the loudly oral reading of the two letters, organized by teacher and together with students, and sentence by sentence, would enhance students' abilities of feeling the nature, making the simulation and creatively organizing their own language. This way is especially useful for the second language students;

4. How could we get the effectiveness stated in the 3rd point for Chinese-English students? Causing whom I will face is Chinese second-language students and what the formation of classroom will be one-to-one or not too many as the designed two groups A and B. In this case, I thought if putting some bilingual translations of the two letters themselves and letting teacher lead students emotionally reading them in both languages, it would be better;

5. Following this thought, I made the self-translation (Today, I can only have done Anne's complaints) and would like to share here as below. This translation is a little bit ... special. I have attempted my best to keep the English structure in Chinese language. It's because linguistic theory has shown: the main difference between the two languages is lying in the debate between which one is more important - imagery or structure. To my mind, this isn't a problem if we see each one's matching as the language's innovation. Afterwards, the huge simplification will make each one understandable. That's why I have applied this kind of translation. I am hoping students would understand the textures of the paragraphs more easily;

5. In addition, to the content itself, I would like to say more: This is my first time shocked by fact of what the paints Shakespeare's creativity brought to his family. Usually, as a balance, persons who are representing one kind of abilities would lose the other which even all the ordinary people all can get. It might be how many paints he brought to his family and how many contributions he has made to human beings' civilization. When reading these paragraphs, my hearts are almost bleeding. I am thinking how his daughter could stand strongly to face her parents' conflicts. I can also feel the hardship that Shakespeare can keep the balance between his work and his family. Shakespeare has tried to make his words belong to everyone who are reading, but somehow forgotten his family or sacrificed his daily happiness. That is why he is greater than us...

Thanks for this teaching & learning material

With Best
Jason M. C., Han

Appendix: Bilingual translation
My dearest Susanna,

I’ve decided to write this letter because I want you to know how much I understand your loneliness and 1) ……………. at the recent rumours you’ve heard about your father. I don’t want you my darling to have any further illusions about him and I think that at the age of 18 you’re strong enough to stand the whole truth about William and his foul play.
grief: Very great sadness, especially at the death of someone

illusion: An idea or belief that is not true; Something that is not really what it seems to be
foul: Extremely unpleasant; offensive, rude or shocking language)


Your father and I met in the spring 1582 and a few months later I discovered that I was pregnant with you. William was devastated by this news. Being only 18, eight years younger than me, he wasn’t really ready for marriage and family. As Joan, his younger sister, told me later on he even wanted to 2) ……………. my trust and leave Stratford secretly, hoping to escape his paternal duties in this way. It was only because of his father John, a highly respected citizen in our town, that William proposed to me and we got married in November 1582. Sadly, but true, he was never a dedicated husband or father and even the birth of your siblings, Judith and our poor Hamnet, didn’t change his feelings. We were struggling to make ends meet but he didn’t even bother about doing any work. For him this was just much ado about nothing. In fact, William was a constant dreamer interested only in writing poetry and acting.
Betray: to not be loyal to your country or a person, often by doing something harmful such as helping their enemies

Devastated: Very shocked and upset

Sibling:a brother or sister

Special vocabulary:

paternal: of or like a father
compared with _
maternal: behaving or feeling in the way that a mother does towards her child, especially in a kind, loving way
ado:without wasting more time
constant: happening a lot or all the time )

你父亲和我是在1582年春天相识的。几个月之后,我就发现怀上了你。威廉(莎士比亚)对这个消息极为震惊。那是他仅有十八岁, 而且别我要小八岁。他根本就没有准备好结婚和组建家庭。后来,正如你小姑告诉我的, 他甚至想背叛我的信任并悄悄地离开斯特拉特福德; 期望着用这样的方式推卸为父之责。仅仅是因为他父亲约翰- 一个特别受尊敬的市民 - 他向做了承诺, 最后我们才在1582年十一月结婚了。回忆这些很悲痛,但这是事实,他从来就不是一个好丈夫,也不是一个好父亲;甚至你几个姊妹的出生- 茱蒂丝和我们可怜的哈姆内特都没有让他心回意转。大家都在为结婚后续会面纠结时,他甚至没受一点困扰而放弃手头的写作。因为对于他来说这无非于浪费时间。其实,他就是一个天天做白日梦的人,就知道写诗和表演。

It was not surprising then that when a travelling group of players visited Stratford your father saw this as a golden opportunity to 3) ……………. us and under the pretext of earning money for our family he went with them to London. As far as I know, your father is a very successful and well-known 4) ……………… in London and I’ve even heard recently that he has started building an imposing theatre there. I think it’s called the Globe. But what does all this mean to us? As you know my darling, he has mostly been an 5) ……………. father to you, hardly interested in our life and very rarely visiting us since then. He did regularly send us some money but in his letters he never really asked about our life in Stratford. Even the tragic death of our beloved Hamnet didn’t bring him back to us.
And my dear Susana, I’m afraid it’s also absolutely true that your father does have a
6) …………….. there. He fell head over heels in love with a mysterious dark lady who has become the inspiration of his sonnets and who has stolen your father’s heart, the heart that should belong to us, to our family.

Desert:to leave someone without help or in a difficult situation and not come back
Absentee:someone who is not at school or work when they should be
Tragic: very sad, often involving death and suffering
Soothe:to make someone feel calm or less worried

Devastated: Very shocked and upset

the globe:the world

Special vocabulary:
Playwright:a person who writes plays
Imposing:having an appearance that looks important or causes admiration
Mistress: a woman who is having a sexual relationship with a married man
Sonnet:a poem that has 14 lines and a particular pattern of rhyme)

My dearest Susanna, I tried really hard to be both a mother and father to you and your siblings, but only now I can see how hard it is for a mother to play both these roles. Is there anything I can do that can soothe your pain? Please remember that your mother loves you forever and a day and she will be over the moon to have you back at home!
Yours lovingly
Anne Hathaway

安妮 哈撒韦

Following the first preparation of organizing teaching material and abstracting thinking patterns for classroom, I got into my first lesson. To be honest, my confidence in terms of applying this material in a Chinese girl's first lesson, whose understanding abilities are on the level equaling to the final year of high school, is not enough. The reasons can be summarized as three:
1. I didn't know her real English level;
2. I didn't know too much about her educational background, inducted from which the knowledge & skills' accepting abilities and information processing abilities also weren't quite clear;
3. I didn't know whether or not this material was suitable for her practice.

Based on the prior-difficulties above, in this postmodernist teaching & learning procedure, the staged time & Space was fragmented. I repeatedly asked myself: Jason, how could you immediately get the platform to settle your teaching and make the improvement accompanying your student's growth in her mutual 'channel'?
By carrying this question, I found: still, the beginning introduction-interview, as every first lesson, is vital important to help me locate her level and fulfill my associations:
1. Talking about yourself - family members, hobbies and hates;
2. Talking about your hometown;
3. Talking about your learning currently - what level are you in and how do you think about your study? What are your difficulties? and How did you analyse your performances in school?
4. Talking about Shakespeare in the study of your Chinese literature - how many did you know about his contributions and also his life? Did you 'encounter' him or his works in your real life?

I found these questions were hard for her to answer in English. according to this condition, I flexibly changed my strategies, and guided her to write them firstly in Chinese, then, motivated her to make the translation through analyzing her situations together,
Through this interview and my participant-accompanying to identify her foundations, I am a little bit sad to find that she has almost lost her confidences in study from high school in diverse subjects, especially in English. She had the basic and general knowledge in terms of Shakespeare, but didn't feel they were very interesting.
Afterwards, I immediately transform the biggest problem of this lesson to be: how could Jason apply the content of the first letter from Shakespeare's wife and the Chinese translation accordingly to get back her interests of English literature, the language habits and the beautiful pronunciations? And, how could I coordinate her Chinese life-experiences to understand why Anne was so angry and made so many complaints directly towards Shakespeare?
I decided to apply the strategy of Role-play with the imaginations:
1. I made her think: if this kind of Chinese wives encountered this kind of husbands, what kind of emotional expression they would show out in front of us?
2. We brought this thinking into loudly reading the Chinese translation with personalized tones;
3. By totally understanding Anne's meanings, we shifted them into English literature. (I have taught her several principles of pronouncing words and threading words together);
4. Sentence by sentence, I have been together with her to loudly read several paragraphs. Then, let her singly performance it as she was right this mother with loneliness;
5. Finally, by highlighting several key words with their explanations referenced from Cambridge Online Dictionary, her can really get the senses of these paragraphs.

I think: though it was a B2 level material far beyond her level, a professional teacher should have the abilities to re-deal with material's modification and re-select the suitable parts out for the suitable students' progressing. Teacher's significantly important function should be focused on how to re-awake students' interests in learning and touching the beauties of learning, therefore, somehow, teachers were compared with artists. In addition, loudly reading paragraphs integrated with Role-Play strategies can help teacher and student get into the roles soon, which constructed the scenes for teaching and learning. Among them, we can participant-observe language's producing and acting.

Finally, I have given some homework to research key words and read more paragraphs. Through this session, she has construct her confidence and interests in English's learning, which was the most happy issue I would like to see.

Getting back home, I made another Chinese translation for Shakespeare's letter shown as below. Though time is limited, I can almost fulfill this task and let it carry some Chinese life-style.

Hoping it would be fine for our further development.


My beloved Susanna,
My heart broke on receiving your letter. There is so much pain and sorrow flowing through your words, so bitterly accusing me of causing all the misfortunes in your life. I think it was really foul play of your mother to tell you all these lies about me, your father. I want to write you the truth about my life and I really hope this will shed a ray of light on your feelings about me.

收到你的来信,我心都碎了。你的字里行间飘来了如此多的痛苦和伤感。 你给了我如此愤怒的指责,就因为我带给你人生所有的那些不幸事故。我觉得你母亲做法真荒唐可笑 – 她跟你说的所有那些关于我的话都是谎言。作为你的父亲,我想写信告诉你我生活的真相, 并希望这能给你对我的感觉带来一缕阳光。

grief: Very great sadness, especially at the death of someone

misfortune:bad luck, or an unlucky event

Special vocabulary:
foul: Extremely unpleasant; offensive, rude or shocking language)

I was born to the well-known Shakespeare family in Stratford. My parents sent me to King Edward’s VI’s Grammar School, and also taught me the virtues of honesty and loyalty.


Loyalty:your feelings of support or duty towards someone or something


Virtue:a good moral quality in a person, or the general quality of being morally good

grammar school:in the UK, a school for children aged between eleven and 18 who have passed an examination that shows they are good at studying)

When I met your mother, Anne Hathaway, I fell head over heels in love with her. I didn’t even mind the age gap between us and it never occurred to me to 1) ……………. her. I was over the moon about becoming a father and I just couldn’t wait to marry Anne.

当我遇到你母亲- 安妮,哈撒韦时, 我全身心地爱上了她。我甚至不介意我们之间年龄的差距,也从来对她不离不弃。对于为父,我那时非常憧憬,也等不及地要娶你妈。

Heel: the rounded back part of the foot;
Desert: to leave someone without help or in a difficult situation and not come back


Virtue:a good moral quality in a person, or the general quality of being morally good)

After our wedding in November 1582 we moved to our house in Henley Street, Stratford. At that time, I worked hard for a living at my father’s craftsman’s shop where I was making leather gloves for aristocratic ladies in our county. Although my father, John, was highly-respected and there was always a lot of work in his shop, I didn’t earn much. When you, Susanna, were only two years old, to my great joy, your sister Judith and our poor Hamnet were born. However, difficult times soon came upon our family and we started struggling to make ends meet. Thus, when I met a travelling group of actors performing in Stratford, I thought it was a golden opportunity for me to earn more money for our family. I knew I had had a natural gift for acting and writing and I was right. My move to London became a great success. I quickly found a job at the King’s Men, one of the best known theatres in London, where I’ve been working since then as an actor and their main 2) …………….. I’ve written many plays and poems, and I really hope, my dearest Susanna, that you’ll read them one day.

1582年十一月结婚以后,我们搬到了在斯特拉德福德的亨利街的房子里。那时,我拼命工作就为了能在我父亲的工匠店里营生。 在那里,我曾经为咱们郡上最荣耀的女士们做皮质手套。虽然你爷爷老约翰在那是非常受尊敬并且在这个店里有许多活儿,但我挣得真不多。苏珊娜,当你仅仅两岁大的时候,让我兴奋无比的是你妹妹-朱迪斯和我们可怜的哈姆内特诞生了。但很快,困境再次降临到我们这个家头上,我们不得不纠结于和彼此道别。至此,这就是为何当我遇到一队来斯特拉福德旅游的艺术家的表演,我认为那是我一生中可以为咱家挣更多钱的黄金机遇。我心里是清楚自己有表演和写作天赋的,而且我真的对了。我去伦敦确实是很伟大的成功。我在伦敦最广为人知的剧院 – ‘王的男人’找到了一份工作;在那里我一直工作着并成了一名演员,同时也是主要的戏剧作者。我写了那么多的戏剧和诗歌。我挚爱的苏珊娜啊,我真希望你哪天能读到它们。

County:a political division of the UK or Ireland, forming the largest unit of local government, or the largest political division of a state in the US

misfortune:bad luck, or an unlucky event
aristocratic:a class of people who hold high social rank

Special vocabulary:

foul: Extremely unpleasant; offensive, rude or shocking language
craftsman:a person who is skilled in a particular craft )

Despite this success, you can’t imagine how much I’ve been missing you over these long years away from home. I hated being an 3) ……………. father to my children! I always tried to come to visit you in Stratford whenever I could, but I must admit I didn’t really have much time free from work. I kept sending your mother all these letters with some coins in them but she never replied to any of my questions about your life. And then the news of the death of our beloved Hamnet completely devastated me. It was so devastating that I just couldn’t visit Stratford any more. I completely threw myself into work only to escape from my 4) …………… at his loss.


grief: Very great sadness, especially at the death of someone
devastate:to destroy a place or thing completely or cause great damage

And my sweetie, in all these years, I haven’t even thought to 5) ……………. your mother with another woman, and there hasn’t been a single 6) ……………. in my life here. In fact, I’m deeply disappointed that your mother hasn’t recognized herself in the mysterious dark lady of my sonnets! She’s always been the only inspiration for my writing!
As you can see, my darling, this is much ado about nothing and there is no use shedding tears any more. I can’t wait to meet my little girl again and tell her how much I love her!
Yours forever and a day,

我的甜心啊,这些年里,我真的从未想过背叛你母亲去找别的女人,我这的生活里也从未有其他单身情人。 其实,我真对你们的母亲感到很失望,她竟然没有认出来我十四行诗中的那个迷一般的黑女人就是她自己啊!只有她才是我写作灵感的唯一源泉!

Mysterious:something strange or not known that has not yet been explained or understood
betray:to not be loyal to your country or a person, often by doing something harmful such as helping their enemies
Inspiration:a sudden good idea
Shed:to produce tears, light, blood, etc.
Special vocabulary:
Mistress: a woman who is having a sexual relationship with a married man

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