What Would Shakespeare Do During Covid? A Plague on None of Your Houses

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Publisher's note: We are SO EXCITED to share this incredible resource! Read on:

William Shakespeare lived his entire life in the shadow of a plague, and his plays dramatize dread familiar to us during our own pandemic. With their rigorous community outreach restricted by Covid guidelines, the Simpson Literary Project has found new ways of connecting with communities, by producing an introduction to Shakespeare through the lens pandemic.

What Would Shakespeare Do During Covid? A Plague on None of Your Houses

“The Simpson Literary Project offers a brilliantly curated 20 minutes of Shakespeare’s words that remind us of his timeless wisdom and of the cyclical nature of human existence and social problems. The film also provides educators a student-friendly springboard for a multitude of assignments applicable to a variety of disciplines and contexts. The opportunities for critical analysis of Shakespeare’s observations, insights, and convictions abound and are even more compelling through the lens of 2021.”
— John Murray, Associate Professor (Teaching), the Writing Program, Dornsife College of Arts and Scients, University of Southern California

Pulitzer Prize–winner Stephen Greenblatt of Harvard University, General Editor of The Norton Shakespeare, introduces this new 20-minute “mash-up” performance film directed and curated by Philippa Kelly (dramaturg of the California Shakespeare Theater), produced by Joseph Di Prisco, filmed by Obatala Mawusi and Fox Nakai at the California Shakespeare Theater (Berkeley, CA), featuring music by Paul Dresher, and performances by the Pandemic Popup Players.

“Shakespeare lived his whole life in the shadows of the plague. The plague is present as a steady undertone throughout his plays, surfacing most often in expressions of disgust or rage or self loathing. Shakespeare struck this disturbing note in words that were meant to be performed before thousands of people, all of whose lives had been overturned as ours have been by the plague.”
—Stephen Greenblatt, from his Introduction

The film is available, free and open to the public, at simpsonliteraryproject.org/shakespeare-and-the-plague

The complete Viewer’s Guide can be downloaded at simpsonliteraryproject.org/s/Shakespeare-and-thePlague-Viewer-Guide-p73y.pdf.

The Simpson Literary Project, established in 2016, is an innovative private/public partnership between the University of California Berkeley English Department and the Lafayette Library and Learning Center Foundation. The Project fosters new literature, supports authors, and enhances the lives of readers, writers, educators, and students in diverse communities in California and the nation. The Project serves high-school age writers in free writing workshops conducted by Simpson Fellows, creative writers from the Berkeley English Department. The Project awards the annual Joyce Carol Oates Prize, $50,000 to a mid-career author of fiction.

What Would Shakespeare Do During Covid? A Plague on None of Your Houses


photos adapted by Wandering Educators