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Inspired by Shakespeare, Written for Kids

Sidney Herbert. Scenes from Shakespeare for the Young. London, 1885

Shakespeare has inspired countless books, plays, and poems for children to read, and wonderful games, dolls, and toys for them to enjoy.


Authors have rewritten Shakespeare’s tales and poems for kids since the late 1700s. They produced little books for small hands, like The Lives and Tragical Deaths of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, and the Lovely Ophelia , which tells the story of Hamlet showing how one murderous deed can lead to the ruin of many people. Sometimes the books would be very large.  A big illustrated book, such as Scenes of Shakespeare for the Young , shown above, would have thrilled young readers and been a special birthday or Christmas present.


Shakespeare even inspired paper dolls and picture books. Nineteenth-century English picture books, like Tales from Shakespeare in Verse shown to the right, which tell stories through illustrations and very few words, are the forerunners of the comic books we read today.


Shakespearian paper dolls, like Young Albert, the Rosicrucian , invited children almost two hundred years ago to dress up the nineteenth-century child actor, "Young Albert" like different characters from plays. You can see two of the dolls, Shakespeare's Richard III and Othello, on the right. Two inter-changeable heads—one white, one black—come with the costumed figures and fit into slots on the back. Modern Shakespeare paper dolls are different. They have paper bodies on which to try different costumes.


With all of these retellings, lavishly illustrated editions, spin-offs, and toys, it is easy to see why Shakespeare's stories have been embraced by children and adults for hundreds of years.



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J. Willis. The lives and tragical deaths of Hamlet, prince of Denmark, and the lovely Ophelia. Print, 1823

Tales from Shakespeare in Verse: "The Taming of the Shrew". London, ca. 1880

Young Albert the Roscius, exhibited in a Series of Characters from Shakspeare and other Authors. London, 1811

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