After many years of participating in SSF (Shakespeare Schools Foundation), I have come to understand the advantages of deepening drama work with reference to the enriching stories, language and character within the works of Shakespeare. In this first game in our series, Grandma’s Footsteps, we see how a traditional game loved by children in the classroom and the playground can be transformed by adding a Shakespearean context.
- social skills;
One of the players becomes grandma. Grandma then faces a wall at one side of the playing area, with her back to the rest at the other end. Once the signal is given to start, the other players have to try and reach grandma and tap her on the back to win the game. Grandma can turn round at any point to catch someone moving, sending them back to the start.
Running is not allowed.
If grandma sends you back you have to go!
Grandma’s Footsteps – The Shakespearean Versions!
Macbeth Act 5 scene 4
This game could be incorporated into a lesson on Macbeth to highlight tension. The tension felt by the players during the game can be used to understand the tension Macbeth feels while he waits in the castle knowing that the armies of Malcolm and England could appear at any time. The game could also be used to introduce Shakespeare to children.
Macbeth – The witches prophesied that Macbeth would never be defeated until the Birnam Wood came towards his castle. Malcolm (the rightful heir to the throne stolen by Macbeth), commands his forces to use branches to disguise their approach.
‘Until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill do come against him.’
One child stands against a wall or tree or similar end point playing Macbeth.
The other children act as soldiers ready to move towards Macbeth’s castle.
When the signal is given to begin the game the soldiers move stealthily.
Of course, Macbeth will turn around from time to time in the traditional manner.
If he sees a soldier moving everyone has to retreat to the start.
The first person to reach Macbeth has to say in a commanding voice, ‘Turn hell-hound turn! (These are the words used by his former friend Macduff whose family Macbeth has murdered).
The ‘winner’ become Macbeth!
The children place their bag and their coat somewhere between the start line and Macbeth. When they reach the items they have to put them on. This can act as the camouflage used by Malcolm’s army as they become Birnam Wood moving towards Dunsinane Hill.
For those who are studying the play, the soldiers could represent the fears and uncertainty of Macbeth. Each time Macbeth turns they could be challenged to voice this.
Act 2 scene 1
‘Is this a dagger I see before me?’
In this scene, King Duncan is sleep in his bed chamber, protected by two guards. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have been persuaded that the crown of Scotland is theirs for the taking by the prophecies of the Three Witches. As a further precaution, Lady Macbeth has added a sleeping potion to the guard’s wine.
The ‘grandma’ is King Duncan and those creeping up on him represent the assassin Macbeth. If you prefer, two ‘sleeping guards’ can support Duncan and wake up if they hear any noise. If an individual or the group are caught it is as if Macbeth has decided not to go through with it, emphasising his uncertainty.
For those who are studying Macbeth, this game also represents his paranoia. Some could be asked to be his ambition as they move with determination towards the bedchamber. Others could as to be his doubts and fears of being caught, knowing that what he is doing is wrong. The teacher might ask for these thoughts to be voiced during the game.