So I just got back from an encore performance at my daughter’s fifth grade class. They’ve got less than a week of school left and the teacher had basically warned me not to expect them to want to learn anything new, so I decided to just have fun with it.
At this age (10, 11ish), death and dying are still pretty cool. When we did Macbeth, it was the prospect of swinging a foam sword and maybe killing your best friend that made it exciting. So I decided to go with that theme. I got a bag and filled it up with over 100 slips of paper containing the wide variety of ways to die in Shakespeare’s time. These included:
died at birth
died giving birth
hanged for poaching
drawn and quartered
burned at the stake
died in the war (drowned, hit by cannonball, scurvy, etc…)
killed in a bar fight
I honestly can’t remember how many I made. Of course there were a few variations on “Still Alive”, too.
I explained to the kids how lucky we are that Shakespeare lived to be 52 years old, and how easy it would have been for him to have died much younger. How his son died, and his sisters, and eventually Marlowe.
Told them all the stand up and, one by one, draw from the hat. If you were still alive, you played in the next round. Otherwise you died, sit down.
They *loved* it. One kid, before drawing, said “I hope I die!” He got typhoid. So I explained to him what that was and just how gruesome his death would have been. That’s how it went, around the room, me explaining the circumstances and gory details of each death.
After the first round, 8 kids were left out of about 24. After the next round just 2. Then both of them died.
They immediately screamed that they wanted to play again. In this round a boy got “Died giving birth”, which brought the place to its knees in hysterics. This time there was eventually just one girl left, and the class insisted that she continue to draw slips until she died. Sure enough she draws an Alive slip again and everybody claims she must be cheating. But then on the next draw she got plague and died.
Highly recommended, if you’ve got an audience for it. Took me a reasonable portion of my evening to cut up and write out the slips, but totally worth it. I made over 100 slips for the class of 25, which meant that even after 2 rounds of the game there were still plenty to choose from.