Shakespeare For Kids – Free on Kindle (for a Limited Time!)

Disclaimer – I was sent a press release, I have not personally read these books. My kids are a little old for the intended audience now, anyway. But they’re legit free, at least for an introductory period, so it’s an opportunity to grab them if you’re looking for some material for the 6 – 12 age group.

Welcome to “Shakespeare for Kids” – a delightful book series that brings the magic of William Shakespeare’s timeless stories to life for a younger audience! Our series opens up the world of classic literature, making it accessible, engaging, and heaps of fun for children to explore.

Shakespaere For Kids Hamlet

Perfect for young readers aged 6-12, as well as for parents and teachers who wish to introduce the Bard’s masterpieces in an approachable manner, “Shakespeare for Kids” ensures that learning about literature is both educational and entertaining.

Shakespeare For Kids Romeo and Juliet

Let your children’s adventure with the greatest playwright of all time begin today! Pick up a “Shakespeare for Kids” book and let the curtain rise on their exciting journey through the timeless world of William Shakespeare.

FREE on Kindle for a limited time!

Ranking Julia Stiles Shakespeare Movies

AI-generated sketch of Julia Stiles in Shakespearean costume
She’s giving Kate vibes in this AI-generated sketch.

I love this idea for a list, courtesy ScreenRant – Top Julia Stiles Shakespeare Movies. Of course, she only made 3, so it’s a very short list – Hamlet, O (Othello), and 10 Things I Hate About You (Taming of the Shrew). The math geek in me wants to say that only leaves 6 possible combinations, but who are we kidding – nobody’s making O their number 1. I love that I can just italicize a single letter like that as a title.

I like to remind people, though, that Ms. Stiles may have been having a bit of fun with us during her Shakespeare period.

She portrayed Ophelia to Ethan Hawke’s Hamlet in 2000 … but she also starred in Down to You with Freddie Prinze Jr. the same year. Is that a Shakespeare adaptation? Well, no. But she does play a character named Imogen – who shares a name with a character from Cymbeline. Which Ethan Hawke also starred in, in 2014! But we’ll call that one a coincidence, the girl’s not from the future.

Then, in 2004, she starred in The Prince and Me. Oh, and she was named the same as a Shakespeare character? Not this time. She just played the love interest to the Prince of Denmark. And they fall in love bonding over Shakespeare sonnets.

I’m a little tempted to stage a Julia Stiles movie marathon just to see how many Shakespeare references we can spot in the strangest places.

Avenging Shakespeare: What If?

AI-generated cartoon Loki peforming Hamlet
Poor Yorick is about to be used as a projectile.

I was a huge fan of Marvel’s movie efforts right through Infinity War / Endgame. I’m also one of the people who think that Disney’s switch to television series was their jump-the-shark moment. I haven’t really followed any of their Disney+ shows, and once you lose those, you start losing the Easter eggs in the movies, which makes you care less about the movies. It’s a slippery slope.

Then I discovered the Season 2, Episode 8 of the animated What If? series has the Avengers in Shakespearean England. I’m in!

I haven’t watched any episodes leading up to this one, but who cares? I get the general idea – it’s a multiverse thing where we see the characters we know in new roles. This one opens with Loki doing Hamlet, and I’d recognize Tom Hiddleston’s voice anywhere. Sold. Of course, it’s not long before some alien force attacks, and the fight scenes begin.

Unfortunately, that’s about all the Shakespeare we get. We don’t get a Shakespeare character (though Tony Stark looks much like him). There’s a two-second bit where Loki is talking about a new play he’s written called Iago. “There are other characters in it,” he says, “but really it’s about Iago.” I laughed.

I assume this is based on Neil Gaiman’s comic of the same name, but I’ve not read it. Maybe I should? I’m going to assume it has a lot more Shakespeare content.

Andrew Scott as Patti LuPone

I have not yet seen Andrew Scott’s Hamlet, though it appears universally loved. It regularly comes up on the Shakespeare Reddit as one of the most approachable takes on the character ever filmed.

AI-generated image of a theatre where everyone is on their laptop

I wonder, then, if they caught it on video when he apparently stopped his performance to stare down a rude theatre-goer who opened up a laptop during “To be or not to be”?

“When I was playing Hamlet, a guy took out his laptop — not his phone, his laptop — while I was in the middle of ‘to be or not to f***ing be’,” Scott said. “I was pausing and [the stage team] were like, ‘Get on with it’ and I was like, ‘There’s no way’.”

On the one hand, I can’t disagree with him. You probably paid a lot of money for a live theatre ticket like that. And you’re going to fire up the laptop? Just to hell with everybody around you, right? Forget stopping the play, I want you on the blacklist for that theatre so you never see another live show. All this guy got was a stare down. Also, go ahead and stare him down for his phone, too. It’s all rude.

On the other, does anybody see what bothers me in the above quote? In the context of being interrupted during the most famous soliloquoy in the English language, our Hamlet says “like” twice. “He was like blah, and I was like, blah!” It’s amazing what’s happened to the language in 400 years. And I don’t mean that in a good way.

Where’s Patti LuPone When You Need Her

Maybe Mr. Scott just needs some years to get tired of it. Broadway legend Patti LuPone is famous for letting the audience know how she feels about them. In 2015 she marched into the audience and ripped the phone out of one audience member’s hand. In 2009 she started yelling at people who, ignoring the announcement, were taking pictures of the show. Gloriously, this moment lives on via YouTube.

I need to get to more live theatre, in the hopes of catching one of these moments. Who said Shakespeare is boring?

Hamlet is Batman

Ask a random person if they’ve seen Hamlet, and chances are, they’ll treat it like a yes or no question.

Ask that same person if they’ve seen Batman, and they’ll say, “Which one?”

In the time I’ve been alive, Batman has been portrayed by Adam West, Michael Keaton, George Clooney, Val Kilmer, Christian Bale, and Robert Patrick (did I miss any?) That’s not counting the animated or television versions. I know Adam West was tv Batman but they also did a full-length movie.

AI-generated image of Batman performing the Yorick speech from Hamlet.
Alas, poor Joker.

See where I’m going with this? Everybody knows “the Batman story”. Parents murdered when he was young. Grows up to be a crime-fighting billionaire, works at night, has lots of cool toys. Not only do we keep telling his story over and over again, but people keep going. We understand that we basically know the story. We want to see how it’s going to be told this time. We want to see how it’s going to be acted this time.

That is exactly how Shakespeare fans feel about Hamlet. I don’t feel the same way about Moby Dick or Catcher in the Rye. Those were checklist items, you read them and say ok, read that, I’m done. I suppose you could do this with Hamlet. You could read it and say, check, done, I can say I’ve read Hamlet. I know a lot of people make it their bucket list to read all of Shakespeare’s works.

But to see it, that’s a whole different story. Whose did you see? What do you think about Mel Gibson’s version versus David Tennant? Or Andrew Scott up against Benedict Cumberbatch? Thoughts on Kenneth Branagh, or Kevin Kline, or Derek Jacobi?

This is how I want us to explain our love of Shakespeare to our friends and family. Shakespeare’s not something you get through in high school just to get the grade and forget all about it. The text may not be changing, but our desire and opportunity to interpret it has continued to evolve over hundreds of years. A character like Hamlet should be as iconic as Batman. We all know the story. Everybody who’s seen Lion King knows the story. Uncle kills father, marries mother, son avenges father. We go to see how it’s going to be told this time and by whom. What insights will new voices bring? Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear … let them be our superheroes.