Shakespeare behind bars - A conversation lesson Can they be forgiven for their crimes?

Look at these photos. What do they have in common? Tell your partner.

How challenging is it to play a Shakespeare's character?

Read the text "English prisons in grip of crisis". Then, answer the questions according to the text.

  • What are some of the causes of the crisis in prisons?
  • How did inmates escape from Pentoville jail?
  • How is it easier for inmates to access drugs than clean bedsheets?
  • To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement, from Bernie Sanders: "Overall, we need bold change in our criminal justice system. A good first step forward is to start treating prisoners as human beings, not profiting from their incarceration. Our emphasis must be on rehabilitation, not incarceration and longer prison sentences." ?

Before you watch the trailer of the documentary Shakespeare Behind Bars, discuss and decide with your partner whether these themes might be mentioned in the film.

  • Inmates are excited to be part of this programme.
  • Inmates would like their families to attend the plays.
  • The types of crimes they have committed.
  • The inmates are rehearsing the play
  • Negative reviews of the play
  • A nasty relationship between two inmates

Discuss these questions with your partner. Take turns in asking and answering the questions. Take notes of new words or expressions that come up. After the discussion, report your partner's opinion to the whole class, adding your comments.

  • Have you ever watched a Shakespeare's play or film? Did you like it?
  • Would you watch a Shakespeare's play performed by inmates or former inmates? Why or why not?
  • Do you think inmates make good actors for a Shakespeare's role? What makes you think that?
  • "Playing Shakespeare is an opportunity to reflect on life". To what extent do you think this statement is truthful for an inmate? Are people capable of change?
  • Do you believe Shakespeare behind bars benefits society in general? Why or why not?
  • Shakespeare behind bars is a redemptive programme. Do you believe it can result in low rates of recidivism? What are your views on programmes like this one?

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Created By
Cecilia Nobre

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