Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Allen Webb

Second Advisor

Dr. Jonathan Bush

Third Advisor

Dr. Margaret Dupuis

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Jo Miller


Shakespeare, 16th century literature and culture, secondary students, high school English, 21st century education, pedagogy


Drawing on examples from the author’s and colleagues classrooms, this dissertation shows how an historical approach to teaching Shakespeare, drawing on primary documents from the period, opens meaningful interpretations, issues and questions for secondary students. Chapter One reviews current pedagogical approaches to teaching Shakespeare, close reading, reader response, and performance to set forth the rationale for teaching Shakespeare using primary documents. Chapter Two highlights ninth grade students studying Romeo and Juliet and includes classroom stories about engagement with documents about gender, sexuality, violence, and potions. Chapter Three describes two general English 11 classes and their successes and challenges with Hamlet as they read the text and other primary documents about ghosts and religion, melancholy and madness, theater and acting, and espionage and treason. The fourth chapter illuminates findings while teaching Macbeth to Advanced Placement students, using a variety of document genres on themes of witches, government and freedom, manhood, equivocation, and insomnia. Chapter Five reveals the challenges and joys of teaching A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a middle school classroom, drawing on digital and visual documents about conflict and resolution, fairies and the supernatural, work and rank, and celebrations and entertainment. The final chapter proposes a small-group inquiry approach to Shakespeare’s sonnets, incorporating student-driven research of documents. The chapters quote from student work and discussions as well as teacher observation to illustrate and provide evidence for the value of the approach. Several appendices include lists of documents by theme , strategies for teaching Shakespeare and the documents, assessment rubrics, contemporary literature based on Shakespeare’s plays, and teacher online resources for further exploration. One important appendix outlines how teachers and students can research their own documents.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access