01/10/2012 02:54 BST | Updated 30/11/2012 05:12 GMT

Almost A Third Of School Children Under 13 'Haven't Heard Of Shakespeare'

Almost a third of schoolchildren under 13 do not know who William Shakespeare is, a survey has found.

Hundreds of pupils from across the country took part in a study to discover whether they knew of the playwright.

The survey, which involved 1,000 pupils aged between six and 12, revealed that 30% are unaware of the country's most celebrated writer.


To learn or not to learn: Around a quarter of adults (27%) have never read a play by Shakespeare and around one in eight (12%) are unaware that he was a British playwright, researchers also found.

A number of stars of stage and screen have now backed calls for a rethink of how Shakespeare's classic works are taught to young people.

Actor Jeremy Irons said: "I think so many people are put off Shakespeare at school and like so much of drama, you have to see it in order to be moved by it. Then you begin to go back to the text and you begin to understand the world, the imagination behind those words."

Paterson Joseph, who has played the role of Othello on stage, said: "The classroom setting is probably, in my opinion, the worst place to come to Shakespeare first because Shakespeare never intended his works to be read in a classroom. He intended his works to be heard and to be seen."

Avengers Assemble star Tom Hiddleston, famed for his Shakespearean roles, said: "Shakespeare is at its best when you speak it like you're making it up, when it sounds as if it was written yesterday."

The survey also questioned 2,000 adults, showing that half (49%) are unable to complete the line: "O Romeo, Romeo ..." from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet with the correct answer, "wherefore art thou Romeo?".

The study, by market researchers Vision Critical, found that 5% of people aged 18 to 34 believe Shakespeare's most famous play is Cinderella, while 2% from the same age group think he is a fictional character.

Half (49%) identified Macbeth as Shakespeare's most recognisable character.

Meanwhile, 63% learned about Shakespeare through television and not school or other traditional educational outlets.

The research findings have been published as The Hollow Crown is released on DVD, featuring Shakespeare's Richard II, Henry IV parts one and two and Henry V.

The Hollow Crown is available from October 1, courtesy of Universal.