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Sentenced to Shakespeare
News Bytes 03/22/2017 14 Comments

For some juvenile offenders in Lenox, Massachusetts, this sentence may be as bad as time behind bars. Instead of sending convicted kids to detention or community service, Shakespeare & Company is putting them on stage.

Kids who run afoul of the law may choose to perform Shakespeare in place of another sentence. The “punishment” includes reading the bard’s work, taking a role, and memorizing lines. Kids must also come up with costumes and set ideas, rehearse, and finally act out the play or scene for an audience of friends, family, and court personnel.

At first, the participants almost always hate the idea of performing Shakespeare. But by the end of the six-week program, many say it was a positive experience. Some find new friends. Most feel they’ve accomplished something new.

“You would never catch me doing this stuff if I didn’t have to. But it’s taught me teamwork and to just chill out and listen,” says one 17-year-old boy. He will play Macbeth today in a production that includes monologues from various Shakespeare plays.

For the past 17 years, Shakespeare in the Courts has been used with youths accused of a variety of lower-level crimes, including larceny, assault and battery, and vandalism.

Probation officers and others who work in the program hope it helps the teens learn to respect others, fulfill commitments, and see themselves with dignity and worth. Juvenile Court Judge Joan McMenemy says the purpose is to rehabilitate—not simply punish—young lawbreakers.

“This just broadens their horizons beyond what they could have had if they had been sentenced to pick up trash on the side of the road,” McMenemy says.

What do you think? Should courts seek to punish juvenile crime or encourage positive behavior with programs like this one?

(Photo: AP)

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Most recent comments


I like this. As long as it's consistently successful, this can be a good idea. I can see how imprisonment in jail can actually worsen, rather than improve, a prisoner's attitude.


This sounds really neat, and it's amazing how it's improving these kids' lives! Yes, although punishment is necessary, sometimes it makes the kids worse. They should encourage programs like this.

What I Think / (A.B.)

This is a really cool program! I think it's a great idea, ( Although WORLDTeen seems, in the way they write, that they want you to to agree that the program is good. ) ~ A.B


I like this idea! I mean doing a play can teach you values and picking up garbage well that sounds like a really good way to get mad;-)


I hope in the plays kids don't do the battle or evil parts. 'Cause they might get influenced in the wrong way. Overall, great idea! :D

The R.H. Opinion

In some cases prison restores the character of the guilty, yet quite frequently it feeds the flames of rebellion within them. This activity encourages forethought and excellence, responsibility and predictability, as well as incentive for a successful, daily routine. Since competition encourages one to strive for excellence, I am excited to see the results! ~R.H.


I love theater so to me this seems like a great idea! Does anyone else do Drama?

@ hannah j.

No, I don't, but I'm thinking of possibly joining a drama troupe later this year. My friend, who is with Christus Homines Drama Troupe, recently put on a Peter Pan play - it was really good, considering it was done by mostly high school kids!

CC. @Hannah J.

I had Drama lessons last year. It was a good experience, although i don't think I'll go into play acting.


Talk about cruel and unusual punishment... :)


It can't be that bad. They get to play with swords :) Has anyone ever tried to read the actual plays? My family has a book with a bunch them. Believe me when I say it's not easy. (And that's coming from a guy who loves reading old books)

That's not a punishment!!!

That's not a punishment! I do Shakespeare simply because I love acting and because it's fun. I think Shakespeare is a better choice than REAL punishment though.

@Holly P

LOl. It's against the Bill Of Rights!!!

writing club,

Hey All, started posting on here because I noticed that I can no longer publish comments on the old page, is that happening to anyone else?

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