International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology

The Journey of Shakespeare’s Pericles: Young People Discover Personal Meaning Through the Theme of Death and Resurrection

Alistair Martin-Smith, Ph.D


The Looking for Shakespeare program has evolved over a period of eight years at New York University and at Goldsmiths University in London.  Its non-traditional rehearsal processes are designed to support young people by challenging them to deepen their understanding of one another, and their engagement with Shakespeare.  Since issues of identity are of paramount importance for young people, we explore the relationship between identity and character.  We seek to challenge and extend the identities of adolescents, so that the Shakespeare characters they create will be extensions of themselves. In our Pericles rehearsal process, the theme of death and resurrection became a focus and catalyst of forging new identities from disruptive personal experiences.  Our company of young people was challenged to examine the implications of Shakespeare’s narrative in their own lives: The play’s events, especially the resurrection of Thaisa from the dead, stimulated their awareness of their own death and resurrection experiences and helped them to work together as a team.

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