English in Action: The English-Speaking Union

National Shakespeare Competition

How It Works


High school students read, analyze, perform and recite Shakespearean monologues and sonnets in three qualifying stages: at the school, community and national levels.


Fall 2017/early Winter 2018: 

The program begins in classrooms nationwide, culminating in school-wide competitions where students memorize and perform a monologue.

Winter 2018:  

The school competition winner advances to an ESU Branch Competition, usually held in January or February or early March. Here students perform their monologue and a Shakespeare sonnet. The winner advances to the National Competition held in New York City.

April 22-24, 2018 (tentative dates): 

At the ESU National Shakespeare Competition (April 23), students perform their monologues and sonnets in New York City before a distinguished panel of judges as well as their fellow contestants from across the country. Based on their performances, seven to ten students advance to the final round. Finalists, performing their selections along with a cold reading of a monologue, compete for cash prizes and the opportunity to attend a summer drama program.


Branch Awards:

Each ESU Branch community winner receives an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City to compete in the National Competition.

Additional prizes for Branch winners vary by Branch. Some Branches also provide awards for the winners' teachers.

National Awards:  

First Prize:  Scholarship and airfare to attend Royal Academy of Dramatic Art Young Actors' Summer School
Note:  If the winner of the National Competition will be under the age of 16 at the start of the course in July, they will receive scholarship and airfare to attend the American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camp.

Second Prize:  Scholarship and airfare to attend American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camp

Third Prize:  $500