The English-Speaking Union

ESU National Shakespeare Competition

Rules and Eligibility


In order for a school to participate in The English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition, it must meet the criteria listed below. Only those schools whose competitions meet these criteria will be eligible to send contestants to their local ESU Branch competition.

  • The school must register with the ESU via the School Participation Form. 
  • The school competition must be open to all students enrolled in the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades or an equivalent for home school students.
  • The school competition must involve a minimum of three students. Home school students must also advance from a competition of three or more students.
  • School and home school competitions must be judged by a panel of at least three individuals familiar with Shakespeare's works. 

All contestants in the competition must meet the following criteria. 

  • Contestants must be enrolled in the 9th, 10th, 11th, or 12th grade or an equivalent for home school students.
  • Contestants may not act for pay on television, the stage or in film during the 2022-2023 school year.
  • Contestants should be available to represent their school at the local ESU Branch competition. If, for any reason, the school winner is unable to participate, the school should send the first runner-up. 
  • The branch winner should be available to represent their school at the national competition. If, for any reason, the branch winner is unable to participate, the branch should send the first runner-up. 
  • Previous school and/or branch winners may participate each year they are eligible (regardless of results in past competitions). Schools and/or branches may not limit contestant participation except for the above mentioned eligibility requirements.

The selections that contestants perform must meet the following criteria.


Students must select their monologue from the 2023 Monologue Packet provided by the ESU.

No alterations may be made to the monologues. They must be performed as written in the packet.

The packet includes OVER 250 monologues from 120 characters in all 38 plays. The selections offer a variety of monologues, of 15 to 22 lines a piece; students may select whichever monologue they prefer, regardless of gender.  Selections have been taken from the Folger Digital Texts resource (


Sonnets must come from Shakespeare's 154 sonnet cycle. These are all listed in the 2023 Sonnet Packet  and are available at

Students must perform the complete sonnet; no alterations are allowed.


All competitions must adhere to the following rules. These rules are consistent throughout all levels of competition (school, ESU Branch, and national).
  • Each contestant must select, memorize and perform one monologue from a Shakespeare play.
  • Each contestant at the ESU Branch and national levels must select, memorize and perform one sonnet in addition to their monologue. Contestants may perform their pieces (monologue and sonnet) in whatever order they prefer.
  • Contestants' order of performance should be determined by lot.
  • Contestants should introduce themselves by name only
  • Contestants should identify their selection/s before they begin their performance.
  • Contestants may not wear costumes or use props of any kind (including chairs, jewelry, items of clothing, and hair/hair clips). The use of props is grounds for immediate disqualification. 
  • Contestants should speak naturally in their own voice (rather than affect a British accent).
  • Contestants are expected to memorize their pieces. If necessary, however, prompting is allowed. 
  • If a contestant has documented hearing, learning, physical and/or visual disabilities, advise the local ESU Branch prior to the competition, so that appropriate accommodations can be made.

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