A performance-based educational program serving grades 9-12
The ESU National Shakespeare Competition

Since 1983, the competition has engaged more than 360,000 young people. Approximately 2,500 teachers and 20,000 students in nearly 60 ESU Branch communities across the country. 

The National Shakespeare Competition is Happening Now!

The ESU is proud to announce that the 2024 National Shakespeare Competition Finals

will be held in NYC on:

       Monday, April 15 at the Mitzi Newhouse Theater  at Lincoln Center!!

Our exciting weekend of events in New York City will begin Saturday, April 13 and will include:

A welcome reception

Acting workshops for contestants

An NYC Bus Tour

A Broadway Show…

and more!


Upcoming Deadlines

Branch Competitions must be held prior to March 10, 2024

Branch Winner Packets must be returned to ESU by March 17, 2024


2024 National Shakespeare Competition Prizes

Program Videos

Check out what NSC Finals weekend in NYC is really like!

Click here

National Shakespeare Competition Overview



The English-Speaking Union’s National Shakespeare Competition is a performance-based education program in which high school students nationwide read, analyze, and perform Shakespeare’s works.  Students develop communication skills and an appreciation of the power of language and literature.

The ESU National Shakespeare Competition is aligned with modern educational practices. Participating students:

  • practice essential skills such as critical thinking, close reading and public speaking
  • work through all 6 levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, from recall to creation, increasing self-confidence through reading, analysis and performance of Shakespeare
  • have multiple points of entry to explore universal themes and are challenged to decode for themselves the complex beauty of Shakespeare’s language 
  • work with teachers and peers in a student-centered program of experiential and cross-curriculum learning
  • meet local, state and national standards in English Language Arts and Drama.

The ESU National Shakespeare Competition has been recognized by the Globe Center (USA), the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America and the American Academy of Achievement.

Program Timeline


Fall (School Level)

The program begins in classrooms nationwide each fall, culminating in school-wide competitions in early winter in which students memorize and perform a monologue.

Winter (Community Level)

The school competition winner advances to a community ESU Branch competition, usually held between January and March. Here students perform their monologue and a Shakespearean sonnet. The winner advances to the national competition held in New York City.

Spring (National Level)

At the ESU National Shakespeare Competition (held in late April, near Shakespeare’s birthday on 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 compete for cash prizes and the opportunity to attend a summer drama program.

2023 NSC Winners!!

1st Place Winner – Elena Hollenbeak from Hawaii

2nd Place Winner – Casey Kerr from Central Florida

3rd Place Winner – Nicole Bevely Chien from NYC

Contact Us

Maryellen Liotta
Manager, Shakespeare Programs

144 E 39th St
New York, NY 10016

(212) 202-5031 x 246