Shadow Plays

People have been performing shadow plays for centuries.  The performers are behind a sheet and their shadows are projected onto the sheet creating different images.  It is quite enchanting.  Some of these plays are from the public domain and from back in the day when people would entertain themselves at home - what a concept.  These are great for homeschool families, creative children and families, etc.

Some Shadow Plays for you to Perform:

Shadow Plays #1


By Henry Baldwin

From the book, St. Nicholas Book of Plays and Operettas

Copyright 1900



            This is the first of the show plays we would like to bring you. A sheet is hung between the audience and the performers, who, by the proper arrangement of light (which can best be attained by experiment), throw their shadows on the sheet. Somebody hidden from the audience reads the ballad aloud.





It was a maiden beauteous--

Her name was Mary Jane;

To teach the district school she walked

Each morning down the lane.

(She passes and re-passes behind the curtain.)


Well skilled was she in needlework,

Egyptian she could speak,

Could manufacture griddle-cakes,

And jest in ancient Greek.


It was the stalwart Benjamin,

Who hoed his father's corn;

He saw the lovely maiden pass,

At breaking of the morn.

(He enters at left.)


Deep sighed that bold, admiring swain;

The maid vouchsafed no look--

She munched a sprig of meetin'-seed,

And read her spelling-book.

(She enters at right, and halts.)


A low obeisance made he then;

Right bravely did he speak:

"There is no rose so fair," he said,

"As that upon thy cheek!


And many a brooch and silken gown

Will I bestow on thee,

If thou wilt leave thy father's house

And come and marry me."


Then proudly spake that lovely maid:

"Thy corn-patch thou may'st till!

I haste to teach the infant mind,

On yonder lofty hill.


Though never golden brooch have I,

Though silken gown I lack,

I will not wed an husbandman,

So take thine offer back!"


Oh, fiercely blow the icy blasts

When winter days begin!

But fiercer was the rage that filled

The heart of Benjamin!


He tore in shreds his raven locks,

And vowed he'd love no more.

"Smile on," he cried, "thou haughty maid;

Thou shalt repent thee sore!"


The lady turned; she did not speak;

Her tear-drops fell like rain;

(Tears represented by small pieces of paper.)


Those plaintive words at last did pierce

The heart of Mary Jane.







Oh, blithely sang the soaring lark;

The morning smiled again;

Up rose the sun, with golden beams,

And up rose Mary Jane.

(The lark should be made of pasteboard, and a string, passed through his body, should be stretched diagonally across the sheet. By another string fastened to his head, and running over the upper nail, he may be made to soar. The sun should rise by a string passed over a nail in the center, and at the top of the framework on which the sheet is stretched. The lark should be about as large as the sun.)


She gat her to her daily task,

As on the former morn;

Alack! She spied not Benjamin

A-hoeing of the corn.

(Enter Mary Jane.)


No longer, as she trips along,

Her merry songs she sings;

The tear-drops dim her pretty eyes,

Her lily hands she wrings.


"And art thou gone, sweet Benjamin?

Ah! Whither hast thou fled?

My spelling-book has charms no more;

I would that I were dead!"


But soon her bitter moan she ceased;

She viewed her doughty knight,

Delayed not many leagues from thence,

And in most grievous plight.


For as he to his husbandry

That day would fain have passed,

A monster cow his path beset,

And sorely him harassed.


Upon the summit of a wall

He sits, and dares not flee;

The awful beast its sprangling horns

Doth brandish frightfully.

(The cow, made of pasteboard, should be fastened to a broom-handle, and poked in from one side. The smaller the cow the better.)


"Oh, Mary Jane!" he cried, "if you

But love me, do not stay

To weep, but lend a friendly hand,

And drive the cow away!"


Her apron then she quickly takes,

And wipes her streaming eyes;

Not quicker melts the morning dew

Than to her love she flies.


The monster turns at her approach,

It shakes its ample tail;

Take heart, O Benjamin! Thy love

Will neither quake nor quail.


Her parasol that venturous maid

Exalted o'er her head,

Thrice waved it in the air, and lo!

Straightway the monster fled.


Then tarried not that joyous pair

Fond vows of love to make,

But to the house of Mary Jane

Themselves they did betake.


(As the cow runs away, Benjamin gets down and approaches Mary Jane till almost close to her. Then, if both lean forward, it will look like they kiss. They then take hands, and the lamp is moved slowly to one side and obscured; this gives them the appearance of walking, and allows the father to enter; after which the lamp is moved back, and the lovers re-enter.)


And out, spake grateful Benjamin;

"Forsooth, I had been dead,

Had Mary Jane not saved my life

And her I fain would wed."


Up spake her aged sire then;

Full wrathfully spake he:

"How darest thou, thou popinjay,

To ask such thing of me?


For wert thou but a millionaire,

Then would I not demur;

Now thou art but an husbandman,

And she--a school-teacher!"


Oh, sorely, sorely, did they grieve!

The cruel parient's heart

Inflexible as stone remained,

And they were torn apart.

(He motions them apart.)







And now has come Lord Mortimer,

A-suing for her hand;

A richer nobleman than he

Is not in all the land.


Upon his lordly knees he sank,

On bended knee he fell;

"And wilt thou not, fair Mary Jane,

Within my castle dwell?


Thou walkest now with weary feet,

But thou shalt ride in state;

And dine and sup, like any queen,

Off my ancestral plate."


Right scornfully that angry maid

Her dainty nose upturned!

She waved her lily hand, and thus

His tempting offer spurned:


"Get hence! Avaunt! I scorn thy gold,

Likewise thy pedigree!

I plighted troth to Benjamin,

Who sails the briny sea."

(Exit Mortimer; enter Father.)


"Nay, verily," her father said;

"Braid up thy golden hair;

Prepare to die, if thou wilt not

For nuptials prepare!"

(Flourishes a pasteboard knife.)


She braided up her golden hair

With jewels bright, eft soon;

She clad her in her twice-dyed gown,

and eke her thrice-patched shoon.


"Oh, Benjamin! Oh, Benjamin!"

Was all that she could say;

She wist not but that he was dead,

Or thousand leagues away.







Alack for Mary Jane! the knife

Hangs glittering o'er her head!

Before the altar, Mortimer

Waits his fair bride to wed.


"Who knocks upon the outer gate?

Oh, Father, quickly hie!"

"'T is but the grimy charcoal man;

We have no time to  buy!"


"Methinks I hear the area-bell;

Oh, Father, quickly speed!"

"'T is but a pesky book-agent;

Thou hast no time to read!"


The fatal knife descends, descends!

Her shrieks no mercy win!

When lo, a shout! --the door gives way!

In rushes Benjamin!


"Full many a year, a pirate bold,

I've sailed the Spanish Main;

I now return, a trillionaire,

To claim thee, Mary Jane!"


Out spake her happy sire then:

"Can I my eyes believe?

Upon your knees, my children dear,

My blessing to receive!"


Alas for luckless Mortimer,

Of love the hopeless dupe!

He gave up all his title-deeds,

And joined a circus troupe.


But merrily the bells did ring,

Loud was the cannon's din,

Upon the day when Mary Jane

Was wed to Benjamin!


(A low step-ladder, or table covered with a cloth, may be used for the wall. Mary Jane's bonnet can be made of a newspaper. Her father may wear a waterproof cloak, belted in, if a dressing-gown is not obtainable.)

End of Shadow Plays #1

Shadow Plays #2:

We will have more shadow plays soon!

We will bring you as many shadow plays as we can on this page.  Please feel free to submit your shadow plays to us as well so we can share your shadow plays with our readers.

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