Historical information

This book contains a collection of literary works written by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare was an English playwright, poet, and actor, widely esteemed as the foremost writer in the English language and the world's premier dramatist. Often hailed as England's national poet, his surviving works comprise around 39 plays, 154 sonnets, three lengthy narrative poems, and a handful of other verses, some of which are of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are staged more frequently than those of any other playwright. Shakespeare remains arguably the most influential figure in English literature, with his works persistently reinterpreted and reimagined.

Ruyton Girls' School has a long tradition of awarding prizes to students at annual "Speech Night" events. Speech Night at Ruyton is an extraordinary occasion. It is a time when we gather to celebrate both the year just lived and the contribution of our Year 12 girls to the life of our School. It is a night of stirring student speeches, acknowledgement of student endeavour and excellence and awe-inspiring performances by School choirs and ensembles.


The record has strong historic significance as it was awarded to a former notable student, Helen Gordon (maiden name Cole). Helen started at Little Ruyton in Prep 1940 and finished Year 12 in 1952 as School Captain, Bromby Captain, Form Captain for Matric, Tennis Captain, Hockey Captain, Swimming Vice Captain, and an award for Best All-Round Girl. She also played baseball for Victoria. After finishing school, Helen went on to graduate from the University of Melbourne as a physiotherapist in 1956. Her first position at age 19 involved setting up clinics with the Victorian Health Department Poliomyelitis Rural division.

Helen’s strong ties to Ruyton continued when she held the position of President of the Old Ruytonians’ Association from the start of 1966 to the end of 1967. In 2019, Helen received an Order of Australia Medal for service to community health as a physiotherapist. She was also the recipient of the 2022 Victorian Senior Achiever Award at Parliament House.

This historic significance is further enhanced by Ruyton's bygone "Shakespeare Night" tradition. A celebration of ‘culture’, and a chance to enjoy some ‘fun and games, cakes and ale’, were the motivation behind Ruyton’s annual Shakespeare Night party, led by longstanding Principal Miss Hilda Daniell. In her book, "The History of Ruyton 1878-1956", she describes how the yearly tradition began in 1915, just two years after she took over the role of Principal. That first Shakespeare Night, the senior girls and other guests gathered in the School’s chrysanthemum-filled dining room for music, games and supper. Such fun was had that the festivities became an annual event and was one of the coveted privileges of being one of Ruyton’s older girls.

The Night was always held as close and possible to April 23rd, which is the date of William Shakespeare’s death, and the approximate date of his birth. Senior girls and some staff and parents would be invited to a party in the School. There, Shakespearean songs were sung, his poetry recited, and scenes from his plays were acted. Sometimes a competition was held to see who could recognise the largest number of quotations. In other years all the attendees would dress as Shakespearean characters. In a nod to a minor character from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, Senior teacher Miss Dorothy Derham famously came disguised as a lion one time, and no one knew who it was until she dramatically removed her mask at the end of the evening. Whatever the programme, the Night always drew to a close with a delicious supper that included a spectacular birthday cake especially in honour of the Bard. (Accompanying it may have been the ‘ale’ of Miss Daniell’s description, though of course it was presumably of the ginger rather than the alcoholic variety.) The evening was complete when ‘God Save the King’ and ‘Auld Lang Syne’ were sung.

Shakespeare Night was held almost without interruption from 1915 to at least the mid 1950s. Only in 1919, with the threat of Spanish Flu, did the Night get cancelled. Later, fear of Japanese invasion in the Second World War years, and the consequent black-out restrictions, turned the ‘Night’ into an afternoon event. Thankfully, Miss Daniell notes, "from 1944 the programmes could be given as usual", though as we now know, it was a School tradition that eventually faded away.

The record's significance is also supported by its strong provenance, having been produced by Ruyton Girls' School and donated to the Archives by a familial connection.

Physical description

Navy leather hardcover bound book with gold detailing on front cover and spine. 1,164 pages.

Inscriptions & markings

Front Cover:
R /


Inside Cover:
R /
Helen Cole /
Latin /
VB /
H. Daniell. /
9th Dec. 1949 /
Katie Alsop Memorial Prize /