Supplementary Lesson Plans
Act V Focus: The Narrative of Shakespeare
Lesson: “Writing Ourselves Into the Narrative of Shakespeare, Part I”
1. Have students break up into groups of three or four.
2. Write “Shakespeare” on the board and ask students to spend a few minutes thinking in their group about what immediately comes to mind when they see or hear this word. Ask each group to come up with between 3-4 associations that they will be comfortable sharing with the class. Tell them that thinking about the names of Shakespeare’s plays or their most famous characters could be a good starting point, but that these should not be included as one of the groups’ associations.
3. Once they have had some time to think, invite groups to come to the board and write out their associations.
4. When all groups have had time to write on the board, prepare the class to discuss “the story of Shakespeare” that they have collectively built. Circle any terms that are identical, and then ask students to identify any common themes, synonyms, or clear dissimilarities that they observe.
5. After the class has had time to identify and discuss patterns, clearly write these patterns out on the board and tell the class that this is “the narrative of Shakespeare” that they are identifying now (for instance, students might identify terms like “old,” “historical,” “theatre,” “romantic,” or “academic”).
6. Now, assign each group a scene from Romeo and Juliet or ask each group to spend a few minutes choosing a scene (at least 100 lines in length) that they would like to explore further.
7. Ask each student to read through their chosen scene once, circling or highlighting any moments in the scene that stick out to them. You might ask students to consider:
- What moments made them feel emotionally invested in the scene or the characters?
- What moments made them laugh?
- What moments felt the most poetic or stylistically interesting?
- What moments might have been confusing?
8. Give each group time for students to talk through their observations. Ask each group to take note of any lines where students had similar reactions.
9. Then, ask each group to summarize the actions and environment of the scene. Have each group identify:
- Where are the characters?
- What major actions are taking place?
- What is the emotional tone of the scene?
Lesson: “Writing Ourselves Into the Narrative of Shakespeare, Part II”
(This can also be engaged as a larger, multi-day project)
1. Reinforce the idea that the relationships, themes, and storylines found in Romeo and Juliet and other works by Shakespeare are universal and relevant to students’ everyday experiences.
2. Students will work individually with the scene they chose for Part I of this lesson. Explain that they will be writing themselves into the narrative. They will do this by rewriting the scene’s dialogue into modern speech, incorporating senses of their own language preferences and the language preferences of people in their own life. Inform students that the guidelines are as follows:
- The original scene should be at least 100 lines in length
- The new scene should reflect the action of the original scene (However, it does not have to be exactly the same. For instance, instead of a sword fight that results in a death, the scene could depict an argument between friend groups.)
- The new scene can either be something that has truly happened to the student, or something they imagine could happen in their life
- The student should write themselves into the scene, representing themselves speaking some of the dialogue
- Other people in the student’s life should be speaking the remaining dialogue
- The new text does not need to be in line format or meter
- The new text should reflect modern speech patterns
- Students will type their modernized scene
3. After students have completed their scene adaptation, discuss the following reflective questions:
- Was it difficult to write yourself into Shakespeare? Why or why not?
- What themes or relationships reminded you of your own narrative?
- Did this activity change your understanding of Romeo and Juliet? How so?
Act V Lesson Extension
The below source may not be as accessible to instructors as those on JSTOR, but it provides some interesting questions regarding where an edition ends and an adaptation begins. Quite possibly our distinction between the two is not even productive. Fischlin analyzes the commodification which creates and reinforces Shakespeare—his works, courses devoted to him, filmic and written adaptations, and long-lasting intellectual and authorial debates—as a brand and object of market value. Such a work is useful in discussions of class, labor, and commodification. Recommended grades are 11-12.
Fischlin, Daniel. “Upcycling Shakespeare: Creating Cultural Capital,” OuterSpeares : Shakespeare, Intermedia, and the Limits of Adaptation. University of Toronto Press, 2014.
The below link allows students to consider the ways in which a given story can be expressed through multiple mediums in an effort to gain greater popularity and commercial success. It uses the Star Trek franchise, for instance, to articulate how failure or middling success in on genre (i.e., TV for the original series), does not necessarily mean that the same story will fail in a different genre (comics and novels, in this instance, after the end of the original series). We can easily connect this to Romeo and Juliet by considering the ways that the story has been adapted, changed, rewritten, and used as raw material for other love stories from West Side Story to High School Musical.