William Shakespeare - Lesson Plans and Activities

  • Hamlet Character Analysis Owl Eyes Lesson Plan

    Character Analysis: Gertrude and Ophelia as Shakespeare’s Innocents Destroyed This lesson plan focuses Gertrude’s and Ophelia’s roles as innocent, tragic victims in Hamlet who succumb to the demands of their society and the deadly forces in Claudius’s court. Students will contrast their positions in the court, describe their relationships with Hamlet, Claudius, and Polonius, and analyze examples of Gertrude’s and Ophelia’s actions that are determined by the gender roles society expects them to conform to in their relationships with men. In studying Gertrude’s and Ophelia’s characters, students will be better able to describe how gender roles affect these women, how political intrigue destroys them, and how their tragic lives underscore a major theme in the drama.

  • Hamlet Literary Devices Owl Eyes Lesson Plan

    Literary Devices: Theme Revealed Through Motif This lesson plan focuses on Shakespeare’s use of motif in developing an important theme in Hamlet. Students will examine deception as a major motif in the play and interpret what Shakespeare suggests about adopting deceptive behavior to resolve conflicts. Students will focus on Hamlet and Claudius in analyzing and describing examples of deception and will determine the ultimate consequences of their choosing to deceive others. In studying deception as a motif, students will be better able to identify and describe a major theme in the play.

  • Romeo and Juliet Literary Devices Owl Eyes Lesson Plan

    Literary Devices: Constructing Love with Metaphors in Romeo and Juliet Act II, scene ii This lesson plan asks students to analyze the lovers’ first exchange in the famous balcony scene in order to determine how Juliet uses rhetoric to correct Romeo’s romantic discourse and ground his idealized love in reality. Students will closely examine Romeo and Juliet’s language in Act II, scene ii to notice the difference in the metaphors both characters use: Juliet creates more logical metaphors that advance her thought process and dialogue, whereas Romeo crafts metaphors that resemble unrealistic tropes of Petrarchan love poetry. Students will discuss their interpretations of these metaphors with their peers and determine to what extent Juliet converts Romeo’s unrealistic romantic love into real love. Upon completing this lesson plan, students will be able to analyze complex metaphors and use their analysis to evaluate the romantic relationship in Romeo and Juliet.

  • Macbeth Literary Devices Owl Eyes Lesson Plan

    Literary Devices: Character Revealed Through Literary Motifs This lesson plan focuses on Shakespeare’s use of literary motifs in developing the character of Lady Macbeth. Students will examine several motifs in the play and analyze what they reveal about her and how they contribute to symbolism and theme in the drama. In studying the motifs, students will be better able to describe the dynamic nature of Lady Macbeth’s character, her psychological and emotional disintegration at the play’s conclusion, and how her destruction contributes to themes in the play.

  • Romeo and Juliet Character Analysis Owl Eyes Lesson Plan

    Character Analysis: Mercutio and the Death of the Festive Clown in Act III, Scene i This lesson plan focuses on how Mercutio’s character underscores the turning point between comedy and tragedy in Romeo and Juliet. Students will closely examine the tone, motivation, and language of Mercutio’s lines in Act III, Scene i in order to analyze his character and examine how his dialogue signals a transition in his character and the tone of the play. Working with their peers and as a group, students will share their observations and identify the moment when Mercutio shifts from being a comedic character to a serious one. Upon completing this lesson plan, students will be better able to explain how Mercutio’s death represents the transition from comedy to tragedy in Romeo and Juliet. Skills Close reading; character analysis; drawing inferences from dialogue; textual interpretation

  • Macbeth Character Analysis Owl Eyes Lesson Plan

    This lesson plan focuses on how Macbeth develops as a dynamic character in regard to the internal conflict he experiences in murdering King Duncan. Students will work with Macbeth's soliloquy at the beginning of Act II, Scene i as he anticipates the moment when he will kill Duncan. In studying the soliloquy, students will be better able to describe and explain Macbeth's mental and emotional state prior to committing the heinous act that violates his conscience.

  • Hamlet eNotes Response Journal

    What supernatural element is established immediately in the play? Why has Horatio been asked to stand watch with Barnardo and Marcellus? Describe Hamlet’s emotional state after the death of his father. What do Claudius and Gertrude want from Hamlet? Why can’t Hamlet comply with their wishes? Describe what Laertes thinks about Hamlet’s feelings for Ophelia. What does he believe might interfere with Hamlet and Ophelia’s relationship in the future? How does it relate to Hamlet’s position in Denmark? How is the theme of revenge introduced into the play through the Ghost? In Hamlet’s society, why would he be expected to avenge the Ghost? What does the Ghost tell Hamlet about seeking revenge for his death? When the troupe of traveling actors arrives at Elsinore, what dramatic speech does Hamlet ask one of the players to perform? Why would this particular piece of drama interest Hamlet? What does it suggest about his state of mind? One of the most famous soliloquies in Shakespeare’s dramas is found in Act III, Scene 1. It begins, “To be or not to be—that is the question ….” What is Hamlet trying to decide? Why is he unable to reach a decision? Explain the intense internal conflict Hamlet expresses in the soliloquy.

  • Much Ado About Nothing eNotes Lesson Plan

    William Shakespeare’s reputation as a dramatist is distinct. While few facts of his personal life are available, he was a prolific writer. During his lifetime (1564–1616), Shakespeare wrote dozens of tragedies, comedies, and historical plays, as well as sonnets and poetry. While his poetry was published before his plays were, it was his plays that met with great commercial success and critical acclaim, making him the favorite of two separate monarchs, Elizabeth I and James I. It was King James who gave Shakespeare the Globe Theatre, where his plays are still performed today.  The central plot in Much Ado About Nothing concerns the love between Hero and Claudio, with the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick forming a subplot. The two storylines are unified through the character of Leonato, Hero’s father and Beatrice’s uncle. The action of the play centers on the wedding to take place between Hero and Claudio and the attempt to get Beatrice and Benedick to admit that they love each other. Villainous Don John, however, wants to disrupt everyone’s happiness; he makes it appear that Hero is disloyal to Claudio, deliberately deceiving him and others, which divides allegiances and prompts Claudio to leave Hero at the altar. By the end of the play, however, Hero is redeemed, there is a double marriage, and all ends well.  Shakespeare often borrowed stories from other writers. Much Ado About Nothing was influenced by a collection of tales entitled La Prima Parte de le Nouelle (1554) written by the Italian writer Matteo Bandello. The twenty-second story in the collection gave Shakespeare the setting in Messina and contributed to the wedding plot involving Hero, Claudio, and Don John. The poem Orlando Furioso (1532) by Ludovico Aristo gave Shakespeare the idea for Don John’s trick to prevent the marriage. The title for the play is a pun borrowed from the time in which Shakespeare wrote. During the Elizabethan era, “nothing” was pronounced as “noting.” The pun in the title and its use throughout the play is intended to indicate the importance of “noting”—through observation, eavesdropping, and spying on the action. When a character in the play “notes” something and interprets it in the wrong way, the misunderstanding complicates the plot. When the misinterpretation is deliberate, the theme of deception emerges.  Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy, but it develops some serious themes, as well. Besides the theme of deception, the play addresses honor vs. shame, love, gender expectations, and personal transformation. The crisis at the center of the play evokes anger, betrayal, and grief. Despite these thoughtful themes and motifs, however, the circumstances and events of the play are superficial and humorous. A romantic comedy, Much Ado About Nothing continues to captivate readers and audiences four hundred years after it was written because it is so amusing.  At the heart of the comedy are two duos that are humorous in different ways: one duo is sophisticatedly funny, whereas the other is farcical. Beatrice and Benedick employ droll wit and verbal sparring, whereas Dogberry and Verges struggle humorously just to articulate their thoughts. Language contributes to the fun, too, because the wordplay highlights the various characters and their relationships to one another. Throughout the play, Shakespeare uses puns, antitheses, malapropisms, double entendres, and innuendos in a remarkable display of literary prowess. Students should not be intimidated, however, by Shakespeare’s literary skills, as Much Ado About Nothing is not an overly daunting exercise for the intellect. The play is written primarily in prose and blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter), making the language easier to understand than rhymed verse. And, the plot is a relatively simple rendition of the classic boy-meets-girl story, intended to entertain, rather than to vex, its readers.

  • Twelfth Night eNotes Lesson Plan

    William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was written in 1601. It is his only play in which there is a lesser-known alternative title, What You Will. Commercially oriented, Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night because he knew that Elizabethan audiences would like the play. To this end, he employed popular Elizabethan romantic conventions, such as mistaken identity and obstacles to true love. The plot is simple: romantic confusion ensues after a man, who is actually a woman in disguise, arrives in town. As in all of Shakespeare’s comedies, doubt is erased, any “villains” are disposed of, and everything ends happily by the end of the play.  Little is known about Shakespeare’s life despite the volume of his work. The chasm between Shakespeare’s fame and the quantity of his writing has fueled an argument by scholars since the nineteenth century that someone other than Shakespeare created the plays and poems attributed to him. Thus far, there have been seventeen alternate Shakespeares proposed by “anti-Stratfordians,” or those who believe there was another writer. Foremost among them is the author and scholar Charlton Ogburn, who has tirelessly argued for his theory that Edward de Vere, the seventeenth Earl of Oxford, wrote Shakespeare’s plays and poems.  The Earl was a flamboyant character whose life mirrored many of the events in several of Shakespeare’s plays. Ogburn’s primary argument is that Shakespeare was too parochial and uneducated to have written the body of work that he did. Other scholars reject this claim, citing the imaginative life of a writer who is able to create, for example, seemingly first-hand knowledge of Danish and French courts, as well as Italian cities. Additionally, the Earl died twelve years before Shakespeare, leaving many plays unaccounted for.  What Shakespearean scholars do agree upon is that the Bard was notorious for borrowing stories from other writers. For Twelfth Night, an Italian play Gl’Ingannati (1530s) seems to have supplied the plot in which twins are mistaken for each other, and a platonic love triangle comprises part of the narrative. Also, an English story “Apollonius and Silla” (1581) appears to have provided the elements of a shipwreck and a woman disguised as a man.  Shakespeare named his play after the twelfth day of Christmas. During the Elizabethan era, people celebrated the Twelfth Night of the holiday with music, dance, banquets, and plays. The historical precedent for this celebration is the Roman Saturnalia festival. It is likely the Roman festival inspired some of Shakespeare’s themes in Twelfth Night, such as drowning and gender uncertainty. The Roman revelry also included much drinking and role reversal: servants played masters, masters played servants, wives pretended to be their husbands, and so forth. Contributing to Twelfth Night’s theme of gender confusion, women were not allowed to appear on stage during the Elizabethan era; young boys would play girls’ parts. Thus Shakespeare’s Viola would have been a boy dressed up as a girl pretending to be a boy.  At the time Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night, modern English was less than one hundred years old. While much of the vocabulary Shakespeare used in his writing is now archaic or obsolete, prompting many readers of his work to feel intimidated by the language and his references, many of his expressions have become a part of our modern vernacular: such examples include, “neither rhyme nor reason,” “a wild goose chase,” “eaten out of house and home,” “brave new world,” and “dead as a doornail.” Modern readers discover these familiar expressions in Shakespeare’s plays with a mixture of relief and delight. These discoveries reinforce the notion that these plays, while written in the language of the sixteenth century and filled with references contemporary at the time but now obscure, are not an exercise for the intellect, as Twelfth Night exemplifies.  This play is a fanciful, romantic comedy that has remained popular for over four hundred years because it amuses and entertains its audiences, just as the author intended. For those willing to practice “the suspension of disbelief,” as they follow the misadventures of the often foolish characters, Twelfth Night offers much to enjoy and to consider; after all, unlike language, human nature has not changed much at all.

  • Macbeth eNotes Response Journal

    As the play begins, three witches appear in a lonely, deserted place, accompanied by thunder and lightning. What are some words you would use to describe the atmosphere and mood of this first scene? What role do you think the witches might play in the story of Macbeth? During Scene 1, the three witches chant, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” How do you interpret the meaning of their pronouncement? Do you see it as a prediction of future events or as an indication that the witches are evil in nature? Could it be both? Discuss your thoughts about the witches’ chant.

  • Julius Caesar eNotes Response Journal

    As the play opens, people have gathered in the streets to celebrate Caesar’s returning to Rome in triumph. He has defeated Pompey, whom the crowds had cheered in the past. Do you think people always cheer for the winner? Are they ever loyal to a loser? What evidence do you have that confirms your opinion about how people react to winners and losers? The Roman tribunes, Flavius and Marullus, try to drive the crowds from the streets of Rome. Describe a time when you or someone else was told to “move along.” What was the situation? What was the result?

  • The Taming of the Shrew eNotes Lesson Plan

    One of Shakespeare’s earlier plays and published for the first time in the First Folio (1623), The Taming of the Shrew was a success with audiences when it was originally performed. Its main plot focuses on the “taming” of Katherine—a woman no one will marry because of her strong personality and sharp tongue. Petruchio, eager for a challenge and for Kate’s sizable dowry, sets out to wed Kate and make her into an obedient wife. The secondary plot concerns the love affair of Lucentio and Bianca—the latter of whom is courted by several men and controlled by a dominant father, leading Lucentio to resort to disguise and deceit in order to make Bianca his own. Shakespeare structures The Taming of the Shrew as a play within a play. Preceding the appearance of any of the central characters, audience members watch the Induction—explanatory scenes that stand apart from the main action—in which a drunken member of the working class, Christopher Sly, is the subject of a lord’s elaborate joke: If Sly is treated as a lord and told he is a lord, will he believe it? As part of the ruse, the lord compels Sly to watch a play performed by a traveling troupe; thus the stories of Kate and Petruchio and of Lucentio and Bianca are framed through the eyes of Christopher Sly. “Induction,” therefore, takes on a double meaning, as will so many words throughout the play. Sly is being “inducted” into the aristocracy, just as the audience is introduced to the play’s action. Shakespeare also seems keen to remind his audience they are only watching a play, not real life, and they should not take anything at face value. The Elizabethan audience who first watched The Taming of the Shrew would have expected an enormous imbalance of power in any marital relationship. Men were firmly entrenched as heads of their households, and women were subservient. By the Elizabethan period, the “shrew” had become a well-established stereotype. A comic figure in popular farces and tales, she also acted as an admonitory symbol of “unnatural” women who did not recognize their subservient place in a male-dominated society. So common was her type that among the fifteenth-century wood carvings in the choir stalls of Shakespeare’s own church (Holy Trinity in Stratford), there’s a carving of a woman known as the “bridled scold”: She has a bit in her mouth to punish her for shrewishness. Thus, Shakespeare’s audience would have laughed at Petruchio’s treatment of Kate and probably would have agreed with the other characters that any abuse she receives from Petruchio or any other man is well deserved. It goes without saying that gender roles have changed significantly in the four centuries since The Taming of the Shrew was first performed. What is less obvious is why the play has endured despite its outdated premise. The answer may lie in Shakespeare’s original intent for the play. Did he mean for the play to be taken at face value—or is it a typical Shakespearean comedy filled with characters whose behavior the audience could learn from and laugh at? Educated Elizabethans knew that comedies, in accordance with classical theory, were supposed to mirror ridiculous human behavior that the audience should not emulate. Did he intend it as a farce, wherein behaviors are so exaggerated and ridiculous that the audience is free to laugh without taking the characters and their dilemmas seriously—or did he intentionally include elements to suggest that Kate’s “taming” could be interpreted as the death of a free spirit? 

  • Romeo and Juliet eNotes Lesson Plan

    One of Shakespeare’s best known tragedies, even to those who have never read his works, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet continues to ignite the imagination and the heart in its exploration of the passionate nexus of love and death and the ironies of fate. Of all the Bard’s plays, none has proved to be so accessible and inspiring to so many different audiences. One famous contemporary adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is West Side Story, both a Broadway hit and a popular film; in this modern version of Shakespeare’s story, the Montagues and the Capulets of Verona are represented by the Jets and the Sharks, rival gangs pitted against each other in New York City. Also, music stars, such as Taylor Swift, have alluded to the play in song. In our vernacular, to be a “Romeo” is to be both a true romantic and a passionate lover. The definition reflects Shakespeare’s very clear message in the drama: Romantic love and passion are essentially intertwined. Although Romeo and Juliet has become synonymous with tragic romance and “star-crossed” lovers, the play is, in fact, very bawdy; clever and risqué double entendres appear throughout. While modern readers may fix on the chaste “balcony scene” in which the lovers adore each other from a distance, it is to this same window that a rope ladder is affixed, so that Romeo can reach Juliet’s bed chamber and consummate their marriage. Characters such as the nurse and Mercutio, especially the latter, serve to gently lampoon the Petrarchan model of courtly love that held up a saintly and untouchable lady as the idealized object of pure devotion. For Romeo and Juliet, love is not metaphorical; it is spiritual and carnal, passionate and all-consuming. Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, which is based on an Italian novella, around 1593, following a hiatus when the London theaters were closed because of plague. During the time he was not writing for the stage, Shakespeare explored the subject of erotic desire through his poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, each based on work by the Roman poet, Ovid. Shortly after the theaters reopened, he wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream and then Romeo and Juliet. Some scholars feel these two plays—a comedy darkened by serious themes and a tragedy marked by flashes of deliberate comic relief—portray two sides of the same coin: the complexities and sometimes disastrous consequences of falling in love. Set in Verona, Italy, Romeo and Juliet opens with an argument between the servants of two prominent and long-feuding families, the Montagues and the Capulets. Romeo, a Montague, and two friends decide to attend a ball hosted by Lord Capulet. Wearing masks to disguise themselves, Romeo, Mercutio, and Benvolio attend the ball, where Romeo meets the beautiful Juliet and falls instantly in love. Later that night Romeo goes to Juliet’s window, and they exchange vows of devotion. Romeo enlists the help of Friar Laurence, who agrees to marry the young lovers in hopes of ending the long-standing feud between their two families. Passion abounds in Verona, however, fueling the impetuous desires of the young lovers and spilling blood in the streets; a series of fated events results, culminating in Romeo’s and Juliet’s suicides. As love dies, so too does hatred; the warring families promise to end their hostili- ties, which have cost them their only children. As in other Shakespearean plays, the language and the cultural conventions in Romeo and Juliet may seem foreign or dated, but the themes remain as true and as relevant to modern readers as they were to Shakespeare’s Elizabethan audiences. While modern teens might question the hastily arranged wedding between Juliet and Paris, they find believable the pure and passionate love-at-first-sight experienced by Juliet and Romeo. Rebellious teens seeking advice and assistance from adults other than their parents, just as Romeo and Juliet turn to Friar Laurence and the nurse, are found in everyday life as frequently as in literature. The teens in this tragedy are not singled out as the only characters making bad decisions; in fact, Romeo and Juliet might be excused from their impulsive actions, considering the overarching power assigned to destiny in the play. When their ill-fated romance ends in the tomb, Romeo and Juliet leave their parents, as well as the prince who dismissed the tragedy inherent in their rancor, to come to terms with the duality found in human existence: light and darkness, violence and desire, and love and death.

  • The Merchant of Venice eNotes Lesson Plan

    Given its preoccupation with financial ruin, oppression, racism, anti-Semitism, and a bloody pound of human flesh, Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice seems an unlikely comedy; in fact, today the play often receives the oxymoronic designation “tragicomedy” because it does not adhere to the conventions of either tragedy or comedy but instead includes two distinct plots. The tragic plot hinges on a legal bond between Antonio, a respected merchant who requires a large loan, and Shylock, a Jewish moneylender universally scorned (particularly by Antonio) for usury, the practice of charging excessively high interest rates on loans. In an attempt to entrap Antonio, Shylock offers to forego interest on the loan if Antonio will instead pledge a pound of his own flesh as collateral, forfeiting it should he fail to repay the hefty sum by the appointed time.  Antonio accepts these strange conditions in order to help his friend Bassanio pursue another type of bond—marriage to Portia, the beautiful heiress of Belmont. Bassanio believes he needs a small fortune to compete for the right to woo Portia. Having lived beyond his own means, he appeals to Antonio, to whom he already owes “the most in money and in love.” Bound to Bassanio by deep feelings of platonic love, Antonio binds himself to Shylock for the gold. As the play’s focus shifts from money to marriage, traditional comedic elements such as rebellious women, clever disguises, and mistaken identities lighten the mood and steer a course closer to Shakespeare’s other comedies. Nevertheless, the original bond between Antonio and Shylock soon enmeshes all the characters in Antonio and Shylock’s deadly serious rivalry.  As the play unfolds, Shakespeare reveals a plethora of bonds of a different nature—the bonds between friends, between lovers, and between parents and children. The resulting conflicts challenge the idea that two people can truly be bound to each other in marriage or in friendship when they are bound also to their social obligations, to professional distinction, to family duties, to religious piety, and to reputation. The bonds, betrayals, and divided loyalties make a comic conception of the play troublesome; moreover, the remarkably hostile climate in which these bonds are forged and broken truly sets The Merchant of Venice apart as Shakespeare’s most problematic comedy.  Antonio’s bond being central to the plot positions Shylock as the principal antagonist, a role that presupposes a degree of derision and exclusion. Cruelty and comedy are frequent bedfellows in Shakespeare; however, Shylock is unique as an alienated antagonist because he is a Jew. First published in 1600, The Merchant of Venice belongs to a period of widespread anti-Semitism in England and in continental Europe; the prejudice and malice that prevailed against Jews during this time were rooted in the Middle Ages, when Christians made scapegoats of Jews, blaming them for Christ’s crucifixion and spreading dark rumors that the tribes of Israel drank the blood of Christian children. Enduring social, legal, and economic exclusion defined Jews as a separate race, as well as a religious group, forbidding them from owning land, confining them to impoverished ghettos, and denying them the practice of most professions. Complicating an already malignant stereotype, many Jews turned to money lending, a despised profession, simply because prejudice closed so many other career paths to them. England had forcibly expelled most of its Jewish population four hundred years before Shakespeare’s time; sources estimate that fewer than two hundred Jews remained in England during the author’s life. Thus the character of Shylock was crafted from stereotype and sensationalism; Shakespeare often trafficked in exotic characters and settings to heighten the interest of the masses that flocked to view his dramas.  That prejudice and cruelty form the basis of so much of the play’s humor causes great consternation among critics. Because of its blatant, demeaning anti-Semitism, should the play not be performed for modern audiences, or does Shakespeare provide just enough sympathy for Shylock—and criticism of his antagonists—to redeem the work? Furthermore, Shylock is not the only character who is the target of bigotry, giving rise to the criticism that The Merchant of Venice evinces a broader racism. While the Venetian merchants spit on Shylock, the lady Portia spurns a parade of foreign suitors, one of whom is black. Her disparaging comments about Morocco’s “complexion” underscore the play’s endemic racism, confounding our expectations of a romantic heroine. In Portia, three other major themes of this play come together: marriage, money, and bondage. An undeniably willful, intelligent woman, Portia is nevertheless bound by the will of her dead father; she must welcome any suitor willing to face a test of her father’s own devising in order to win her hand. Her suitors find Portia beautiful, but her wealth clearly constitutes a considerable part of her charm. Even Bassanio seems seduced more by the promise of money than by Portia herself, raising a troubling question: While the marriage plot promises the happy union of lovers, can a happy ending exist when the object of marriage is not love but wealth? Racism, greed, betrayal, deceit, cruelty . . . and comedy? What is the reader to do with the problems posed by The Merchant of Venice? Shakespeare’s language always requires careful reading, but this play also demands an open mind. As scholar Alexander Leggatt observes in the Folger edition of the play, “Even a great writer can be bound by the prejudices of his time.” The reader must confront instances of exclusion and racism, question their causes, and look for those moments in which Shakespeare suggests sympathy for Shylock. Most importantly, the reader must turn a critical eye on the play’s heroes as well as on its villain. Given the lovers’ readiness to exclude Shylock (and Antonio), do they deserve a conventional happy ending? Shakespeare seems to invite this critique, as the play’s title directs us not to The Moneylender of Venice but to Antonio, the eponymous merchant. Antonio’s blatant prejudice and his determination to exclude Shylock mirror his own social isolation at the end of the play.

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream eNotes Lesson Plan

    A Midsummer Night’s Dream transports us to a fantastical world where fairies reign supreme and humans are merely a source of fun to be trifled with from time to time. While it is a love story—it is believed that Shakespeare wrote the play for a wedding—romance is sometimes eclipsed by the ethe- real and magical world of fairies and the spirit of farcical comedy woven into the fabric of the play. When the play opens, the humans’ world is out of balance. Four young Athenians (Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius, and Helena) are enduring romantic problems. Both men love Hermia, but she loves only Lysander, of whom her father disapproves. Discord exists also in the world of the fairies, whose king and queen have been fighting. A third group of characters, a band of six craftsmen, is planning a play for the upcoming wedding. Almost all the characters—humans and fairies alike—end up in the woods after nightfall, where the king of the fair- ies sets in motion a series of events that wreaks havoc on his wife and the lovers over the course of the night. By morning, however, he has restored harmony to one and all; he and his wife have made up, and the four lovers are happily paired off. After they have married, alongside Theseus and Hip- polyta, the humans gather at Theseus’s palace to watch the craftsmen’s disastrously hilarious play. A world that was woefully out of balance at the play’s outset has been brought back into alignment. This was an early comedy of Shakespeare’s, written in 1594 after he joined Lord Chamberlain’s Men and just as they were on the cusp of becoming the most popular theatrical troupe in London. The powerful female figures of Hippolyta and the fairy queen Titania evoke in some form Queen Elizabeth herself, who may have seen the play. As with most comedies, order is restored in the end, through three marriages and their promise of happiness and fertility, but over the course of the play, authority is challenged, the nature of love is revealed, and comic anarchy is unloosed. Even though authority prevails, the play is nevertheless a magnificent celebration of poetry, of love, and of youth. One of the intriguing elements of this play is that the romantic plot is in some ways secondary to the play’s ethereal setting. Although the play shines a spotlight on the nature of love—and the irrational quality of young love in particular—it focuses equally on the relationship between reality and dreams and on a beautiful, magical world that exists beyond the concrete, orderly confines of reality. Percep- tion and misperception, the suspension of disbelief, and the questioning of what is real and what is a dream are all addressed here, with varying degrees of seriousness. The play is a lush, playful lark, richly woven with vivid imagery and some of Shakespeare’s most lyrical language. Students will easily grasp the simple plot structure and be able to focus on how language can contribute to creating a certain mood and developing a character. Some of Shakespeare’s most beloved characters feature in this play; the mischievous and nimble Puck and the nonsensical don- key-faced Bottom are two of the most memorable characters in literature. Students are likely to relate to the spirit of youthful rebellion inspired by the Athenian royals and will enjoy thinking about the madness of young love in contrast to the sober reality of mature love. Finally, students should en- joy debating whether love is akin to madness, where the line exists between reality and dreams, and whether we humans are indeed at the mercy of forces beyond our control.

  • Othello eNotes Lesson Plan

    One of Shakespeare’s best known tragedies, Othello is perhaps his most intense. With virtually no subplot and very little in the way of comic relief, Othello moves rapidly from its opening lines to its tragic conclusion. At its simplest, it is a story of love and betrayal. The esteemed Moorish general serving in the army of Venice, Othello has eloped with fair Desdemona, the daughter of a Venetian senator. Iago, Othello’s ensign and confidant who has been passed over for promotion, harbors a deep and insidious hatred for Othello; clever and manipulative, he brings about Othello’s downfall by deceiving him in regard to Desdemona’s virtue. While appearing trustworthy and loyal, the envious Iago carefully crafts a web of lies and false evidence to convince Othello that Desdemona is carrying on an adulterous affair with Michael Cassio, Othello’s lieutenant. The seeds of jealousy planted by Iago take root quickly and flourish, fed by Othello’s own deep-seated insecurities. His faith in Desdemona—and in himself—cannot stand under the weight of Iago’s ma- levolent machinations; he soon accepts Iago’s lies as truth. Eventually overcome by grief and the rage of betrayal, Othello smothers Desdemona with a pillow, despite her desperate declarations of innocence. It is a chilling scene, evoking pity and leading to even more tragedy: Othello’s devastation when he real- izes that Desdemona had never wavered in her love and her loyalty to him. Discovering Iago’s monstrous villainy, Othello commits suicide, and his destruction is complete. As in other Shakespearean plays, the setting, the language, and the cultural conventions in Othello may seem foreign or remote, but the themes remain as true and as relevant to a modern audience as they were to Shakespeare’s in the early 1600s. The drama raises questions about human nature that transcend time and place. The naïve and vulnerable often suffer at the hands of the unscrupulous, and jealousy remains as potent an emotional force today as it was in Shakespeare’s time. Moreover, in the dark-skinned Othello’s love for the fair-skinned Desdemona and in her love for him, the nature and the effects of racial prejudice and stereotyping develop a subtext in the tragedy that also speaks to a universal audience. The relevance and enduring appeal of Othello is demonstrated by its great many artistic adaptations— in film, opera, television productions, and ballet. Audiences continue to be fascinated by Shakespeare’s Moor, watching in dismay as the courageous, noble general and loving husband is transformed into a raving murderer, consumed beyond reason by jealousy. The drama continues to evoke a variety of interpretations, as well. Those familiar with the work, especially literary critics, often disagree about the extent to which Othello is a victim and about the depth of his honor and naïveté. The character of Iago also elicits much literary analysis. The driving force behind his hatred is implied—the desire for revenge fueled by envy—but it is not treated explicitly. Most critics agree that Iago’s essential motivation remains something of a mystery. He appears to be a pitiless embodiment of evil for its own sake, one whose wickedness cannot be assigned a rational explanation. A playwright who plumbed the depths and complexities of human nature, Shakespeare created in Othello characters that continue to defy definitive interpretation. At the conclusion of the tragedy, much remains for the audience to ponder.

  • Macbeth eNotes Lesson Plan

    Macbeth is the last and shortest of Shakespeare’s four great tragedies (the other three being Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear). It is also considered by many scholars to be Shakespeare’s darkest play in its examination of evil and how briskly morality is sacrificed in the quest for power. Significantly, it is also one of Shakespeare’s most topical plays, as its exploration of the role of the monarchy paid homage to England’s new king.  For most of Shakespeare’s life and career, Queen Elizabeth I reigned in England. Her successor, King James I, ascended the throne in 1603, and Shakespeare probably wrote Macbeth around 1606. Importantly, King James was the first ruler of both England and Scotland, and Macbeth—set in Scotland—was likely intended as a tribute to King James’s heritage. King James was thought to be a descendant of Banquo and his son Fleance, the former whom Macbeth murders so that his own heirs—and not Banquo’s—might ascend the throne. Fleance survives the attack meant to kill him along with his father, making King James’s birth—and reign—possible.  Apart from King James’s lineage, Shakespeare offers other tributes to England’s new king and his philosophies. King James believed in witches, and witches open Macbeth and drive the action. King James believed in the healing power of the monarchy; the witches’ evil machinations are held in contrast to King Edward’s use of magical healing on his subjects. Finally, it was an accepted belief in Shakespeare’s time that English monarchs ruled by divine right; they sat on the throne because God had chosen them to rule, and attempting to usurp them was doomed to fail. This is a central argument of Macbeth: Though Macbeth tries to interfere with destiny, his illegitimate reign is as brief as it is bloody. Macbeth is destroyed, Scotland’s rightful heir takes his place, and the natural order prevails. Shakespeare used several stories from Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland as background material for Macbeth, and while much of the drama is fictionalized or embellished, the real Macbeth did exist and died in 1057.  Although Macbeth incorporates interesting historical elements, the play endures for entirely different reasons. At its core, Macbeth is an answer to a question asked in Macbeth’s day, in Shakespeare’s, and in ours: How does evil overtake a human being? At the play’s outset, Macbeth is a noble, loyal warrior who shuns the idea of betraying his good king. Time is a critical theme in Macbeth, and within a short period, Macbeth becomes a schemer, a murderer, a king, and a tyrant. While at the play’s beginning he has a passionate marriage and feels ambitious about his future, in the end he feels life is only “a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.” En route to his downfall, he leaves a trail littered with abominable murders. Shakespeare explores how Macbeth unravels so speedily and how plausible such self-destruction becomes when ambition obliterates the line between wrong and right.  Along with its examination of evil and the role of the monarchy, Macbeth explores a rich collection of themes and creates iconic characters. In particular, Lady Macbeth’s character, arguably one of the most sought-after roles for actresses, has stood the test of time. As the greatest challenger of Macbeth’s conscience, she also denies her own—and famously, her gender—in order to channel all into her pursuit of power. Her decline and destruction are even more rapid than Macbeth’s. Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking scene is one of the most famous in Shakespeare’s dramas, and “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” is one of the most famous lines in literature. Her futile attempt while sleeping to wash away the blood she imagines on her hands expresses the depth of her guilt and the impossibility of redemption; her mind shattered, she soon commits suicide.  Guilt, madness, violence, and the supernatural all receive attention from Shakespeare in this short play, while he also explores gender roles, leadership, loyalty, and concepts of time. While accomplishing this lofty agenda in Macbeth, Shakespeare also creates passages of memorable language, from the sing-song witches’ “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” in Act One to Macbeth’s beautifully lyrical lament in Act Five. While examining Macbeth’s themes, structure, and context, therefore, it is important to savor its language as well.  Filmmakers continue to make cinematic versions of Macbeth, and theaters continue to stage interpretations of the play, productions using Shakespeare’s language or modern adaptations. New performances are not likely to cease any time soon. For as long as humankind bears witness to incomprehensible acts of malice, Macbeth will continue to resonate in its answer as to why.

  • Hamlet eNotes Lesson Plan

    One of the best-known plays ever written and undoubtedly William Shakespeare’s most popular, Hamlet was first performed in 1601 or 1602. Although it appears Shakespeare took the basic premise from another play written decades earlier, his drama is a very significant literary departure from the original—and from revenge plays of the era: It is a psychological drama developed through the protagonist’s intense introspection. Furthermore, Hamlet is the first truly introspective character in English literature. By focusing on Hamlet’s inner conflict rather than plot action, Shakespeare created a character that has endured through the ages. Hamlet is an emotionally complex young prince, educated in philosophy and theology. Upon his father’s death, he returns home where he finds reason to believe his father, the King of Denmark, was murdered by his brother Claudius, who has assumed the throne. The responsibility of avenging his father’s death by killing his uncle falls to Hamlet; complicating his charge is that Hamlet’s mother has married Claudius. Although Hamlet vows to avenge his father’s murder, he delays. Much of the play centers on Hamlet’s prolonged inaction and, most importantly, on the psychological torment of his emotional quandary. He wants to act, but for reasons even he does not fully understand, he does not. Plagued by uncertainty, Hamlet grows increasingly volatile and troubled; he is ultimately killed, his death the result of a devious scheme orchestrated by the illegitimate king he was to have murdered in revenge. Although Hamlet eventually kills Claudius, his action proves to be irrelevant by the time it occurs. Hamlet dies as the result of his own inner turmoil, and there is no sense of redemption in the play’s conclusion.  Although modern readers may not relate to Hamlet’s life as a prince or to the precise dilemma he faces, his essential conflicts are universal: the challenge of doing the right thing, especially when the right thing is not clearly defined; the inner conflict between passion and reason; the emotional turmoil of family drama; the trauma of betrayal; and the complex issues of deception, trust, loyalty, and honor. Although few readers would opt to feign madness, as Hamlet does, adopting a certain persona or emotional disguise when faced with a difficult new situation is not unusual human behavior in any age. Hamlet has been adapted to the screen more than twenty-five times, proving that these themes still resonate with readers today.  Hamlet is rife with uncertainty. Shakespeare does not answer the questions raised by his characters and their actions; readers will have their own interpretations of what the playwright intended. There is much room for doubt about different characters’ motivations and Hamlet’s true emotional and mental state. Some readers will sympathize with Hamlet’s desire to do the right thing, while others will regard his increasingly volatile behavior with ambivalence, at best. Hamlet’s complexity and unpredictability are precisely what give Shakespeare’s play its depth and humanity. At times honorable, rash, deceptive, moralizing, cruel, mocking, insightful, and kind, Hamlet is endlessly fascinating. He may be a Danish prince from a distant century, but in his struggles to find his place in the world and behave honorably, Hamlet endures as an intriguing figure in world literature, as relevant to readers today as he was to Shakespeare’s audience.

  • King Lear eNotes Lesson Plan

    Often viewed as Shakespeare’s darkest tragedy, King Lear also ranks among his most famous. It is particularly known for the way in which Shakespeare expanded upon his use of subplot, a technique he experimented with in Hamlet but developed further in King Lear. Shakespeare based the work on King Leir, a play of unknown authorship which was performed in London in the early 1590s. However, Shakespeare’s version introduced many new and unique elements, including the king’s madness and the tragic ending.  As the play opens, we meet Gloucester and his sons, who play a sustained role in the subplot. The action then moves directly to Lear, whom we see ready to divide his kingdom among his three daughters. He plans to give the lion’s share to the child who can most convincingly speak of her love for him. Goneril, the eldest, and Regan, the middle child, offer flowery descriptions of their devotion, and each inherits part of the kingdom. Cordelia, his youngest and longtime favorite, however, is plainspoken and cannot bring herself to say anything but “nothing.” For this, Lear rescinds her dowry and banishes her, although luckily the king of France agrees to marry her. Lear then splits the kingdom between the elder daughters, retaining one hundred knights and squires for his own purposes. Lear also banishes his faithful liege, Kent, who attempts to defend Cordelia. However, Kent dons a disguise and manages to return to Lear’s service.  Soon we learn of the villainous nature of Gloucester’s illegitimate son, Edmund, who plots against his legitimate brother Edgar in a ploy to take all the inheritance. Like Edmund, Goneril and Regan are revealed to be evil, as they quickly move to usurp Lear’s remaining power and authority. Several letters are written by and passed among these villainous characters, which contributes to the play’s rising action, the “tangling” of the plot. As Lear begins to ascertain his mistake with Cordelia, his two disloyal daughters and their husbands deprive him of his retinue, place Kent in the stocks, and ultimately shut Lear out in a terrifying storm as his rage begins to cross the line into madness. Chaotic language and disguise play key roles as the action unfolds. Lear’s fool incessantly jokes and rhymes, but in his confusing observations, he offers insight regarding Lear’s dire situation; also, Gloucester’s legitimate son, Edgar, plays at madness as he takes on the disguise of a beggar, poor Tom.  At the end of Act Three, Gloucester’s eyes are brutally gouged out by Cornwall. Losing his literal sight, he metaphorically “sees” that Edgar, not Edmund, is his true and loyal son. Gloucester may suffer physically, but Lear suffers moral and mental torment. In the remainder of the drama, as Lear flees to Dover to meet Cordelia, who has landed with the French army and hopes to restore Lear’s throne, he descends into a state of madness. The British forces win the battle and take Lear and Cordelia captive.  Eventually, the story’s worst villains become victims of their own evil qualities: both Gloucester’s deceitful son Edmund and Lear’s two eldest daughters are killed. However, truly good characters such as Cordelia also die, making the tragic aspect of the play more profound. As the action concludes, Lear grieves for Cordelia and meets his end. There is some sense of justice in the conclusion of the drama. The worst villains are punished appropriately, and Lear pays a dreadful price for his egotism in the sacrifice of Cordelia. However, the play’s conclusion does not imply that fairness is a ruling principle. Although Edgar’s accepting responsibility for the realm inspires some hope for the future, it’s clear that he would rule alone, as Kent senses his own imminent death. The fate of the kingdom is uncertain, and justice is not meted out fairly by people or by gods.  The moral bleakness and the degree of cruelty in the play were shocking in its time and remain so even today. When it was performed in the early 1600s, some critics called for the gouging-out of Gloucester’s eyes to take place offstage because of its brutality. This is not gratuitous violence, however, since the play’s action underscores enduring issues about the human condition: Trusting in appearances and lacking insight into human nature can lead to dire consequences now, just as they did in Shakespeare’s day. There are many unanswered questions and no happy endings in the play, but that could be because the author himself felt uncertain about the resolution of the play’s thorny issues. For example, Shakespeare’s original version ended with Albany making the final speech and thus ruling the realm. In another version, Edgar makes the final speech and rules the realm. Today’s readers who may mistakenly perceive Shakespearian language and plot as static or antiquated should take comfort in the idea that King Lear is a dynamic story which inspired even its author to interpret it more than one way.  There are many ways to understand King Lear, literally and otherwise. In 1681, Nahum Tate created a now infamous adaptation of the play. In Tate’s version, which superseded Shakespeare’s for nearly 150 years, the ending is a happy one. Cordelia lives and Lear’s crown is restored by Albany. Additionally, Tate eliminated both Lear’s fool and the blinding of Gloucester and added a love affair between Edgar and Cordelia. Eventually, Shakespeare’s version again became the touchstone, and the way scholars and critics interpret it has varied over time. Lear’s fate can be seen pessimistically, as evidence that there is no divine justice, or optimistically, as proving the redemptive power of filial love. In King Lear, Shakespeare draws us in and defies our expectations, while revealing some of the darkest and most fundamental aspects of the human condition.

  • Julius Caesar eNotes Lesson Plan

    Julius Caesar, one of Shakespeare’s best-known tragedies, is based on the assassination of Julius Caesar, the historical event occurring on the ides of March (March 15) in 44 BCE. While the plot of the play centers on the assassination and its aftermath, the story focuses on Brutus, a Roman senator and Caesar’s friend who joins the conspiracy to kill Caesar only after much deliberation. Brutus’s feelings about murdering Caesar serve as the central conflict in the play; a man of honor, Brutus weighs his love of freedom and of Rome itself against his personal loyalty to a friend. In Shakespeare’s drama, Brutus ultimately is manipulated into joining the conspiracy and participates in stabbing Caesar to death on the floor of the Roman Senate. Julius Caesar, however, does not end with the assassination. In the wake of Caesar’s shocking and brutal murder, events unfold quickly in Rome, and later on the plains of Greece, as leaders and armies fight for political power and Brutus faces the tragic consequences of his actions.  Likely written in 1599 to open the new Globe Theatre, Julius Caesar reflects a political concern of the time: Queen Elizabeth I was an aging monarch with no heir to the throne. Shakespeare’s play about a leader who died without an heir and whose death prompted a civil war reflects the concern in England that civil war would break out when Queen Elizabeth died without a direct successor. Moreover, since Shakespeare staged his productions at the pleasure of the Queen, his plays’ political themes are far from controversial in the context of his era, and this, too is reflected in Julius Caesar. As Caesar’s assassination results directly in political turmoil, suffering, and bloodshed, the play can be interpreted as a cautionary tale about the perils of usurping political power, a theme sure to have been embraced by an English sovereign.  Julius Caesar is drama, not history, but specific events in Roman history serve as antecedent action in the play, and Shakespeare alludes to some of them in establishing his characters’ motivations for assassinating Caesar. Under Julius Caesar, Roman armies conquered much of France and Belgium and crossed the English Channel to lay claim to Britain, as well. Called home, Caesar famously crossed the Rubicon River in Italy with his army, despite the fact that to come this close to Rome with an army was illegal. Caesar knew his action would lead to civil war, with the Roman Senate, and more importantly, with the great Roman general Pompey allied against him. Caesar defeated Pompey’s forces, assumed control of Roman affairs, and was named dictator, an appointment made in times of emergency. The title and the political power conferred with it were meant to be temporary, but Caesar’s ambitions to retain both became increasingly clear. In 44 BCE, Caesar was appointed dictator for life. This alienated many senators, some of whom, led by Cassius and Brutus—both in life and in the play—killed Caesar soon after, on the ides of March that same year. In Julius Caesar, various references to Pompey’s fall and to Caesar’s having “grown so great” are allusions to actual events.  Because Brutus is both Caesar’s friend and colleague, the play develops themes of friendship vs. civic duty, public vs. private identity, and loyalty vs. betrayal. The meaning of honor is explored as Brutus struggles to define it in his own character and to determine its role in making the critical decision that will profoundly affect the future freedom of Rome and his countrymen. Political intrigue, scheming, and rhetorical speech (the art of persuasion) dominate the drama, too, and are as relevant to politics today as they were in both Caesar’s and Shakespeare’s time. In its characters, deeply human and often flawed, and in its conflicts and themes, Julius Caesar continues to appeal to a universal audience.

  • As You Like It eNotes Lesson Plan

    William Shakespeare’s As You Like It was written in 1599. At the time, the “pastoral romance,” a romance that takes place in a rural setting, was quite popular. Ever practical and commercial, Shakespeare wrote As You Like It because he knew it would appeal to his Elizabethan audiences; his intention was to entertain and amuse. To that end, he employed the convention of “country vs. court,” the notion that life in a rural setting is ideal, while life in the court is superficial and filled with the dangers of political intrigue. Moreover, the trendy psychology of the time is evidenced in the play with its references to “humours” (bodily fluids associated with personality traits) and the pose of being melancholic, as seen through the character of Jaques. As You Like It is indeed a pastoral romance, but in Shakespeare’s hands, it becomes a comedy satirizing the popular genre itself, one in which characters lament the suf- fering caused by love. Shakespeare’s characters suffer in the throes of love, but their laments are ridiculous and unbelievable. In addition to entertaining, As You Like It explores the theme of challenging hierarchies, primarily through the character of Duke Frederick. Elizabethans believed that monarchs ruled by divine right, that they were chosen by God to sit upon the throne and to head a fixed social order in which all were relegated to permanent, specific ranks in society, as well as in the family. Therefore, in addition to violating notions of family hierarchy, Duke Frederick’s having usurped his brother, Duke Senior, would have been considered unholy, likely the reason for Duke Frederick’s conversion at the end of the play. The plot of As You Like It is simple. It develops from the experiences of a few couples as they encounter obstacles to love and marriage in the wake of being banished from the court. Duke Senior’s daughter, Rosalind, plays a vital role in the plot, as she contributes to all the conflicts, even as she helps to finally resolve them. As in all pastoral plays, the “villains” are disposed of (here through the conversion of their characters), and all ends happily. Shakespeare was notorious for borrowing stories from other writers. In the case of As You Like It, Thomas Lodge’s novel, Rosalynde (1590), seems to have supplied many of the storylines: an exiled ruler, hostile brothers, a young maiden in disguise, an escape to the country, a love-sick shepherd, and a young woman who woos her lover in disguise. Note that at the time women were not allowed to appear on stage; young boys would play girls’ parts. Thus Shakespeare’s Rosalind would have been a boy dressed up as a girl pretending to be a boy. At the time Shakespeare wrote As You Like It, early modern English was less than 100 years old. Most documents were still written in Latin, and there were no established grammar texts, no published dic- tionaries, and no formal study of English. Shakespeare’s intention was that his plays be performed, not published, but his writing contributed considerably to the language. Although much of his vocabulary is now archaic or obsolete, much of it is not, and many of his expressions have made their way into modern vernacular; for instance, “eaten out of house and home,” “neither rhyme nor reason,” “a wild goose chase,” “dead as a doornail,” and “brave new world.” Encountering these familiar expressions in Shake- speare’s works often surprises and delights modern readers. Although As You Like It is written in the language of the sixteenth century, filled with references contem- porary at the time but now obscure, it is not an exercise for the intellect; its intention is much less grand but nonetheless worthy. A fanciful, romantic comedy, As You Like It has remained popular for more than four hundred years because it continues to entertain and amuse audiences, just as the author intended. There is poetry in the play, of course, passages remembered for their music and beauty of expression; in others, Shakespeare’s sharp wit and satirical voice are heard clearly. For those willing to practice “the suspension of disbelief” as they follow the misadventures of the often silly, love-struck characters, As You Like It offers much to enjoy and to consider, as human nature has not changed at all.

  • Romeo and Juliet on Film Lesson Plan

    Through viewing George Cukor’s, Franco Zeffirelli’s, and Baz Luhrmann’s film versions of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, students will see how one director interprets the text of the play.  Students will answer questions to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the main events and characters in Romeo and Juliet as they relate to the director’s choices.    Sample student discussion question: How does Luhrmann set the tone and mood of his version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet? Sample answer to guide student responses: Luhrmann chooses to set the film in the present day. The Capulets and Montagues are competing corporations. The young male members of their households are gang members. Luhrmann also chooses to treat the first half of the film comically. Luhrmann will also use the motifs of old money versus nouveau riche, Hispanic versus White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, and youth versus elders. Race will also come out strongly in this film. The film begins with a newsperson reading the Prologue on TV. The scene changes to clips of Verona as a violent city. The Prologue is spoken twice and printed on screen in titles and headlines of magazines and newspapers. Like the 1931 version, the actors are presented in character in freeze-frame shots. The most obvious change is in the names. Paris becomes Dave Paris, the governor’s son; Capulets become Fulgencio and Gloria; Montagues, Ted and Caroline; and Prince Escalus, Chief of Police, for example. Juliet, Romeo, Mercutio, and Tybalt do not have name changes. Luhrmann will also transpose sections of the text to other scenes. The opening ends with the main title card. A wipe shot takes us into the beginning of Act 1.

  • Othello on Film Lesson Plan

    Through viewing Orson Welles’s, Laurence Olivier’s, and Oliver Parker’s film versions of Shakespeare's Othello, students will see how one director interprets the text of the play.  Students will see the choices that each director makes to bring the visual elements to the screen.    Sample student discussion question: How does Welles set the mood for the film?   Sample answer to guide student discussion: The film opens with a split shot of a man’s head. It is upside down and the eyes are closed. The camera pulls back and a piano can be heard playing single notes. We soon realize that the man is dead and is being carried in a funeral procession. As the procession moves, we can see that there is a dead woman also being carried. As the funeral passes, guards are pulling a man in chains through the crowd. The man is thrown into a metal cage. The cage is hoisted up the sides of the castle. There are several shots of the funeral from the caged man’s point of view. We also see a shot of two well-dressed men, blessing themselves. The funeral passes, and the screen goes to black.

  • Macbeth on Film Lesson Plan

    Through viewing Orson Welles’s, Roman Polanski’s, and Michael Bogdanov’s film versions of Shakespeare's Macbeth, students will see how one director interprets the text of the play. Students will answer questions to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the main events and characters in Macbeth as they relate to the director’s choices. Sample student discussion question: How does Orson Welles set the mood for the film? Sample answer to guide student discussion: The film opens with white rolling clouds against a dark background. There is scary music playing. Three witches are standing on a carved-out rock, stirring a boiling pot. They reach into the pot and pull out a clay figure that is screeching. This clay figure will appear at critical points in the film. The witches stay here until they meet Macbeth and Banquo. NOTE: All the actors will use a Scottish burr [A rough sounding of the letter r (OED)].

  • Hamlet on Film Lesson Plan

    Through viewing Laurence Olivier’s, Franco Zeffirelli’s, and Kenneth Branagh’s film versions of Shakespeare's Hamlet, students will see how one director interprets the text of the play. Students will demonstrate the ability to criticize by developing and organizing their own reactions to convey information about the film. Students will also demonstrate the ability to write criticism effectively by expressing their personal ideas in a critical essay format.

  • Romeo and Juliet eNotes Curriculum Plan

    Ask students to suggest words that describe the character traits of Romeo and Mercutio. By this point in the play, students should be able to see that Romeo is a romantic and a dreamer, whereas Mercutio is decidedly unromantic and a realist with little use for the fantasies of love. The etymology of his name may reveal two elements of his personality. The root is “mercury,” a substance used to measure the temperature of an environment. Another interpretation is related to the god Mercury (or Hermes) who was famous for his quick movements and even quicker temper. While Mercutio’s “mercury” may move up and down with his moods and provocations, it is even truer that Mercutio is the hard-edged realist in the play. In Act 1, he refuses to buy into Romeo’s swooning over the loss of Rosaline, telling him the way to get over her is to “examine other beauties.”

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream eNotes Curriculum Plan

    Shakespeare’s play reflects the stratified society in which he lived. The royals versus the tradesmen were only one part of the battles; theater companies were another front in the culture wars. Professional acting troupes such as Shakespeare’s company (operating under the patronage of Lord Chamberlain) resented amateur companies such as Bottom’s ragtag group of players in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Here are a few points to consider, ways in which the “amateurs” are presented as unprofessional: (1.) The “mechanicals” are represented as very foolish and in a child-like position to their superiors. (2.) Bottom’s name puts him literally at the “bottom” of the social pecking order.

  • Macbeth eNotes Curriculum Plan

    Macbeth was commissioned for a specific purpose: the accession of Elizabeth’s Scottish cousin, James, to the throne following her death in March 1603. Did Shakespeare in some ways model the character of Lady Macbeth on the recently deceased Queen Elizabeth? As Sigmund Freud noted, the play “offered remarkable analogies to the historical moment. ‘Virginal’ Elizabeth, who had once described herself as a ‘barren stock,’ was obliged by her own childlessness to make the Scottish king her successor.” Like Elizabeth, Lady Macbeth will produce no heirs. Might, as Freud argues, Lady Macbeth’s callousness be explained as a reaction to childlessness? To be barren during the Renaissance was no light matter. Barrenness was commonly thought to be a punishment for sin. Additionally, as Elizabeth well knew, only a male heir could inherit property, so the pressure was great for women to have male children. Lady Macbeth is subject to many of the same kinds of pressures regarding her barrenness as Elizabeth was. Macbeth knows that Banquo’s prophecy is that his children will inherit the throne. If this is to come to pass, it must mean that Macbeth himself will never have an heir. For all of her attempts at control, Freud argues, Lady Macbeth is powerless against nature.

  • Hamlet eNotes Curriculum Plan

    Many of William Shakespeare's works feature “stock” characters. Stock characters have commonly recognized traits. In Shakespeare’s theater company, the same actor often played the same stock character in different productions. A few examples of stock characters are the damsel in distress, the shrewish woman, the wise grandfather, and the fool. Polonius is the stock “fool” character in Hamlet. A fool character is one that behaves pretentiously, gives advice without setting an example, and is commonly cloying of authority figures. The fool usually thinks himself more important than he is; other characters are generally aware of his delusions of grandeur. Polonius frequently speaks in what he believes to be pithy gems of advice, yet his own actions betray his good intent.