Merely Players ~ Lesson Plan

Lesson Overview

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LESSON TITLE: Merely Players

GRADE LEVEL: Grades 9-12

TIME ALLOTMENT: Three 45-minute class periods

OVERVIEW:

Shakespeare understood that all of us are “merely players,” working through the different roles that accompany the various ages and stages of life.  He also understood that we often adopt disguises with or without the benefit of costumes to help us negotiate the relationships and obstacles we encounter along the way.   Perhaps it is this understanding of our ability to play parts in our own lives that makes Shakespeare’s plays resonate.  Each of us keeps secrets, manipulates our wardrobe, and carefully phrases texts, emails, and postings on Facebook to achieve our goals to reveal or conceal what we do or do not want people to know about our identity.

At times, the reader can see Shakespeare’s doubt and cynicism with regard to appearance and reality.  He knows that “False face must hide what the false heart doth know.”  In comedic scenes, however, roles and disguises often contain important opportunities for growth and learning.  For some of the younger characters, lost in the transition between critical stages of their lives, these moments of disguise and role playing, though not without their dangers, can allow the characters to gain a surer understanding of who they are.

In this lesson, students will view and discuss several video segments from the PBS series Shakespeare Uncovered to explore one of Shakespeare’s signature dramatic elements the use of role playing and disguise.  The first Introductory Activity is a performance-based reading of “The Seven Ages of Man” speech from As You Like It, which introduces the idea of roles and role playing in life.  The second activity is a quick look at Shakespeare’s Facebook page to introduce the idea of disguise.  If time is limited, the second activity may be eliminated.

The Learning Activities include two video segments from the PBS series Shakespeare Uncovered. The first segment from the “Comedies” episode that features Twelfth Night shows Viola assuming a disguise as a young man named Cesario.  After viewing the segment, students will read and discuss a scene that occurs later in the play that explores the consequences of that disguise.  Next, the students will view a segment from Henry IV, Part I in the “Henry IV and Henry V” episode in which Prince Hal and Falstaff take turns assuming the role of the King.  This segment will be followed by a discussion of what happens when one steps into the persona of another person.

The Culminating Activities include a discussion of a final segment from Shakespeare Uncovered and a reading of “Facebook Sonnet” a poem by Sherman Alexie.  These activities will help the students draw conclusions about the use of role play and disguise as portals into both Shakespeare’s characters and their own self-understanding.

This lesson has been designed as a pre-reading activity for a unit on one of the comedies or on Henry IV, Part I. It can also be used as a stand-alone lesson allowing students to explore Shakespeare’s art and craft.

SUBJECT MATTER

English/Language Arts

Performing Arts

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

After completing this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify the use of disguises and role-playing as important devices in Shakespeare’s plays;
  • Analyze some of the different ways in which disguises and role-playing work to conceal and reveal character and advance/complicate the plot;
  • Recognize and identify different ways in which the disguises or role playing affect an audience;
  • Identify the relevance of these devices in the students’ own lives.

STANDARDS

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, Grades 9-10 and 11-12

GRADES 9-10

READING: LITERATURE

Key Ideas and Details
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3 Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

Craft and Structure
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10 By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 9–10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

SPEAKING AND LISTENING

Comprehension and Collaboration
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

LANGUAGE

Knowledge of Language
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5a Interpret figures of speech (e.g., euphemism, oxymoron) in context and analyze their role in the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5b Analyze nuances in the meaning of words with similar denotations.

GRADES 11-12

READING: LITERATURE

Key Ideas and Details
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Craft and Structure
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.10 By the end of grade 11, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 11–CCR text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.

LANGUAGE

Knowledge of Language
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.3 Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.4a Use context (e.g., the overall meaning of a sentence, paragraph, or text; a word’s position or function in a sentence) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.5a Interpret figures of speech (e.g., hyperbole, paradox) in context and analyze their role in the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.11-12.5b Analyze nuances in the meaning of words with similar denotations.

SPEAKING AND LISTENING

Comprehension and Collaboration
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

NCTE / IRA Standards for English Language Arts

2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.

3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and non-print texts.

11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities

MEDIA COMPONENTS

Video

Access the video segments for this lesson on the Video Segments Page.

Segment 1: “Conceal Me What I Am” (Shakespeare Uncovered: The Comedies with Joely Richardson)
After being shipwrecked on the shore of Illyria, Viola assumes the disguise of her apparently drowned brother, both to mourn his loss and to protect herself in a foreign country.

Segment 2: “Role Playing in Henry IV” (Shakespeare Uncovered: Henry IV and Henry V with Jeremy Irons)
Prince Hal and his friend Falstaff engage in some role playing at the pub, taking turns portraying the role of Hal’s father, King Henry IV.

Segment 3: “A Play is Called a Play for a Reason” (Shakespeare Uncovered: The Comedies with Joely Richardson)
Author Germaine Greer and episode host Joely Richardson talk about how, in the act of pretending that what they see on stage is real, a thoughtful audience experiences something real.

Web

William Shakespeare’s Facebook Page

A Facebook page for William Shakespeare.  [Note:  Though the intent of the Shakespeare Facebook page is educational, it is possible for visitors to post inappropriate information.  If you want to avoid that possibility altogether and/or if you have students who do not have internet access at home, simply copy, paste, and print appropriate sections into a hard copy form.]

MATERIALS
For the class:

For each student:

PREP FOR TEACHERS

Prior to teaching this lesson, you will need to complete the following steps:

Preview all of the video segments used in the lesson. Prepare to watch them using your classroom’s Internet connection.

Print copies of each of the four student organizers and the student organizer answer key.

Make a hard copy of relevant aspects of the William Shakespeare Facebook page if you prefer to focus your students’ interaction with this site or if some of your students do not have internet access at home.  Print enough copies of this handout for your students.

Proceed to Lesson Activities.