In this discussion-based lesson, students will:
Time needed: 20 minutes for preparation, 80 minutes for viewing
Just before watching the documentary, tell students that they will be seeing some passionate and perhaps even eccentric people -- people who have devoted their lives to the Shakespeare authorship controversy.
Discuss the following questions briefly:
Introduce students to some of the elements of Shakespeare's language -- puns, oxymorons, using nouns as verbs, the changing meaning of words -- through discussion of the handout An Introduction to Shakespeare's Language.
Distribute the authors handout. This handout comes from the point of view of a Stratfordian, which is the term assigned to those who support Shakespeare as the author of the plays. The handout introduces the three major contenders that the documentary names as possible "Shakespeare" authors: Edward de Vere, the 17th earl of Oxford; Sir Francis Bacon; and Christopher Marlowe.
Ask for three student volunteers. Each should read aloud to the class the capsule biography of one of these major contenders.
Remind students that the documentary is constructed as a detective story and has a decided point of view. Michael Rubbo, the filmmaker and first-person narrator of Much Ado About Something, believes that Christopher Marlowe, who was born the same year as Shakespeare, is the author of much of the work attributed to Shakespeare. Marlowe was, according to records, murdered in a tavern brawl (perhaps as a result of Elizabethan political intrigue) in 1593, but Rubbo speculates that he actually escaped to Italy and wrote the plays from there.
Tell the students that, as they are watching, they should write down two lines or observations or questions from each half of the documentary. One of the observations/questions should relate directly to the different "contenders" in the Shakespeare authorship controversy. You can also distribute the Viewing Worksheet to students to guide their viewing observations.
Note: The documentary is 80 minutes long. If you are watching the documentary in one period, remind students when 40 minutes have passed.
Participation in classroom discussion
Completion of viewing observations.