Folger Education offers lesson plans on Shakespeare's frequently taught plays, as well as lessons on introducing Shakespeare. Try the two plans below, or, for more lesson plans for The Tempest, visit the Lesson Plans Archive.
In this lesson plan, you'll cover NCTE standards 4, 5, 6, 11, and 12. Used as a pre-reading activity, this lesson will help students to become more comfortable with the language of the play through the writing of descriptive poems of selected images.
"Prospero: Turkey or Tyrant?"
Students will use the activity of tableaux vivants, or living pictures, to explore different interpretations of the play, as well as subjective and objective storytelling in this lesson plan. You'll cover NCTE standards 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, and 12.
If you are short on time to do editing of scenes with your students, these cut scenes work well for classroom performances. Remember, each scene is just one possible edited version. Students may want to revisit the original text and make additions or changes on their own.
Act 1, Scene 1: The storm: short with lots of physical action (7+ roles)
Act 1, Scene 2: Prospero tells Miranda about how they came to the island and the audience meets Caliban and Ariel. Miranda meets Ferdinand. You can divide this scene into short sections to accommodate more students, for example by casting more than one Prospero. (5-10 roles)
Act 2, Scene 1:The shipwrecked passengers survive the wreck. Antonio and Sebastian plan to murder Alonso. (7 roles)
Act 2, Scene 2: Comedic scene with Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano (3 roles)
Act 3, Scene 1: The two lovers profess their devotion. (2 roles)
Act 3, Scene 2: Comedic scene with Caliban, Trinculo, Stephano and Ariel (4 roles)
Act 3, Scene 3: Prospero conjures a terrifying banquet. Adrian and Francisco each have only one line. The shapes do not speak. (8-11 roles)
Act 4, Scene 1: The wedding feast. Later, Prospero and Ariel thwarts Caliban’s murder plot. (10 roles)
Act 5, Scene 1: The final scene of resolution with all characters. Try casting more than one Prospero. (10 roles)
The Folger edition of The Tempest includes facing-page notes and illustrations throughout the play; background information on the play, Shakespeare's life, theater, and times; notes on unfamiliar language, or words that meant something different in Shakespeare's day; and a scholarly assessment of the play in light of today's interests and concerns.
Audio and Video Resources
Many scholars believe that The Tempest was inspired by the real-life shipwreck of the Sea Venture off the coast of Bermuda. Hear about the storm and the survivors in the podcast below.
Listen to the Podcast
For many students today, reading Shakespeare's language can be a challenge. Things to pay attention to in The Tempest:
Shakespeare often rearranges subjects and verbs (e.g. "Goes he" instead of "He goes.") In The Tempest, inverted words can create a particular speech rhythm, or emphasize a certain word. In his later plays, Shakespeare also omits words to great dramatic effect. For example, Ferdinand's heavily compressed statement, "He does hear me, / And that he does I weep. Myself am Naples."(1.2.520-521) powerfully expresses his grief at his father's death, and his reflection on the fact that he is now king.
- unfamiliar word order
- omitted words
- puns or wordplay
In The Tempest, two sets of characters use puns. Antonio and Sebastian use them to mock other people. Stephano and Trinculo use puns to amuse themselves and each other.
Students should also watch out for metaphors, or plays on words in which one object or idea is expressed as if it were something else.
With your students, you may wish to rearrange the words into a more familiar order. Students will generally find that the sentences will gain in clarity, but may lose its rhythm or shift its emphasis.
Seeing Shakespeare performed, or performing Shakespeare, can help students form more powerful connections with the text than reading alone. To see performance-based education strategies for your classroom, check out our clips on YouTube here.
About the Play
The Tempest first appeared in the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, printed in 1623.
To learn more, explore our Discover Shakespeare online resource, including the sections highlighted at right.