Matthew Adkins, Central High School, Helena, Arkansas.
A Midsummer Night's Dream 3.2.227-295
What's On for Today and Why
Having students act out scenes or portions of scenes is a powerful tool in persuading them to look closely at Shakespeare's words. The following lesson plan begins with this assumption, but then moves on to ensure that students both understand the underlying motivations of the characters and make connections between the text they are performing and the larger context of the play. In this lesson, students will first act out scenes in small groups; then the students will participate in panel discussions about the character they portrayed.
This lesson will take two class periods.
What You Need
Folger edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
A Midsummer Night's Dream Handout
What To Do
1. Divide students into groups of four. Distribute the handouts, scripts of A Midsummer Night's Dream 3.2.227-295. Direct the students to spend the class period casting, rehearsing, and preparing to present their scene in class the next day. In the process of preparing the scene, the students need to make specific choices about how the characters act and dress, how they feel about themselves and the other characters, and how they will behave towards those other characters.
2. The next day have the student groups perform their scenes while the audience takes notes. The audience should focus their questions and comments on choices and interpretation.
3. Arrange a set of desks in the front of the room. Ask all of the Lysanders to come forward and sit in these desks. The Lysanders should then be "interviewed" by both the teacher and the students as to why they chose to play the character in the way that they did.
4. Repeat step 3 with all the Helenas, all the Hermias and all the Demetrii.
5. Finally, ask all students to choose a character other than the one they portrayed, and write an essay in which they argue how the character should be played in this scene. Remind the students to provide specific lines from the play to support their ideas.
How Did It Go?
Did students develop a set of specific choices on which they based their character and his or her behavior? Were students able to convey the motivations for their character's behavior clearly to the rest of the class? Were these choices and motivations based on solid textual evidence? In their written assignments, were the students able to argue convincingly how a particular character should be played?
If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.