Sarah Squier taught English at Montpelier High School in Montpelier, Vermont.
What's On for Today and Why
Your students will be reading a short section of a scene very closely and developing tableaux as a start to the performance process. This method of jumping into the text was demonstrated by Calleen Sinnette-Jennings at the Folger's Teaching Shakespeare Institute in July 2000.
This lesson will take one class period.
What You Need
Folger edition of Macbeth
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
What To Do
1) Place the students into groups of five, and assign them different roles from Macbeth 3.4.33-73. Have the students read their lines out loud.
2) Ask the students to decide which words in each passage are operatives. By looking closely at these words, have them think about what each character wants, what he or she is willing to do to get it, and how he or she tries to influence the other characters.
3) At the board, ask the students to share their words and thoughts on the characters. It is great if students see different goals and motivations within the scene, but make sure that whatever their opinions, they can back up their ideas with textual examples.
4) Instruct the students to write an on-the-spot paragraph in the voice of their character, answering the following questions:
What do I want?
What am I willing to do to get it?
What is in my way?
On whom can I rely, and whom do I fear?
Any other issues they feel are central to their character at that moment.
5) Once the students are back in their groups, give them 5 minutes to run through their lines. Then instruct each group to find the three most important moments in the scene. Each group is responsible for creating a tableau—or living painting—to represent each moment. Remind them to think about what they wrote in their paragraphs as they try to stage the action.
6) Now ask each group to get into its opening tableau. This will be the first moment the audience sees as the curtain rises, and should reflect the complicated relationships and emotions present for each character in the scene. Have the students freeze in these positions one group at a time, and look at each other's choices.
7) In groups again, have students create the middle and final tableaux. Each moment—beginning, middle and end—should give the audience information and insight into the characters. Students should be drawing from the thinking and writing they did as they create their tableaux.
8) After three or four practice "freezes", have students present their opening, mid-point, and closing tableaux to the class. If there is time, have a quick (2–3 minute) discussion after each presentation, with the audience sharing what it learned about the characters and their relationships to one another from the three tableaux presented.
9) For homework, have students write a final draft of the paragraph they wrote earlier in the process. There should definitely be changes from the first draft to the final, based on their learning as they performed and watched the tableaux.
How Did It Go?
This should be a fast and energy-filled lesson. Did students examine the text closely to find clues about their characters and the scene? Did they work together to create stage-moments of tension and interest? Did they produce paragraphs that reflect insight into the characters in Macbeth?
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.