Frank Howard. Portia pronouncing sentence. Oil on canvas, ca. 1830-1831.
Amanda Parker, East Chapel Hill High School, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
The Merchant of Venice 1.1
What's On for Today and Why
Students will read the opening scene of The Merchant of Venice multiple times without any background information. They will be forced to rely on the text to form judgments about characters, which they will later evaluate as they study the rest of the play.
This lesson will take 2-3 class periods.
What You Need
Folger edition of The Merchant of Venice
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
The Merchant of Venice 1.1
What To Do
1. Hand out copies of 1.1 of The Merchant of Venice, attached below. Assign parts to students to read per page. (For example, have one student read the part of Antonio for page 1, have another student read Antonio for page 2, etc.) NOTE: Even if a speech carries over onto the next page, be sure to switch to the new reader.
2. Read through the scene. Have students circle any words or phrases that they do not understand. After reading, have students look up these words and share the meanings with the class. Discuss the scene, focusing on the following question: What are the relationships between the six characters?
3. Next, have students use the text to determine the social status of each of the six characters. Rate all six, with 1 being the highest and 6 being the lowest. Have them use specific evidence in the text to explain their opinions.
4. Assign new readers and read through the scene again. In a discussion of this second reading, focus on the setting. Where in Venice would this scene be set? Why? Again, have students refer to specific parts of the text to support their answers.
5. Assign new readers and read through the scene a third time. When finished, hand out the character chart, attached below. Have students volunteer lists of adjectives that describe each character. Students should fill in their charts.
6. Next, assign only one reader per part for this reading (i.e., do not split up parts by page this time.) Ask each reader to stand. Have the students who are seated interrupt the reading to block (i.e., tell the actors where to move) and direct the scene, based on their sense of the characters' environment and social status. Where should the characters be moving? Why? After the decisions are made, do a final performance that includes this direction.
7. After the performance, all students may return to their seats. The class should discuss the following questions: Why do Salarino and Solanio suggest that Antonio would rather talk with Bassanio than with them? Why would Antonio so readily lend Bassanio the money that he needs? How could students costume this scene?
8. Have students predict how the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio will change throughout the play. What will the story be about? Have the students write their predictions on the character chart in the spot provided. Return to these predictions later in your study of the play to see who guessed correctly.
How Did It Go?
Were students able to decipher the social status of each of the six characters in the scene and give support for those opinions? Were students able to visualize how this scene would be produced either on film or stage? Were students able to predict how the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio would change throughout the play?
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.
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Common Core State Standards
There are no standards associated with this Lesson Plan.
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