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Playing the Fool

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T.H. Nicholson after C.W. Sheeres. Touchstone, Audrey, and Clown. Engraving, 19th century

June 2005
Kay Ryan , Arkansas City High School, Arkansas City, Kansas.

Plays/Scenes Covered

As You Like It 2.4

What's On for Today and Why

While students are accustomed to watching comedic films and television shows, analyzing humor in Shakespeare’s text is another matter. In this lesson, students will take a scene from As You Like It and examine it for its comedic appeal.


This lesson will take two to three class periods.

What You Need

New Folger As You Like It


The attached handouts:

As You Like it 2.4
Types of Comedy
What To Do

1.  Begin with a discussion of comedy.
        • Who are the “best” comedians today? What makes them funny?
        • Discuss the tools of comedy: exaggeration, understatement, irony, word play. (Visit Dr. Kip Wheeler's online Dictionary of Literary Definitions .)


2. Lead this discussion into the character of Touchstone:
         • Why are fools tolerated? Why are they allowed to say anything they want?
        • How would Touchstone be dressed in a production of As You Like It in Shakespeare's time? How might he be dressed in a modern production? If you were directing the play, how would you costume Touchstone? How would Touchstone's costume add to his character?


3. Discuss the handout "Types of Comedy" (attached below). Discuss which types of comedy are present in the play so far.


4. Have students read As You Like It 2.4 together in class, using the New Folger edition or the handout attached below. Next divide the class into small groups of five.


5. In their groups, have students make a prompt book of As You Like It 2.4, using the attached worksheet. The prompt book is a guide for the staging of the play. Have students write notes in the white spaces of the pages, addressing how they think the characters should say their lines and move around the stage.

6. Have groups perform the scenes and discuss their performance choices.


7. Discuss which tools of comedy and which types of comedy are evident in the scene. Which of these are inherent in the text? Which are a result of the students' performance choices? Have students reflect further on these issues in their journals.

How Did It Go?
Did students make thoughtful choices in their prompt books and performances? Can they explain and defend these choices? Are they able to discuss the tools and types of comedy in the scene? Were they able to reflect on their choices and the elements of comedy in discussion and in their journals? 

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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