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"Things that do presage."

Teachers' Rating:
  15 ratings

S. Harding. Julius Caesar. Watercolor, 18th or 19th century

March 2008
Jordan D. Rosenberg teaches English at Yeshiva University High School for Boys in New York, New York.

Plays/Scenes Covered
Julius Caesar 5.1.76-95
What's On for Today and Why

Using Julius Caesar 5.1.76-95, this lesson will explore suggestive language and the use of symbols and foreshadowing in Shakespeare's plays. The lesson examines the reason why Cassius - who claims ("you know that I held Epicurus strong") that men are in control of their fates - believes in the negative portents witnessed before his final battle. In doing so, students will have an opportunity to examine the significance that they ascribe to external forces in their lives.


This lesson should take two class periods.

What You Need

Folger edition of Julius Caesar 5.1.75-95
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts

The Things They Carried, p.20, 13-23

"Sleeping Beauty" worksheet

Negative portents worksheet

"Sleeping Beauty" worksheet
Negative portents worksheet
What To Do

Scaffolding the concept of suggestive language using a fairy tale

A. Ask students to complete the "Sleeping Beauty" worksheet that directs them to create suggestive clues that foreshadow Sleeping Beauty's fateful eventuality.


B. If extra scaffolding is desired, ask students to form groups of three and act out the Sleeping Beauty story. One group can be directed to play the fairy tale straight and unembellished without any foreshadowing of Sleeping Beauty's eventual sleep. The second group can be directed to perform the tale beginning with Sleeping Beauty's birthday. This group must use a narrator to fill in the back story of the witch and the curse of the spindle. The third group must stage a scene with the same fated outcome as the second group, but thus time without using an omniscient narrator. Instruct the third group that the fate of Sleeping Beauty must still be communicated by phrases, sound effects, and characterization, all of which will give students the chance to embody and enliven the literary technique of foreshadowing.


2. Ask students to read through the passage (5.1.76-95) and to complete the worksheet that evaluates the negative portents significant to Cassius.


3. Distribute a selection from The Things They Carried by Tim O' Brien (p.20, 13-23). Ask students to read about the good-luck charms and assorted items that the men carried for good luck. Ask students to comment on why Cassius, who once "held Epicurus strong...", begins to change his mind. Ask students to use a selection from O'Brien to explore the idea that at times of great danger, when one's life is at risk or endangered, one may look to external factors and omens as indicators or prophylactics against the dangers.


4. Ask students to write an essay reflecting on their superstitions. Do they rely on these superstitions as a portent of bad things that might happen, or do these superstitions in some way protect them from a bad thing happening?

How Did It Go?

Did students demonstrate an understanding of foreshadowing and express that understanding through their own writing?


Did students reflect on and discuss the use of symbols and how these symbols relate to our own human conceptions of mortality and the ways in which we comfort and insulate ourselves from the dangers that accompany the human experience?


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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1 Comment

Simply amazing... I appreciate it a lot! festa lembrancinha
Sheila August 5, 2014 5:48 PM
  Common Core State Standards

There are no standards associated with this Lesson Plan.
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