Louisa Newlin taught high school English for more than 40 years. She wrote "Nice Guys Finish Dead: Teaching Henry IV, Part I in High School" for the Shakespeare Set Free series. She leads workshops on sonnets for teachers.
Gigi Bradford, former director of the NEA Literature Program and Folger Poetry Series, currently teaches the Folger's "Shakespeare's Sisters" seminar.
The Parting, a Sonnet by Michael Drayton (1563-1631); see Lesson #2
This lesson will take 1 x forty minute class period.
What's On for Today and Why
Students will examine a sonnet by one of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, Michael Drayton, indebted to Petrarch, emphasizing the distress and turmoil of love. Drayton's sonnet, and the sonnet of Spenser’s assigned for the next lesson, in which he idealizes his beloved in a “blazon,” are examples of the literary context in which Shakespeare was writing. Greater understanding of that context leads to deeper appreciation of Shakespeare’s innovation.
What You Need
taughCopies of the poem, a dictionary, and an iPod to play Breaking up is hard to do or a more contemporary equivalent.
Suggested Homework for Next Lesson:
Journal Writing: List the characteristics of your ideal beauty, male or female. (Private writing, not to share). Hand out copies of Spenser’s sonnet to read at home. (Or you can project this on a screen for Lesson 4).
Sonnet 15 from Amoretti, Edmund Spenser
What To Do
1. Play the song Breaking up is hard to do, by Neil Sedaka, or a more familiar equivalent (Google will give you multiple sites; or students can provide the song on their iPods).
2. Ask students to do a free writing for 2-3 minutes on the subject of breaking up. Ask students if they are willing to share their work aloud.
3. Ask students to take out the copies of Michael Drayton’s The Parting (see previous lesson).
4. Ask students to identify the rhyme scheme and compare it to that of Petrarch’s sonnet from Day 2 (CIV); identify Drayton’s as an “English” sonnet, later called “Shakespearean”, which is less tightly knit. (See description of an English sonnet in the Introduction)
5. Break up the class into two groups: Group A collectively reads the octave, Group B reads the sestet.
6. What’s happening in this sonnet? Who’s speaking:? Ask for line-by-line paraphrases of the first 8 lines.
7. Dramatize the last 6 lines. Assign roles to: Love, Passion, Faith, Innocence, the departing lover, the anguished "dumpee". Students mime the action while the others read the lines aloud, in a circle around the dying Love.
8. Have students write for 2-3 minutes in their journal about the sonnet’s ending. What are the chances that the departing lover will change his/her mind and resuscitate Love at the last minute? Share the responses/.
9. Discuss the intensity of feeling in Drayton's sonnet compared to that in Petrarch’s sonnet.
10.Announce: Tomorrow, Shakespeare at Last!
How Did It Go?
Do the students show a fuller understanding of how a literary tradition is inherited and re-worked?
Are they more secure in their definition of “sonnet”?
Can they distinguish between Italian and English forms?
Were they engaged in what they were doing?
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.