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Nursery rhyme Shakespeare?

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  1 rating

A Midsummer Night's Dream

June 2011

Carol Kelly

Festivals Project Coordinator, Folger Shakespeare Library


Plays/Scenes Covered

A Midsummer Night's Dream 5.1.349-368, 2.1.2-15

What's On for Today and Why

Most children are exposed to Nursery Rhymes and may be surprised to find out that Shakespeare uses the same meter in many of his plays. This meter is called tetrameter and consists of a verse line which has four stresses.

In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Puck and the fairies often speak in tetrameter rhythm which lends itself well to some of the imaginative language used to describe the fairy kingdom. In this lesson students will explore the rhythm and the vocabulary as they present these lines in a variety of ways.

What You Need

Copies of the speeches by Puck and the Fairy

Books of Nursey Rhymes (if necessary)


Crayons, chalks, etc

Nursery Rhyme Shakespeare?
What To Do

1. Ask students to recite a favorite Nursey rhyme.


2. Pick out those rhymes that have the same tetrameter rhythm and ask students whether they notice this similarity.


3. Explain the term tetrameter and tap it out with the students as they repeat the nursery rhymes.


4. Distribute copies of the speeches by Puck (5.1.349-368) and Fairy (2.1 2-15) from A Midsummer Night's Dream. If necessary give the students some backgound to the play and the characters of Puck and Fairy


5. Have students read the speeches on their own underlining unfamiliar vocabulary. Discuss these words and explain as necessary.


6. Have students read the speeches taking 2 lines each, over emphasizing the rhythm to make the tetrameter rhythm clear.


7. Have the students listen to you read the speeches this time with less emphasis on the meter. Ask them to close their eyes and picture the images in their mind. Ask students for suggestions as to why Shakespeare used this rhythm for these characters.


8. Discuss these images as a class.


9. Divide the students into 4 groups: Puck A and B , Fairy A and B.


10. Have A groups prepare an active way of presenting the lines to dramatic effect. Incorporate movement, gesture and facial expression.


11. Have B groups divide up the lines and create visual representations of the lines.


12. As a finale, groups will recite and peform the speech as the art work is displayed at the appropriate moment. Memorization is not required.

How Did It Go?
Did the students recognize the Nursery Rhyme meter in the Shakespeare text? Could they think of reasons why Shakespeare chose this type of rhythm for these characters? Were they able to pick out appropriate ways to represent the images in a physical or artistic way?

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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