Kevin J.Costa teaches English and Drama at McDonogh School, Owings Mills, MD
Measure for Measure, 2.4
What's On for Today and Why
Antithesis is a feature of Shakespeare's writing where a word, image, thought, or phrase is balanced by an opposite word, image, thought, or phrase. Students will examine Shakespeare's use of antithesis in his verse and prose in order to discover how this rhetorical element is central to the way Shakespeare's characters think and how an understanding of this device can help students make sense of difficult passages.
This exercise reveals how Shakespere's characters do not always know what they are going to say. An understanding of how antithesis works can help students approach Shakespeare's language in terms of thought units, where these units combine to make a thought journey.
In other words, the language characters use, especially in complex soliloquies, reveals the "thought journey" they are taking to discover who and what they are.
This lesson should take two 45 minute class periods.
What You Need
Folger editions of Measure for Measure
What To Do
1. Have students do a close reading of Measure For Measure, 2.4, following the guidelines set out in Michael Tolaydo's instructions in Shakespeare Set Free, pp. 27-34.Or watch this video on close reading.
2. Generate a class discussion using such questions as:
- What kind of conversation is this?
- Is it a debate or argument? If so, what tactics or strategies do characters use to get what they want?
- What is the attitude of Angelo toward Isabella and Isabella toward Angelo? Does this change over the course of the scene?
3. Distribute the Antithesis Handout and follow instructions.
4. Distribute copies of Measure For Measure, 2.4. Divide the class into 5 or 6 groups, giving each group 25-30 lines.
5. Give each group 25-30 minutes to carry out an antithesis scavenger hunt in their lines and mark these on their paper with colored pens.
(Note: A complete antithesis is both the image, word, or phrase and its opposite, so one color should be used for a complete antithesis.)
6. Have students create appropriate gestures for each side of the antithesis.
"Winter", in Richard III could be indicated by someone shivering, which would then be contrasted with a gesture to represent "Summer", and so on. This should be a collaborative effort with 2 students reading the antithesis and 2 people acting out gestures to accompany the lines. Rotate through a number of examples so that every student has a turn.
7. Finally, have each group perform their section of the text, with students reading and other students acting out each antithesis.
How Did It Go?
Did the close reading help students to identify antitheses in the text?
Were they able to create appropriate gestures?
Did they work collaboratively?
Other scenes which could work with this lesson:
A Midsummer Night's Dream, 3.2.122-344
As You Like It, 3.5.109-35
Henry V, 4.1.84-221
1 Henry IV, 1.1.1-33
Julius Caesar, 4.2.30-177
Much Ado About Nothing, 1.3
Richard II, 5.5.1-66
Romeo and Juliet, 2.2, 2.3
The Comedy of Errors, 2.1.1-43
The Merchant Of Venice, 1.2
The Taming of the Shrew, 2.1.182-325
The Tempest, 3.1
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.