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Insider/Outsider:The Power of Language

Teachers' Rating:
  5 ratings

Merchant of Venice. Act 2 Sc. 5. Engraving, 19th century.

September 2013
Cicily Coney teaches English at Dr. Phillips High School, Orlando, FL

Plays/Scenes Covered
The Merchant of Venice 1.1, 1.3, 2.5, 3.1
What's On for Today and Why

Students will:

  • Examine the insider/outsider dynamic in the play, specifically focusing on language
  • Conduct a close reading of specific scenes, noting the langauage and actions that determine the insider/outsider relationships
  • Perform selected scenes

What You Need

Folger editions of The Merchant of Venice



Scene list
Analyzing the Power of Language
What To Do

1. Divide students into groups  and assign or allow them to select a scene from the list on Handout.


2. Allow students time to read the scene through.


3. Have students discuss the following questions:

What relationship is being presented in this scene?

What language establishes the insider/outsider dynamic?

What do characters say that establishes who has the upper hand?


4. Have students underline or highlight the language that defines the action of scene.


4. Have students  complete the charts on the handout, Analyzing the Power of Language and allow some time for a class discussion of their findings.


5. Have students prepare their scene for performance, ensuring that the relationships and dynamic is clearly demonstrated.


6. Have each group perform and applause each other's efforts.

Note- Acting ability is not the criteria but ability to recognize the language Shakespeare uses to build tension in a relationship.


7. Have students write a one sentence summary of their findings.




How Did It Go?

Were students able to identify the insider/outsider dynamic in their selected scene?


This activity can be used with several other of

Shakespeare's plays: Othello, The Tempest, A Winter's Tale, Twelfth Night, King Lear. It can also work well with works such as A Lesson Before Dying, The Crucuible, They Eyes Were Watching God, Of Mice and Men, and The Great Gatsby.


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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  Common Core State Standards

RL.11-12.1, 4, 6

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