"Such Affection Move": Finding Staging Clues in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Author: Anne Turner, Folger Shakespeare Library 

Editor: Greta Brasgalla, Folger National Teacher Corps and Curriculum Specialist at El Dorado High School, El Paso, Texas

Common Core Anchor Standards: R.1, R.4, SL.1, L.4

Text: A Midsummer Night's Dream (1.1, 2.2, and 3.2)

Lesson Overview

Students will connect stage directions/movements to textual evidence. Students will analyze a scene and then create a performance that contains appropriate movement and tone.

Time: Three 45-minute class periods

What You Need:

What to Do

Day One

  1. Guided Practice: Pass out Handout 1, parallel versions of 1.1.23-30 from the modern text and the First Folio text. Students will notice the editions diverge with "Stand forth Demetrius" and "Stand forth Lysander." Ask the students whether they believe those lines are intended to be spoken or not, and make sure they give their reasons. (For example, do the lines fit into the meter?)
  2. Ask four volunteers to stand up and take the parts of Theseus, Hermia, Lysander, and Demetrius. Have them create a beginning "pose" for the scene, then hold still as you read Egeus's speech. Did it make sense? Try the process again with the actors making appropriate movement when they hear Shakespeare's stage directions. Discuss the differences between the two performances.
  3. Divide the class into groups of four, and pass out copies of 2.2.41-71, with line numbers and stage directions removed. Each group is to find as many implied stage directions as they can. Two students can read the scene, while the other two enact whatever movement suggestions they hear. The pairs should switch jobs and repeat the process. Do both sets of pairs make the same choices? (If students are getting stuck, have them look to the action words in the scene: the verbs.) Students will probably focus on the references to lying down and Hermia's repeated insistence to "lie further off." Students should write the stage directions on their copies.
  4. Come together as a class and have two groups share their scenes. Note the most common implied stage directions that students found.

Guiding Questions: Must an actor move in a particular way to make the scene make sense? Will a movement, even if unnecessary, make the scene funnier, more touching, or more interesting?

Day Two

Have students break back into their groups of four. Give them a new script, Midsummer Love handout, an edited version of the lovers' quarrel. Students are to stage the scene fully. They should begin by working collaboratively to decide on implied stage directions. Then, they should add some of the interpretive, non-essential movements. (Ask students to focus on the adjectives and nouns, which supply some of the more colorful character choices.)

Day Three

Have the groups perform for one another. Discuss their choices. What was essential? What unique choices were there? Did any of them change the way you thought about the scene without changing the basic meaning?


As an exit ticket/quick write, have students respond to the following questions:

  1. What stage directions were implied in your scene? Give your line number as evidence?
  2. Give three stage direction you added and evidence of why these were necessary.
  3. Give an example of another group’s choice which was different from yours. Did it work? Was it supported by the text?
  4. On a scale of 1–10, how comfortable were you with your performance?