Close Reading the Conspiracy in Act 2



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Robert Johnson as Brutus
Item Title: 
Robert Johnson as Brutus [in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar] [graphic].
Item Call Number: 
ART Box J73 no.1 (size S)
Item Date: 
[19th century?]

Author: Maurine Slaughter, Interlochen Center for the Arts, Interlochen, MI

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

Common Core Anchor Standards: R.1, R.3, R.10, SL.4, W.6

Text: Julius Caesar 2.1.94-252

Lesson Overview

Students will use close reading skills create a prompt book with a specific emphasis. Students will evaluate which edited version of the scene best shows the theme of the play so far.

Time: Two 45 minute class periods

Folger edition of Julius Caesar
Copies of Julius Caesar 2.1.94-252 with large margins for prompt book


What To Do

  1. Have students read 2.1.1-93 out loud, each reader reading to a full stop. Read a second time, looking for any references to sleeping, waking, light and dark.
  2. As a group, discuss the role of these images in the passage using the Guiding Questions below.
    • Guiding Questions:
    • Why does the letter say Brutus sleeps, when in fact he is still awake?
    • Why does Brutus connect conspiracy with darkness?
    • Why does Cassius want to awaken Brutus?
  3. Divide students into groups and direct them to 2.1.94-252. They must cut at least 60 of these lines and still retain a coherent scene. Assign each group a specific emphasis for their prompt book:
    1. to make Brutus look more sympathetic,
    2. to make him look less sympathetic,
    3. to emphasize the imagery of sleep, light, and darkness,
    4. to de-emphasize the imagery.
    5. Optional technology application: Students can do their prompt books on a shared Google Doc.
  4. Ask a representative from each group to report to the whole class on the kind of cuts each group made. If the prompt book was done on Google Docs, each group can share their document for comparison.
  5. Have groups discuss the cuts they have made, reading or acting out the shortened scenes as appropriate. Conclude with a discussion. How different did these scenes look?  Which one did the class prefer? Why?


Use the following categories for a rubric to evaluate the prompt book.

  1. Editing is appropriate to purpose.
  2. Editing is effective.
  3. Editing is cohesive.

Open Ended Response:

Which one of the edited scenes best fits with the theme of the play so far? Why? Give evidence from the edited scene as well as what we have read so far to support your answer.