Here is the final exercise in the series, ‘Shakespeare 101’, my preferred way to kick off a unit of Shakespeare in the Drama or English classroom.
This exercise (number 4 in the series) is a good one for reminding students that when characters speak they have an intention, something they need or want, usually from the other character(s) in the scene. This can help students and teachers to work against the feeling of speaking poetry or slabs of text on the page. Each line has a purpose behind it.
A longer version of this exercise can be found in Fiona Banks’ book Creative Shakespeare The Globe Education Guide to Practical Shakespeare. My version below is broken into steps for ease of reference for teachers.
Check out the whole Shakespeare 101 series for more exercises that can be used separately as warm ups at the beginning of a lesson. You may also like to use these in conjunction with one another as part of a one hour introduction to Shakespeare as theatre at the beginning of a unit of work. I have again used Romeo and Juliet as the text example here so as to build on Exercises 1-3, however this exercise can be adapted using text from any play. Further examples are found in Fiona Banks’ book.
Introduction: Thought Experiment can be found here.
Exercise 1: ‘Archetypes’ can be found here.
Exercise 2: ‘Words as Weapons’ is linked here.
Exercise 3: ‘Interrupting Lines’ is here.
When should I use this exercise?
This exercise is useful for keeping students actively engaged with the text for a purpose rather than as long chunks of words on the page. I use this as the final part of a one hour introduction to Shakespeare as theatre or as a warm up for another lesson in the unit of work.
How can I adapt this to my classroom space?
This exercise works well in any space, with or without desks. After allowing some time to play with the actions, you may like to have two students perform the exercise at the front of the classroom with the rest of the class watching.
Step by Step Instructions:
Choose a scene or duologue for students to work with. For this example, I used Macbeth, Act I, scene vii. The excerpt can be found in the attached document.
Introduce students to the following three physical actions: hook, probe and deflect. You may like to allow students to decide together what those gestures will look like for the class. This will encourage ownership of the physical action and help some students to feel less awkward in this transition to making more decisions in working physically with the text.
Students read the selected dialogue in character. For each line they should decide whether the character is hooking the other character(s) in, probing for more information or deflecting. It may be helpful to write these down beside each line or to highlight each intention in a different colour. For example, Hook may be highlighted in blue, Probe may be green and Deflect may be yellow.
Students then read the dialogue again while adding the physical gesture that the class has decided on in Step 2.
The teacher may then choose to have one or two pairs demonstrate their decisions for the class. The class could then reflect on how many of the decisions were the same for each pair in the class? Were there any lines that differed across the class? For example, did some pairs deliver the third line as a hook and others as a probe and still others as a deflect?
Students could then experiment with using other actions for the lines. How does substituting a hook for a deflect impact on the relationship between characters in the scene? What does a change in decision here reveal about the characters?
The instructions for this exercise, and accompanying example dialogue can be downloaded in PDF form here.