Breaking up the Speech – Shylock: Shakespeare in the Classroom

When should I use this exercise?

I use this exercise as a way for students to explore how Shakespeare moves the audience and the actor from one idea to another. Students could be introduced to the use of punctuation to give clues to the actor.

Step by Step Instructions:

Step 1:

Break the text into three sections. The outburst (‘He hath disgraced me’ to ‘I am a Jew.’), the second phase (‘Hath not a Jew eyes’ to ‘shall we not revenge’) and the final phase. See the attached file for the text excerpt from The Merchant of Venice, Act III, Scene i.

Step 2:

Acknowledge the differences in tone and intent. Shakespeare doesn’t write speeches, he writes intentions and objectives and actions to move the character and plot forward. Actors should avoid using the same colour wash across the entire text. Good actors will give the longer speeches colour and life and nuance.

Step 3:

Get the class standing up in the space. Give them 30 seconds to form a tableau they believe fits the first section of text. Students should then repeat this for a second and then a final tableau that reflects the tone and intent of the speech.

Step 4:

Put these physical tableaux together with the text. Include vocal intensity.

Extension Option 1 –

Students can work in smaller groups to create their own version. Where else might this kind of speech take place?

Extension Option 2 –

Some students may wish to try performing this speech on their own.

The instructions for this exercise, and accompanying example dialogue can be downloaded in PDF form here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s