Warning: Post longer than my arm...
Introduction: “Players and Playhouses – embodied, Expressed, Enacted” By Kathryn M. Moncrief, Kathryn R. McPherson
“The study of Shakespeare may on its surface seem esoteric, but the skills gained in the study and practice of the arts and humanities are primary. The ability to read carefully and critically, to understand and interpret complex texts, to listen and view productions attentively, to think deeply and purposefully, to write clearly, to speak articulately, and to perform publicly are important skills not just in an academic setting, but in the world at large as students prepare to pursue meaningful employment in an increasingly competitive environment.”
Chapter 2: “Speaking in the Silence” by Deaf Performance at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival” by Lezlie C. Cross
“Theatre as a ‘concrete physical place’, which is inhabited by performance. […] there is a poetry of the senses as there is a poetry of language and that this concrete physical language to which I refer is truly theatrical only to the degree that the thoughts it expresses are beyond the reach of the spoken language.” (Artaud)
Chapter 3: “’I have given suck’ – The Maternal Body in Sarah Siddon’s Lady Macbeth” by Chelsea Phillips
“A pregnant Lady Macbeth reframes much of the play, even beyond her appearances on stage, and becomes a visible signifier of the dynastic implications of Macbeth’s actions. The potentiality encoded in her pregnant body creates a new level of tension in the play not present if the couple is perceived as barren.”
Chapter 4: “Competing Heights in Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’” by Jemma Alix Levy
Chapter 5: “The Mirror and the Monarchs – Suggestive Presences and Shakespeare’s Cast Size” by Brett Gamboa
“Every play of Shakespeare’s is playable by twelve speakers. [..] as some have observed, however, there are a handful of scenes that seem to require more: R&J (13), Julius Cesar (13).”
Chapter 6: “Embodying Shakespeare – In the Classroom” by Miriam Gilbert
“[…] basic assignment, ‘the staging paper,’ asks students to think of themselves as actors/directors/designers, challenging them to work in specific detail with the text.”
“’coverage’ is only an illusion, and that immersion in the text creates deeper involvement. Getting students to create a staging and thus eventually to possess a small piece of text seems to me what we can reasonably – and proudly- accomplish in our classrooms.”
Chapter 7: “Remember the Porter – Knock-knock Jokes, Tragedy, and Other Unfunny Things” By Chris Barrett
Chapter 8: “Ghost in the Machine – Shakespeare, Stanislavski, and Original Practices” by Peter Kanelos
“[..] What is the subtext beneath the claim that there is no subtext in Shakespeare?”
“[..] As avidly as original practitioners attempt to reject twentieth-century modes of acting, it is striking that the Stanislavskian method and the Elizabethan staging were born out of the same historical moment and in response to the same stimuli.”
“Undergirding this critique is the belief that authenticity in the theatre is an inner phenomenon and that the actor’s work should be to probe past what a character says or does into that space within which passeth show.”
Chapter 9: “Speake[ing] the speech[es] – Reassessing the Playability of the Earliest Printings of Hamlet” By Matthew Vadnais
“Real-time difficulty in determining when to speak had everything to do with what, in textual terms, players were given to study when they learned their parts. For economic reasons related to the lack of collective rehearsals, players were not provided the entirety of a playtext. Players’ parts were limited to a character’s speeches, entrances, exits, and relevant stage directions, tethered to the play as a whole by the tenuous thread of cues, the last one to three words of the utterance that were intended to spur the appropriate player to enact the appropriate portion of his privately prepared performance.”
“The two-player scene is the most obvious structural form by which Shakespeare and his company offered textual assistance regarding when players were to deliver their speeches.”
Chapter 10: “A ‘Ha’ in Shakespeare – The Soliloquy as Excuse and Challenge to the Audience“by Bill Gelber
“Of the 47,902 speeches in the corpus, 16,095 (34%) are exchanged while only two speaking players are onstage”.
“There are very few absolutes in Shakespeare, but I personally believe that it’s right ninety-nine times out of a hundred to share a soliloquy with the audience. I’m convinced it’s a grave distortion of Shakespeare’s intention to do it to oneself.”
Chapter 11: “A Knave to Know a Knock – Exploring Character Function in Scenic Structure” by Symmonie Preston
“Shakespeare’s use of character type and function to create a dramatic structure makes his plays unique, exciting, and challenging for players and audiences alike.”
Chapter 12: “Behind Closed Doors – Perspective and Painterly Technique on the Early Modern English Stage” by Jennifer A. Low
“To provide the complex experience of discovery to spectators, players of the early modern public theatre frequently had recourse to the feature of stage design now commonly called the ‘discovery space,’ a term drawn from the stage direction specifying that a character ‘discovers’ a previously concealed person or tableau.”
Chapter 13: “Shticky Shakespeare – Exploring Action as Eloquence” by Sid Ray
“A play is said to be well or ill acted in proportion to the scenically illusion produced…The nearest approach to it, we are told, is, when the actor appears wholly unconscious of the presence of spectators.”
“Stage business becomes shtick when it is gimmicky rather than exegetic.”
Chapter 14: “Seeing Ghosts – Hamlet and Modern Original Practices” by Fiona Harris-Ramsby and Kathryn R. McPherson
“Student: Something’s been troubling me about Hamlet. Why can Horatio and the guards see the ghost but Gertrude cannot?
Patrick: “Well, it seems to me that the ghost first appearance is in order to get Hamlet’s attention and to make a public proclamation and his later appearance is to impart a private message to Hamlet only.
Student: Okay, but the first message is meant for Hamlet, too, so why doesn’t the ghost just approach Hamlet directly in the first place?
All actors: This sounds like an excellent topic for a term paper. This is something you should definitely look into further. What does the text say and what could different staging options indicate? You are definitely onto something.”
(The conversation occurred between a high school student and Patrick Midgely , the actor who played Horatio)
Chapter 15: “Remembrances of Yours – Properties, Performance, and Memory in Shakespeare’s Hamlet 3.1” by Kathryn M. Moncrief
Chapter16: “The Mirror of All Christian Kings – Choral Medievalism in Henry V, Text and Production” by Christina Gutierrrez
“For twenty-first-century audiences, Shakespeare’s medievalism in Henry V is most readily apparent in a comparison of Lawrence Olivier’s film adaption in 1941 and Kenneth Branagh’s in 1989. Olivier’s Henry is pious, noble, and patriotic. [ … ] Branagh, on the other hand, was concerned with presenting a critique of twenty-first-century warfare. […] French bodies piled six feet high, with most of them dying to suffocation in the crush.”
“To stage Henry V is thus to stage the changing ways in which we understand the middle ages themselves.”
Chapter 17: “Playing with Character-Audience Members in Early Modern Playhouses” By Sarah Enloe
“Discuss the differences between the spaces and actor-audience relationships in the following modern spaces: lighting, house dimensions, etc”
“How do the character-audience members shift from space to space?
“How does the audience affect the impact of themes or the story?”
Chapter 18: “Blackfriars Stage Sitters and the Staging of The Tempest, The Maid’s Tragedy, and The Two Noble Kinsmen” by Leslie Thomson
“The fashionable gentlemen’s chief reason for sitting on the stage was to display his finery to public view.” (Nothing changed in terms of modern theatre-goers…)
Chapter 19: “The Concourse of the People on the Stage – An alternative Proposal for Onstage Seating at the Second Blackfriars” by Nova Myhill
Chapter 20: “The Two Bkackfriars Theatres – Discontinuity of Contiguity?” by Jeanne McCarthy
Chapter 21: “Here Sit We Down – The Positioning of Andrea and Revenge” by Annalisa Castaldo
Chapter 22: “Thomas Middleton’s Use of the Gallery Space” by Christine Parker
Chapter 23: “Performing Space – Playing the Architecture” by Doreen Bechtol
Chapter 24: “Heat and Light in the Playhouses” by Ann Jennalie Cook
Chapter 25: “Lighting Effects in the Early Modern Private Playhouses” by Lauren Shell
Chapter 26: “Sound Trumpets” by Alisha Huber
Chapter 27: “Play It Again, Hal – The 1605 Revival of Henry V” by Melissa D. Aaron
Chapter 28: “Playing with Early Modern Special Effects” by Cass Morris
“Begin by experimenting with short sound and visual cues. Brainstorm what an early modern theatre company could have used to signal the following: An approaching army, the entrance of a fairy or magician, the entrance of a ghost or other malevolent spirit, the entrance of a god or goddess, a magic sell.
This book draws on essays presented on the Blackfriars stage at the American Shakespeare Center in 2011. What do we get? Essays by scholars, teachers and theatrical practitioners (actors, directors, dramaturgs and designers) promoting ideas that can be translated into classroom experiences. Shakespeare is all about staging choices, challenging modern actors as they embody Shakespeare’s characters, the way the physical and technical aspects of theatre in the Shakespeare’s day affected performances, and the way the playtexts can keep on being enlightening on the stage and in the classrooms today.
As I’ve written elsewhere, Shakespeare can be daunting, complex, and intimidating to the young student and teacher alike, yet he is also interesting, funny, exciting, and brilliant. With so many classroom tips on how to stage and perform Shakespeare’s plays in chapters 17 and 28, I got thinking that I also wanted to put forth my own Lesson Plan proposal for getting in touch with Shakespeare. My overall goal was not about helping students learning much more than a few easily memorized facts that they later could regurgitate and then forget, for it does not teach students skills or knowledge that will stay with them.
Here it is (read at your own peril):
Lesson Plan “Shakespearian lesson (60min)
The structural idea of the lesson is: Shakespeare (a student) greets the audience and welcomes his characters (also students): Timon of Athens, King Lear, Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Viola and Orsino, Falstaff. The characters (students) present themselves in English. The author is presented by one and the same student. After each character the teacher asks the students: a) give proverbs, predominantly English, to share human traits of Shakespearian characters, coincidence and opposition are both possible; b) find parallel characters in literature of other countries c) make a self-analysis searching to find Shakespearean traits in yourself (here etiquette must be observed because not all the students may be open-hearted). This is meant to develop critical thinking but the time space of the lesson may abridge the work that is why the teacher should be wise enough to pass over the students’ thinking beyond the lesson and then probably give marks for this prolonged optional work. The teacher speaks on Shakespeare’s immortality at the end; in her short report she inserts questions to set the students to philosophical thinking about contradictory human nature.
Pay tribute to the genius of Shakespeare, get in touch with theatrical art, emotional development, and get to know the philosophical wisdom of life and immortal merits and values.
Acting and playing is a very effective way to learning not only English but also developing etiquette and increasing cultural mentality. The target to give the students some life experience through Shakespeare also belongs here. The material of the lesson should take a philosophical spectra to build interdisciplinary ties with the course of philosophy and business relations (especially useful for future managers).
Materials and resources:
The large classroom is decorated with portraits of Shakespeare and citations from his works-they illustrate wisdom (they are also to dispose the students to critical thinking). The authentic materials for the lesson are crowned by costumes from the local theatre for students to better act Shakespeare’s characters. Some things to act: a treasure box for Timon, jewelry and an envelope of Orsino, a travelling stick of King Lear. This version of the lesson presupposes exposition of pictures and photos of theatre and film actors who played Shakespearian characters (foreign-British and American at least 12-14) included into the lesson or may be given as an optional assignment after the lesson. The students are given independent work to find Shakespeare’s plays in the internet, at least in fragments, and compare the style of acting; of course they will tell each other about it beyond the lesson. Two short video fragments are shown: about Shakespeare’s places in Britain and theatrical life in modern Britain. A table of all Shakespeare’s plays (when each was written) is exhibited on the wall.
During the teacher’s final report a list of questions for critical thinking is exhibited on the wall of the classroom.
Note: The sentences for the author and characters’ presentations are very short but rich in meaning and transferring the essence of Shakespeare’s ideas.
The Text of the Shakespearian lesson
Today we are having a conference lesson with dramatization devoted to Shakespeare.
Student says (acts Shakespeare)
My hearty greetings to you, my friends! I have come to you with my characters
Timon of Athens
Romeo and Juliet
Viola and Orsino
They will give you pieces of wisdom to be happy in your life. Please, welcome to our party.
Student says (acts the author)
“Timon of Athens’ is one of the last tragedies Shakespeare ever wrote. The story of Timon is taken from ancient authors. The scene of the play is laid in ancient Athens. We see the society of Shakespeare’s time. Timon is a rich and noble Athenian, generous to his friends. But when he meets financial difficulties they refuse to help him, and he is completely ruined. He becomes a misanthrope (a hater of mankind). The speeches of Timon in which he curses humanity are among the most powerful lines written by Shakespeare. While living in the cave Timon finds a treasure, much gold and speaks of it:
Student says (acts Timon)
Thus much of this will make black, white; foul, fair;
Wrong, right; base, noble; old, young; coward, valiant.
This yellow slave
Will knit and break religions; bless the accurs’d
Make the hoar leprosy ador’d; place thieves,
And give them title, knee, and approbation,
With senators on the bench.
Student says (acts the author)
In “King Lear” Shakespeare shows how richness may spoil people. Lear is an old king, he is convinced in his personal greatness. The conflict between Lear and his daughters is brought to a crisis. Having got their parts of the kingdom the daughters quarreled with each other and Lear became poor. Lear attains true dignity only when he loses his crown and becomes truly wise only when he goes mad.
Student says (acts King Lear)
(a little simplified in the language)
Poor naked wretches,
That endure the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
You are full of holes…
What will defend you from seasons such as these?
Oh, I have taken too little care of this!
Student says (acts the author)
Macbeth wanted to become a king; he became a king and became a monster. Lear was a king and a monster; when he ceases being a king he became human ”Macbeth” is like the tragedy “King Lear” but reversed, as in a mirror.
Student says (acts Macbeth)
Beautiful is vicious and the evil is beautiful.
Student says (acts the author)
“Hamlet’ is one of Shakespeare’s greatest creations, it is also considered the hardest of his works to understand. Even a special term “hamletism” was invented; it means a tendency to treat everything as futile, to doubt everything, to let thought prevail over action.
Student says (acts Hamlet)
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Student says (acts the author)
The two chief families in Verona (Italy) were the Capulets and the Montagues, both very rich families. The quarrel between the two families lead to a love tragedy of Romeo and Juliet who belonged to different families. Shakespeare created a great love which transforms into an ideal form through victimness.
Students say (act Romeo and Juliet)
Romeo: I swear by the blessed moon
That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops…
Juliet: O! swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb,
Lest that you love prove likewise variable.
Romeo: What shall I swear by?
Juliet: Do not swear at all. Or if you will, swear by your gracious self, which is the god of my idolatry, and I’ll believe you.
Romeo: If my heart’s dear love…
Juliet: Well, do not swear. Although I joy in you,
I have no joy of this meeting tonight:
It is too rash, too unadvised,too sudden;
Too like the lightning, which does cease to be
This bud of love, by summers’ ripening breath,
May prove a beautiful flower when next we meet.
Good night, good night…
Romeo: O! Will you leave me so unsatisfied?
Juliet: What satisfaction can you have tonight?
Romeo: The exchange of your love’s faithful vow for mine.
Juliet: I gave you mine before you did request it. And yet I would it were to give again.
Romeo: Would you withdraw it? For what purpose, love?
Juliet: But to be frank and give it you again.
My love is boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to you…
(The nurse calls, knocking is heard).
I hear some noise within; dear love, adieu!
… Sweet Montague, be true…
Romeo:O blessed, blessed night!
Student says (acts the author)
“Twelfth night” is a comedy built around the typical Shakespearian conflict between true and false emotions. Viola is one of the famous Shakespearian comedy heroines, a true woman of the Renaissance: she is brave, adventurous, clever, witty and capable of deep feeling. Viola is Shakespeare’s favorite character.
Viola loses her heart to the Duke-Orsino. In the long run he falls in love with Viola. The gay comedy ends happily.
Students say (act Viola and Orsino)
(a little simplified in the language)
Orsino: That Nature makes her bright and attracts my soul.
Viola: But if she cannot love you sir?
Orsino: I cannot be unanswered.(He holds the letter which has not been answered by his beloved.)
Viola: You tell her so. Must she not then also be answered?
Orsino: There is no woman’s sides
That can give so strong a passion
As love does give my heart; no woman’s heart
So big to hold so much;
… love may be called appetite,-
We suffer and revolt;
But mine is all as hungry as the sea,
And that I owe Olivia.
Viola: Ah, I know.
Orsino: What do you know?
Viola: Too well what love women to men owe.
Orsino: And what’s her history?
Viola: A blank, my lord. She never told her love,
But let concealment, like a worm.
… with green and yellow melancholy..
She sat with patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief.
Orison: But did your sister die of love?
Viola: I am all the daughters of my father’s house,
And all the brothers too;- and yet I know not.-Shall I go to this lady?
Orsino: To her in haste; give her this jewel; say
My love can give no place…
Student says (acts the author)
Falstaff is a through character in Shakespeare’s plays, particularly in “Henry 1V” and “Henry V”. Sir John Falstaff is one of Shakespeare’s greatest creations. He is a knight, utterly devoid of feudal prejudices and cynical to the last degree. But Falstaff possesses a marvelous sense of humor and doesn’t hesitate to aim irony at himself. His good-naturedness wins him a peculiar charm. Prince Harry is his friend, captured by Falstaff’s mischief. But despite this friendship prince Harry is sincere; through Falstaff he gets to know the life of common people.
Students say (act Falstaff and Prince Harry)
Falstaff( a little simplified in the language)”Can honor set to a leg? or an arm? Or take away the grief of a wound? No, Honor has no skill in surgery. What is honor? A word. What is in that word, honour?.Honour is a mere label”.
Prince Harry: no words, only friendly gestures.
The teacher‘s summative short report disposing the students to critical creative thinking beyond the lesson
He was not of an age, but for all time!
The English Renaissance gave birth to an amazing galaxy of great writers, but William Shakespeare outshines them all. He had a greater influence on the development of the whole of world literature. Characters created by him remain perfect depictions of the principal human passions and psychological traits. But Shakespeare was not just a painter of abstract passions independent of space and time. His unsurpassed portrayals of human nature come as a result of his profound insight into the most important social and philosophical problems of the period.
Shakespeare was a marvelous poet, a great dramatist, a learned man.
It is utterly impossible to characterize every aspect of his genius in a brief report. Many periods in Shakespeare’s life remain obscure.
Shakespeare’s great tragedies still produce a terrific impression on our emotions and our intellect (what impresses you most?).The writer treats important ethical themes: state and society; the nature of power; the historical essence of monarchy; the power of money; the multi-problem dialogue of the evil and the good in general and countless variations. But still the writer focused all human feelings and relations on love; love discloses human character very deep.
Shakespeare’s humor serves to get rid of the bad sides of our life in a good-natured manner without tragedy.
In many of his views Shakespeare was far ahead of his time. He was wise enough to reject feudalism that slowed the pace of history and was shrewd enough to see the evils and vices of coming capitalism. He could not give concrete answers to the problems he put forth, but he was a truly great inquirer.
His works are really immortal, and will keep their immortality as long as the human race exists (what is especially immortal for you in Shakespeare’s ideas?).
It is only natural that the greatest minds of the world admired Shakespeare: Goethe, Pushkin, Victor Hugo and many others.
Every generation finds new and important aspects of his ideas, bedded into his works. His popularity all over the world grows from year to year. Performances of his well-known parts serve a serious test for actors to get the right to be called great.
Questions on the wall for critical and creative thinking
1. Are there any points you disagree with Shakespearian interpretation?
2. Do Shakespeare’s pieces of advice remain contemporary?
3. Compare the idea “Man is always a mystery” by Shakespeare and Dostoyevski.
4. Compare the analysis of a man in Chekhov’s and Shakespeare’s plays. Why were both examples for Bernard Shaw.
5. Do you feel something national, typically British in Shakespeare’s mentality?
6. Name as many writers and poets from any national literature which share views with Shakespeare.
7. Are there any Christian turns of thinking in Shakespeare’s philosophy?( for example about love, etc.)
8. Can we study British history by Shakespeare?
9. What human evils disclosed by Shakespeare are especially important nowadays?
10. What is your favorite character by Shakespeare?
11. What types of modernization of Shakespearian plots and characters do you know?
12. What plays by Shakespeare were put to music (Russian composer Prokofjev “Romeo and Juliet”. Etc.)
13. How is Shakespeareana realized in painting?
14. Do you know Shakespeare’s images in brief marks?
15. What websites with Shakespeare do you know?
(The students can write their answers to the questions after the lesson in the form of short or long essays in English. The target of the lesson is” to plant” an interest in the students’ souls and intellect.)
The teacher stimulates the students to analyze the citations by Shakespeare on the wall every time when they will come to the classroom in after lessons, because they will not be removed and stay for a while. The lesson creates somewhat Shakespearian atmosphere in the classroom for some time. The students are as if routed across Shakespearian creations mentioned on the table of Shakespeare’s chronical work. At the end of the lesson the students are asked to draw Shakespeare’s characters.
NB: Congratulations! You’ve made it this far…