Monday, March 7, 2011

Week 7 & 8

I have to apologize - - with the holidays and illnesses, it took us some time to finish up the Shakespeare coop that we were doing.  We finished reading A Midsummer Night's Dream and discussed it over the final two weeks.  For a final project, we assigned the students to choose something from today and "Shakespeare-ize" it.  The kids chose a scene from Veggie Tales and videotaped a puppet show.  I will be posting the video to the blog as soon as I can so that you can see what they did.

Have fun with this assignment.  Be sure to check out Shakespearean insults and compliments to add to your project.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Week 6 - A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream is a comedy play. It takes place in Ancient Greece (Athens to be exact) at a time when daughters were supposed to honor and respect their fathers by doing what was directed of them and marrying whomever the father wished. Of course, if that daughter had given her love to someone else, all kinds of problems could ensue and that is the crux of the situation which begins A Midsummer Night's Dream. Some things to keep in mind:

1. This play has several plots that are intertwined. First, Thesius is getting married and the plans are being laid. A troop of actors is preparing a play to honor the bride and groom at their wedding feast. The play they pick is Pyramus and Thisbee, which echoes the problems of Hermia and Lysander. Second is the quarrel between Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies. It is the mischief of Oberon that leads to further complications between the Athenian youths. Third is the main plot: Hermia loves Lysander, but her father wishes her to marry Demetrius, who is pledging his love to her after already pledging his love to Helena, who still love Demetrius and follows after him like a lovesick puppy. Try to keep each of these plots in mind, because each one will be resolved in the end.

2. There is a play within a play, which can seem confusing. Many of the abridged versions avoid introducing this at the same time as Shakespeare. Bottom (his name is a forshadowing of what he becomes) is a funny character, though, and this scene early on provides comic relief against what the father is demanding of Thesius - - that he enforce a little used law that would condemn his daughter to death if she refuses to marry Demetrius. What other plot does he become entwined in?

3. The main overriding conflict here is love vs. obedience. Is love greater than obedience to a father, or in the case of the fairies, a husband? Both Hermia and Titania are willing to be disobedient to the legitimate authority of a father or husband (remember this is Shakespeare's time,not ours). With Hermia, it is for love of another man that she disobeys her father, and Titania, it is love of her friend that she disobeys her husband. Are they correct to go against this authority? How is it all worked out in the end?

In Acts I and II, we are introduced to these characters and to the various plots in the play. We can see the conflict between Hermia and her father, and what her and Lysander plan to do. We can see Helena introducing an obstacle, by betraying the secret to Demetrius. We can also guess how this is all going to be mixed up, by the machinations of the fairy king - Oberon and his sidekick, Puck. (I don't want to give away too much here!)

We discussed the play, rereading certain parts of it. I had obtained a study guide on line from Signet Classics, which you can find here. Of course, you can also go on line to find others - - I found several just by doing a search, so pick one you like.

The assignment for next class is to finish reading the play (we had a week or so off with the holidays). We will be discussing the remainder of the play and what our final project should be.

I think this catches us up to where we are at. I apologize for not posting sooner, but the holidays had caught up with me.

Week 5 - Shakespeare's Plays

Shakespeare wrote a great variety and number of plays (36 have been attributed to him). Comedies (Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night's Dream) are not necessarily funny, but they have a happy ending, in spite of containing perhaps some sad events. Tragedies (MacBeth, King Lear) are plays in which the main character or characters die due to some character flaw or bad situation of their own making. Romances (The Tempest) differ from comedies in that they deal with love and marriage. The historical plays (Henry VI, Henry VIII) are just that - - plays that deal with historical characters.

We will not have time to read all of the different types of plays during this class series. I hope to have the kids read one of each during subsequent school years.

Shakespeare uses many literary devices in his plays: similes, metaphors, alliteration, assonance, and hyperbole. He also tends to use a lot of forshadowing, so be aware and look out for evidence of these.

In addition, while discussing Shakespeare's language, we also discussed how he used rhyme for certain characters, like the Prince in Romeo and Juliet and the fairies in Midsummer Night's Dream. We discussed how he also incorporated sonnets and soliloquies within the plays.

Shakespeare was also inventive with words. He is said to have created over 3000 words and many expressions are used today. See if you can keep a lookout for "Shakespearean" expressions. Write them down and note where you found them. They will pop up in the least expected places.

The assignment for today was to read Acts I and II in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Week 4 - Soliloquy Assignment - Background work for plays

I am a bit behind in postings - - we've had a very busy yet productive holiday. I am separating the posts so that you can see how we worked it out.

We discussed what a soliloquy is and read through Jacques' soliloquy on the Seven Ages of Man. It was an interesting read, since Jacques is a bit of a pessimist. The students will rewrite parts of the soliloquy and it will be posted under the "worksheet" on the Soliloquy tab.

After reading through Jacques' soliloquy, we also read through one of Romeo's soliloquy - specifically the balcony scene. The reaction of the kids was both interesting and fun. They felt that he was one step below a stalker!

The essays from the sonnet assignment are also posted under the essays tab. They have turned out well.

To prepare for the next class, we started talking about Shakespeare's plays. I will post questions under the plays tab that can be printed so that the students can find the answers. We used Usborne's World of Shakespeare book to answer them, but any good book on Shakespeare's works should be able to provide the answers.

Also to prepare for reading A Midsummer Night's Dream, I suggest reading an abridged version or children's version. This will give the students an idea of the play, perhaps making it a little easier to follow. It is not necessary, as this play is one of the easier ones.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Week 3: Sonnet Assignment and Soliloquies

What is a sonnet? A sonnet is a 14 line poem that follows a specific pattern and meter. It was first introduced into literature by Francesco Petrarch and brought to England by Wyatt and Surrey. Shakespeare's sonnets are all 14 line poems, with a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg, that is three quatrains of alternating rhyme, ending in a heroic couplet. The entire poem is written in iambic (a two syllable foot) pentameter (5 "feet" to a line), even the couplet. The couple is called heroic because it ends in a stressed syllable. Shakespeare's sonnets even appear occassionally in some of his plays. Other poets have written sonnets using differing rhyme patterns, like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

We read and discussed Sonnet 18 (Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer Day). In our discussion, we talked about how Shakespeare wrote these first 126 poems for a friend of his. We discussed how a poet may use words that appear to us as "romantic" to describe friendship, especially in the time of Shakespeare. And how words may have changed meaning from Shakespeare's time to now. For instance, Shakespeare uses the word "lovely" which today we commonly use to mean beautiful, pretty, etc. But the word lovely can be used to describe how much Shakespeare valued the friendship, rather than a description of the person, himself.

We also read and discussed Sonnet 116 (Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds), which attempts to define love. We also looked at St. Paul's definition of love from 1 Corinthians 13: 4 - 7 (Love is patient, love is kind. . . . ) We talked about how they differed and how they were the same. Our assignment from this week is to reread Sonnet 116 and St. Paul and write an essay in which we compare and contrast the two.

To get ready for our next class, we discussed soliloquies. A soliloquy is similar to the "aside," except that it is usually longer. Look up the definition for soliloquy. To prepare for our next class, the students are to read Jaques's soliloquy from As You Like It. After reading, they are to write their first impressions and what they think Shakespeare is discussing. Some of the lines may be quite familiar to the students. When we come back, we will discuss the above and look at some literary devices found in this soliloquy. Then we will rewrite it.

Here is a link to a .pdf of the soliloquy: Printout Also, there is an interesting lesson plan at that seems interesting. I may do that one with the students, but it may be hard since we have only three. We will be doing a rewrite of the soliloquy where the students can write it over in their own words. I cannot find that particular lesson plan at, where I had originally gotten the idea about 3-4 years ago. If you click on the "Soliloquy" tab above, you will find resources to use.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Assignments for Week 2: Shakespeare's Sonnets

We did a fairly good job on the scavenger hunt. Click on the answers page to see how you did. The assignment is to write a brief biography on Shakespeare of at least one paragraph using what you learned. You will also need to read Sonnets 18 and 116 for the next lesson to become familiar with the language and meaning. has an article that gives the history of the sonnet, which can be found here.

To explore the rhythm of iambic pentameter, the Folger has a lesson plan that can be quite fun for students of any age here.

Rhyming scheme: Shakespeare's sonnets all follow the same rhyming scheme: There are three quatrains (sets of four lines), followed by a couplet. The scheme goes abab cdcd efef gg. Sonnets by other poets follow different schemes. Compare Shakespeare to Longfellow's Autumn. How does it differ?

Sonnet 18: Read Sonnet 18 - - first Shakespeare's and then the translation. What do you think Shakespeare is saying?

Sonnet 116: Do the same with Sonnet 116. What do you think Shakespeare is saying about love here?

We will be discussing the sonnets at our next class. Until then, have fun!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Before you get your hopes up and think that I am a Shakespeare afficianado, I need to point out that I am just a home school mom who would like to teach my children to have an appreciation for Shakespeare, one of the greatest and most studied playwrights. One of the great things about the age in which we live is the vast resources of the internet. Most of what I pull together for my kids, especially in regards to literature, come from resources on the internet. Alas, most will be the work of others, who are far more knowledgeable than I. I will list these resources as I use and find them.

That said, one of my favorite resource sites for Shakespeare, is the Folger Shakespeare Library, which also houses the The Folger Theatre. The Folger is located in Washington DC and has one of the largest collections of Shakespeare stuff on this side of the Atlantic, or perhaps the world as its website claims. This site, The Folger Library, is a wealth of information, lesson plans and fun things for kids to do. Please take time to browse it.