"The Good and the Badde": Using Primary Texts to Unmask Female Stereotypes

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SWBAT analyze part of the play based on stereotypes identified in a primary document from the 17th Century.

Big Idea

Primary documents offer insights into gender roles in Shakespeare's texts.

Teacher to Teacher: Lesson Overview and Context

How should ELA teachers approach informational texts?

This question informs the lessons in this unit, which emphasize approaches to teaching informational texts in the context of literature study. Rather than replacing or superceding the study of literature, I see informational texts as ways to amplify literature so that students see it as relevant to their lives.

Thus, rather than a shift away from both the literary canon and contemporary imaginative texts, the CCSS offers teachers a unique opportunity to embrace innovative approaches to teaching both informational texts and the imaginative literature that led us to teach English.

This lesson is part of my unit on Taming of the Shrew and enabled my students to explore gender stereotypes to set the context of Kate's role both in the play and in contemporary society.

A Note to Teachers on Resources and Texts

Resources Needed and a Note to Teachers.

Students will need either the digital edition of The Taming of the Shrew or the print edition of the play. This lesson uses the Folger Shakespeare Library text. 

The lesson works well with students having read through Act 2 of the comedy. However, it is both adaptable and extendable to other parts of the play. Additionally, the lesson can be adapted for students in several ways:

  • As a differentiated lesson in which the teacher gives a student or students a limited section of the texts or only one character to consider.
  • As an individual or group task.
  • As a way to trace changes in characters, particularly Kate and Bianca, from the beginning to the end of the play.

This lesson is based on a lesson available at the Folger Shakespeare Library. 


Reading Early Modern English

10 minutes

Students often think Shakespeare used "Old English." In fact, Shakespeare's language is classified as "Early Modern English." Unlike Middle English which was characterized by many regional dialectic variations, Early Modern English generally used consistent dialects among regions. Except for its archaic pronouns and spellings, Early Modern English is quite similar to Late Modern English, which we now speak. The Oxford English Dictionary offers an excellent historic overview of EME.

Early Modern English, the language Shakespeare uses and which students will see in the primary text used in this lesson, presents some challenges to students. However, with some direction from the teacher, students will quickly get the gist of how to read EME.

Teaching Students to Read Early Modern English

Provide students a key to "symbols" and "letters" used in Early Modern English." Reading Early Modern English.docx Include examples of words in this key. Then review the key and explain the changes. 


Stereotyping in "The Good and the Badde"

35 minutes

Distribute the passage from The Good and the BaddeLondon 1616 to students. This primary text describes five different stereotypes of women: a virgin, a wanton woman, a quiet woman, an unquiet woman, and a good wife. 

  • Tell students that the document is a 17th century primary source that labels and categorizes women based on certain characteristics. The document was published around the time Shakespeare was writing, so the information in it would be familiar to many theater-goers and to Shakespeare himself. 

Teachers will need to decide whether or not to read the document with students or to have them read alone or in pairs or in groups. Determine this based on the class's ability and need for scaffolding. It's advisable, however, to read at least a potion of the passage with students.

  • Assign students to pair up. Ask each pair to read through all of the descriptions. Either have students choose one category to examine or assign each pair one of the five categories. This will ensure that all categories are addressed, which will enrich the discussion. 
  • Pass out  the graphic organizer, The Good and the Badde Meets The Good and the Badde Meets The Taming of the Shrew.docx. Review the instructions.
  • Assist students with the task by modeling one example on the overhead, whiteboard, Smart board, or from the desk via a projected image.  
  • Instruct students to locate lines in the first two acts of the play which support or contradict a description from The Good and the BaddeDescription of the Wrothies Student Annotation
  • Have students write the lines (including Act.scene.line) under the appropriate category on the graphic organizer. Be sure students indicate whether the line supports the stereotype or contradicts it. Student Annotation Description of Stereotyping

Although the graphic organizer only provides room for students to give four examples, it's certainly advisable for students to continue identifying and citing lines and stereotypes beyond the four they are required to give. 

Allow students at least 30 minutes to work on the task as the teacher mills around the room offering assistance to those who need it. A Good Wife Stereotype Description Student Annotation





Discussing Stereotypes in "The Good and the Badde" and "The Taming of the Shrew"

30 minutes

This is a good time to have students put desks in a circle for discussion.

Once students have had the chance to work through the reading, take time to discuss their findings. Since students will likely find different lines, instruct them to take notes during the discussion.

Discussion Options:

  • Ask each pair or group to take turns presenting information, or...
  • Use the five categories to guide discussion, working your way through the various categories, or...
  • Preferably, allow the discussion to proceed organically. To ensure students take turns, give each students two "tickets to talk" and have them submit a ticket into a jar each time they share. This will keep any one student from dominating the discussion and allow the teacher to move among the students as s/he collects tickets. S/he is there for moral support and to help the more reticent students articulate their ideas. Stereotyping Graphic Organizer Student Example


During discussion, be sure to talk about whether or not the stereotypes fit the characters in the play based on textual evidence. The Good and The Badde Meets Shrew Graphic Organizer Student Example

Discuss any stereotypes that don't fit at this juncture in the play.

Additionally, have students share their reactions to the stereotypes.

Ask them whether or not times have changed and how "The Good and the Badde" is relevant now.




Suggested Follow-Up

Although a teacher may choose to use the lesson as a self-contained lesson, there are options for keeping the discussion and consideration of stereotypes ongoing: 

  • Have students complete a journal entry about how stereotypes of women have changed or remained the same in the subsequent 400+ years. 
  • Have students create a 21st Century version of "The Good and the Badde." It might be fun to have them use slang terms in their versions.
  • As the students continuing reading the subsequent acts, continue to add evidence to the graphic organizer.
  • After completing the play, consider having students write a character analysis using evidence from the graphic organizer. This should, of course, focus on changes in the character chosen.