How should we study and teach Shakespeare's plays? From the earliest days of my career, this question has echoed in my mind. Yet despite my drama certification, I allowed myself to be influenced by prevailing pedagogy and for years eschewed what I knew in my heart, soul, and mind: Plays are meant to be performed. This is how actors study a play, by blocking and close oral reading of lines.
Not until I studied with the Folger Shakespeare library did I return to my roots. Thus, this unit showcases my pedagogical philosophy that performance pedagogy represents best practices for teaching Shakespeare in ELA classrooms.
A note on the text: I use the Folger Shakespeare Library edition of The Taming of the Shrew; consequently, all textual references correspond to that text. It's available online as a digital edition (free) from the Folger Shakespeare Library.
This is Lesson 9 of The Taming of the Shrew unit.
In this lesson students watch "Atomic Shakespeare," which is a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew from the television show "Moonlighting."
The full episode of "Atomic Shakespeare" is available on YouTube.
Teachers may choose to show the complete episode or parts of it at this juncture.
Petruchio woos Kate:
Petruchio's and Kate's wedding, which isn't in Shakespeare's play:
Petruchio takes Kate to his home:
Petruchio "tames" Kate (or does he?):
I showed my class all but the final scene because I did not want to ruin the ending:
I gave students a note card and asked "What did you think of the Moonlighting episode? Tell me what it helped you understand, whether or not you found it funny. How did the show help you make sense of the play?"
Some student responses:
"I understood the humor and the actions of the characters."
"It gave me a visual perspective of the play."
"I could see the sarcasm."
"It entertained me more than most movies teachers show. It was hilarious when [Kate] threw vases."
"It was very funny. I liked it."
"The blonde looked better than Bianca"
One student mentioned liking the hose w/ glasses. All students found the episode funny, and some mentioned costumes.