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.
Lesson 10 of The Taming of the Shrew.
This lesson is Day 2 of 2 for tasks on Act 3. The lesson began in Lesson 9.
In this lesson, students will do the following:
Remind students that they need to 1.) run through their scenes and 2) choose costumes and props.
Students create organized chaos as they practice and prepare their scenes.
Having the timer set reminds students that the curtain rises after 15 minutes and keeps the pressure on to prepare as quickly as possible.
As students work, remind them that they need to practice their lines as well as play w/ props and costumes. Students tend to get fixated on the "toys" and give these more attention than necessary at the expense of practicing the scene.
After the students practice, have them perform the scenes in the order they appear in the play. Taming of the Shrew Act 3 Tasks
First up is 3.1.1-95: This group performed but struggled with their cutting. First, the class could not follow the action. Consequently, the performance did nothing to enhance understanding. Sadly, only one member of the performing group seemed to know what happened in the scene. Additionally, the group didn't have any props. The complete inability of the group to use the cutting and performing exercise to construct learning cued me reteach the lesson on cutting.
Next, we had two performances of 3.1.96-125: While the groups had some commonalities, they also made some minor changes. Both groups easily articulated what happened during their scenes, but they also had a tendency to cut entire speeches and need to be more selective about that.
Additionally, students performed Petruchio's and Kate's argument following the wedding in 3.2.186-232. This is a scene the students love and that we have worked with previously, so it's one with which they are fairly familiar at this time.
Finally, we reversed roles with students performing 3.2.233-239 but reversing the roles.
“But for my bonny Kate, she must with me.
Nay, look not big, nor stamp, nor stare, nor fret;
I will be master of what is mine own,
She is my goods, my chattels; she is my house,
My household-stuff, my field, my barn,
My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything,
And here she stands.”
In their performances, the girls struggled with the idea that men could kneel before women, but the group of boys who volunteered to kneel were good sports despite the girls' amusement:
Although we had more tasks to complete, time constraints would not permit the additional scene work.