Shakespearean Interpretation in Performance

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SWBAT analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text and its aesthetic impact contribute to its overall structure by blocking out and performing a scene from Othello.

Big Idea

Making the words come alive: Performance in Shakespearean Drama


In this lesson, I want to give students an opportunity to take their understanding of the motivations  of the characters and incorporate them into an interpretation of a scene in Act I.  The interesting part of this lesson is that students not only have an opportunity to literally step into the shoes of a character, but they also interpret the scene as they see it.  They essentially will use their bodies and voices to make decisions into the make up of a character--much like the decisions an author must make in constructing a character.  Students will focus on the minute details that when pooled together comprise the whole character.  This exercise is Common Core aligned in allowing students to mirror the actions of an author in making choices to determine how a scene will unfold and contributing to its asethetic value.

Scene Interpretation and Performance

70 minutes

In this part of the lesson, I will break the class into several groups of three.  The exact number will vary depending on the size of the class.  In the event that I have a group with less than two, I usually call upon a precocious member of the class to fill in with another group.  Each group will interpret the same scene from Act I.  (See attached scene.)  The same scene is used so that students can see how interpretations will differ and make note of the unique elements of each interpretation of the scene. 

Students will block out the scene, add an appropriate voice to the characters based on their status, and incorporate appropriate body language.  Essentially, students will interpret the scene as they believe it should play in front of an audience.  (See assignment outline.)


For homework, I want students to write a reflection about the variations in performances.  They should answer the following questions:  What did they notice?  Were the motivations of the characters believable?  How was the blocking? (where the characters stand)  Were body language and movement appropriate?  With regard to their individual scene, students should comment on the information from the play which influenced their group's interpretation.

BBC Interpretation of Othello, Act I, scene i

5 minutes

Following the students presentations, I will show the BBC version of the same scene.  Students will have an opportunity to see a professional version and think about how it matches up to their interpretation.