Today is the second day all year that I have lectured. It's not my favorite format, but learning about Shakespeare and his life in London gives context to Romeo and Juliet (RL.9-10.10) and should bring more meaning. The presentation takes just under an hour, so at the beginning of class, I ask students to pull themselves together quickly. They need their notebooks open to the notes section.
First things first: Who likes Shakespeare and is psyched to read Romeo and Juliet?
Most students have decided that they hate Shakespeare before I even hand the books out. Some read A Midsummer Night's Dream in middle school and they don't usually have good memories of the experience. Others claim that it's pointless to read a play such as Romeo and Juliet when you already know the ending. We will briefly discuss these preconceived notions before we talk about the play and the man behind the play (SL.9-10.1).
This presentation on William Shakespeare is my first chance to challenge their naive ideas. I take this responsibility very seriously. I will change their minds-- maybe not today, but it starts today. I want them to see Shakespeare as a person, a self-made man who liked the ladies. (I don't usually mention the possibility of someone else writing the plays until the end of our reading because the unanswerable question is too distracting.)
The presentation also explains important elements of life in London at the time, including the connections between religion and politics. This correlation is important to discuss because it is so foreign for American students, who are often proud of our separation of church and state. I also spend time discussing the social life and intellectual beliefs of the time.
A few notes on the presentation:
I have to ask again: Who likes Shakespeare and is psyched to read Romeo and Juliet?
Maybe, just maybe, a few more hands will go up and we can have a short discussion about what we learned (SL.9-10.1).
No matter what, we will have a short quiz tomorrow on today's presentation. The homework is to review their notes.