Making Inferences about Brutus and Portia

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SWBAT generate character inferences on Brutus and Portia by reading and discussing their speeches in small groups

Big Idea

This more typical work with Shakespeare sets the stage for rhetorical reading in Act 3, scene 2.

Inducting Character Inference

10 minutes

Activating character inference.  I will project the following two images of famous scenes from Julius Caesar productions in the past, and both depict Brutus and Portia in the key scene in which Portia asks to know what has been bothering Brutus.  In one sense, this scene reveals a sweet and caring wife, but in another sense it reveals her strength of character--a combination that is very appealing (RL.9-10.3).  For his part, Brutus is suffering pangs of conscience while he deliberates on whether or not to join the conspiracy.  This is important to note because it shows his loyalties (RL.9-10.2) as complex.

brutus and portia in riverside shakespeare

Brutus and Portia classic

I am using the images to begin to elicit character inferences for this key scene, and I will expect that the students will continue to expand on their character inferences throughout the next section of this lesson.  I have selected these scenes because they give good insights into Brutus' character AND because we get exposure to Portia, a strong female character (RL.9-10.3) in a quite male-focused play.  I am hoping to be sensitive to my female students in doing so. 


I will ask:

1.) What do you think the facial expressions reveal about the characters' emotions?  If they are intense, what do you think they are intense about?  [I will give a little bit of background on the scene as I mention in the paragraph above as they begin to identify some insights here.]

2.) What about body language?  Who is touching whom?  What do these postures reveal about their relationship and loyalties?

3.) Portia can be described as both nurturing and strong--how does the classic version attempt to capture these somewhat contradictory feelings? (RL.9-10.3)

Groups Analyze Brutus' and and Portia's Speeches

20 minutes

Much like yesterday's lesson, the students will follow this base group agenda, adding onto their notes  page in google drive:

1.) Say 'hi' in an interesting way.

2.) Copy the text for today into your notes.

3.) Take turns reading and commenting on the text.

4.) Be ready to not just explain but present to the class.

5.) Say "thank you" to your group members.

Along the way, I will be looking for understanding of their ability to make inferences about the basics of what they are reading (RL.9-10.1), character insights (RL.9-10.3) and connections to the theme of loyalty (RL.9-10.2). 


Portia, what mean you? wherefore rise you now?
It is not for your health thus to commit
Your weak condition to the raw cold morning.
Nor for yours neither. You've ungently, Brutus,
Stole from my bed: and yesternight, at supper,
You suddenly arose, and walk'd about,
Musing and sighing, with your arms across,
And when I ask'd you what the matter was,
You stared upon me with ungentle looks;
I urged you further; then you scratch'd your head,
And too impatiently stamp'd with your foot;
Yet I insisted, yet you answer'd not,
But, with an angry wafture of your hand,
Gave sign for me to leave you: so I did;
Fearing to strengthen that impatience
Which seem'd too much enkindled, and withal
Hoping it was but an effect of humour,
Which sometime hath his hour with every man.
It will not let you eat, nor talk, nor sleep,
And could it work so much upon your shape
As it hath much prevail'd on your condition,
I should not know you, Brutus. Dear my lord,
Make me acquainted with your cause of grief.

Groups Share Out!

20 minutes

During this part of class, I will have students presenting their work from the groups (SL.9-10.1).  Our class has an LCD projector with a computer hook-up, so I will ask one group member to log into google docs (or I can just do this, since all of the groups have shared out their Caesar notes with me) and then read their "comments" to the class.  By now, students have been doing this sort of thing all year, so I will be looking for complete explanations, evidence-based inferences, and accuracy.  I will prompt the class to make follow-up questions, something that we have also crafted year-long, so I expect the class to do this fluently and with little help or prompting from me.