Reading Shakespeare: The Play within the Play | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G8:M2B:U2:L5

Reading Shakespeare: The Play within the Play

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Long Term Learning Targets

  • I can determine the meaning of words and phrases in literary text (figurative, connotative, and technical meanings). (RL.8.4)
  • I can analyze the connections between modern fiction and myths, traditional stories, or religious works (themes, patterns of events, character types). (RL.8.9)

Supporting Targets

  • I can analyze Shakespeare's use of tragedy within a comedy.
  • I can explain why Shakespeare wrote the play "Pyramus and Thisbe" into A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Ongoing Assessment

  • "Pyramus and Thisbe" structured notes (from homework)
  • Venn Diagram: Comparing and Contrasting Two Plays
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream structured notes, 5.1.114-379

Agenda

AgendaTeaching Notes

1.  Opening

     A.  Engaging the Reader: Homework Focus Question (5 minutes)

     B.  Reviewing Learning Targets (2 minutes)

2.  Work Time

     A.  Drama Circle: Act 5, Scene 1 (25 minutes)

     B.  Author's Craft: Comparing and Contrasting the Play within the Play (10 minutes)

3.  Closing and Assessment

     A.  Making Connections between A Midsummer Night's Dream and "Pyramus and Thisbe" (3 minutes)

4.  Homework

      A.  Reread 5.1.114-179 and complete the structured notes.

  • Students read the play within the play, "Pyramus and Thisbe," performed by Bottom and his group of players for Theseus, Hippolyta, and the lovers. They compare and contrast the two plays to determine why the play "Pyramus and Thisbe" was written into A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  • Students also identify references to mythological stories within the play to make further connections between A Midsummer Night's Dream and other texts. Students reread the same scene independently for homework, reinforcing the idea that complex texts often require multiple readings.
  • Today, students read part of Act 5, Scene 1 in a full-class Drama Circle so they can continue building confidence with the text with teacher support.
  • Post: Learning targets.

Vocabulary

tragedy; sunder (5.1.140), scorn (5.1.147), woo (5.1.147), chink (5.1.167), partition (5.1.176), discharged (5.1.217)

Materials

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream (book; one per student)
  • Act 5, Scene 1 Teacher's Guide (for teacher reference)
  • Venn Diagram: Comparing and Contrasting Two Plays (one per student and one for display)
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream structured notes, 5.1.114-379 (one per student)
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream supported structured notes, 5.1.114-379 (optional, for students needing additional support)
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream Structured Notes Teacher's Guide, 5.1.114-379 (for teacher reference) 

Opening

OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Engaging the Reader: Homework Focus Question (5 minutes)

  • Invite students to sit with their Rochester discussion partners.
  • Have students discuss their answers to the homework focus question: 

*   "How is the Greek myth 'Pyramus and Thisbe' related to the story of the young lovers in A Midsummer Night's Dream?"

  • After a minute, cold call a pair to share their responses to the focus question. Listen for students to notice that both the story "Pyramus and Thisbe" and the love story in A Midsummer Night's Dream start with two people who are in love but are forbidden to be together by their parents. In both stories, the lovers make a plan to be together despite their parents' wishes.
  • Opening the lesson by asking students to share their homework makes them accountable for completing it. It also gives you the opportunity to monitor which students are not doing their homework.

B. Reviewing Learning Targets (2 minutes)

  • Read the learning targets aloud as students follow along silently:

*   "I can analyze Shakespeare's use of tragedy within a comedy."

*   "I can explain why Shakespeare wrote the play 'Pyramus and Thisbe' into A Midsummer Night's Dream."

  • Draw students' attention to the word tragedy. Ask:

*   "When we are talking about a story or play, what is a tragedy? Can you think of any other stories or plays that are tragedies?"

*   "Are there any other meanings of the word tragedy?"

  • Select students to share their responses with the whole group. Listen for them to explain that a story or play tragedy is one in which there are tragic events occurring to a main character and an unhappy ending. Another meaning of the word tragedy is an event causing a lot of suffering.
  • Tell students that today they will read Act 5, Scene 1, which is a play performed by Bottom and his players within A Midsummer Night's Dream. After the wedding celebrations are over, Theseus wants some entertainment and chooses the tragedy "Pyramus and Thisbe," a classical mythological story that we have seen rehearsed throughout A Midsummer Night's Dream--it is the same story by Thomas Bulfinch that they read in the previous lesson.
  • Learning targets are a research-based strategy that helps all students, especially challenged learners.
  • Reviewing the key academic vocabulary in learning targets can prepare students for vocabulary they may encounter in the lesson.
  • Posting learning targets allows students to reference them throughout the lesson to check their understanding. The learning targets also provide a reminder to students and teachers about the intended learning behind a given lesson or activity.

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Drama Circle: Act 5, Scene 1 (25 minutes)

  • Invite students to set their chairs up in a Drama Circle as they have in previous lessons with their copy of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Explain that in this lesson, they will read the play within the play--the play that Bottom and his players perform for Theseus, Hippolyta, and the lovers after the wedding celebrations.
  • Remind students that in a Drama Circle, a different person reads each role. Assign parts for this scene: Prologue, Theseus, Demetrius, Wall (Snout), Pyramus (Bottom), Thisbe (Flute), Hippolyta, Lion (Snug), Lysander, and Moonshine (Starveling).
  • Have students read this scene aloud from 5.1.114-379, starting at the top of page 151 (5.1.114) and ending on page 167 (5.1.379). (Refer to the Act 5, Scene 1 Teacher's Guide for detailed notes on guiding students through this scene.) Before students begin to read, make it clear (since it's not clear in the scene itself) that the main characters in the play within the play "Pyramus and Thisbe" are lovers who are forbidden from seeing each other by their parents. Students will be reading how the mechanicals perform a play version of the Greek myth they read in the previous lesson.
  • You may want to split the roles up by page (Pyramus 1, Pyramus 2, etc.) so more students can participate in the Drama Circle. This also allows you to differentiate, as some pages have fewer lines than others.
  • Consider creating a nametag for each character to wear during the Drama Circle to help students.
  • Consider playing one of the main roles (Prologue, Pyramus, or Thisbe) yourself. This will allow students to hear longer chunks of the text read aloud fluently.
  • Consider appointing several students to act as "interpreters." When the Drama Circle read-aloud hits a particularly challenging bit of language, the interpreters are charged with referring to the left-hand page for explanatory notes, then reading or paraphrasing those notes for the class. 

B. Author's Craft: Comparing and Contrasting the Play within the Play (10 minutes)

  • Tell students that now that they have read the play within the play, they will compare and contrast the two plays to begin to think about the purpose of including "Pyramus and Thisbe" within A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  • Display and distribute Venn Diagram: Comparing and Contrasting Two Plays. Invite students to read the questions at the top of the diagram with you and explain that these questions will help guide them as they compare and contrast the two plays. Remind students that things that are similar about the two plays go in the middle and things unique to each of the plays go in the circles on either side.
  • Model an example. Ask students:

*   "What is similar about the two plays?"

  • Select volunteers to share their responses. Listen for students to explain that both contain lovers who want to be together but are forbidden from being so. Record this in the middle box.

*   "What is unique about the play 'Pyramus and Thisbe'?"

  • Select volunteers to share their responses. Listen for students to explain that it is a tragedy, but Shakespeare used it as part of a comedy. He made fun of the story by having the actors portray the story as a farce. On the Venn diagram, record this in the "Pyramus and Thisbe" circle.

*   "What is unique about A Midsummer Night's Dream?"

  • Select volunteers to share their responses. Listen for students to explain that it is a comedy. On the Venn diagram, record this in the A Midsummer Night's Dream circle.
  • Invite students to work in discussion pairs to complete their diagram. Emphasize that they should discuss ideas before recording anything on their diagram.
  • Circulate to support students in completing their Venn diagrams. Use the questions at the top of the diagram to guide students.
  • Modeling how to fill out an organizer provides a guide for students and outlines the expectations you have of their work.
  • Consider working with students who may require assistance in recording their ideas.
  • Invite those students who may need support recording ideas to say their ideas aloud before writing anything.

Closing & Assessments

ClosingMeeting Students' Needs

A. Making Connections between A Midsummer Night's Dream and "Pyramus and Thisbe" (3 minutes)

  • Ask students to discuss:

*   "Why does Shakespeare turn the tragedy into a silly story by having these players perform it in such a silly way? Why does he have the play within the play here at all?"

  • Select volunteers to share their responses. Listen for students to explain that it provides an opportunity for Shakespeare to show us the difference between good and bad theater; we know from the comments of the audience (Hippolyta, Lysander, Demetrius, etc.) that the play performed by Bottom and his crew of players is not a very good one, whereas A Midsummer Night's Dream is. The play "Pyramus and Thisbe" also echoes some of the ideas from A Midsummer Night's Dream: Pyramus and Thisbe are lovers who, facing opposition from their parents, plan to run away to get married, just as Hermia and Lysander do. So even as the lovers and Theseus make fun of the ridiculous performance, the audience, which is watching the lovers watch the play, is aware that the lovers had been just as strange at the beginning of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
  • Distribute the A Midsummer Night's Dream structured notes, 5.1.114-379.
  • Consider inviting ELLs to discuss their ideas with other students speaking the same first language to allow for deeper thinking and discussion.

Homework

HomeworkMeeting Students' Needs
  • Reread 5.1.114-379 and complete the structured notes. 
  • Consider providing the supported version of the structured notes to students who need help summarizing Shakespeare's dense text and defining key vocabulary words.

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