I’m pleased to announce that the OCS now has Study Guides available for Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet. Thanks to the excellent feedback that we get from teachers who use these materials, OCS Education is able to tailor our resources to the activities that are best-suited for active classroom exploration. Here’s a sneak peek at what is included in these brand-new Study Guides:
- Staging Directions: Twinning: In putting twins into several of his plays, Shakespeare breaks all the rules of verisimilitude and classical drama — but how important is it that stage twins actually look alike? In this activity, your students will uncover how much Viola and Sebastian reflect the theatre of the imagination that Shakespeare so loves to play with.
- Perspectives: Gender and Behavior: Twelfth Night is famously full of gender-bending and confused sexuality — issues which are not just politically “hot”, but which may be crucial to some of your students as they explore their own identities. The activities in this section will help you navigate these considerations in your classroom by looking at ideas of gender presentation on stage.
- Rhetoric: Corrupter of Words: Feste the Clown is a famous fool — but what is it that puts him into that category? Your students will explore Feste’s wit and wordplay, discovering how he twists words to show off his quick and clever mind.
- Textual Variants: Embedded Stage Directions: Modern editors frequently move or insert stage directions, based on what they think readers need to know about the scene. But how necessary are these editions? Shakespeare gives clues for action within the dialogue of his plays. Changing an entrance, exit, or action may make a world of difference to the story that a scene tells.
- Staging Challenges: Gulling Malvolio: The “box-tree scene,” where Maria, Toby, Andrew, and Fabian team up to deceive Malvolio, is frequently one of the funniest scenes in a production of Twelfth Night — but, it has a lot of moving pieces. Your students will actively explore the potential for comedy in this scene, while wrestling with the requirements imposed by the text and Shakespeare’s staging conditions.
- Perspectives: Music: Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s most musical plays. In his own time, the tunes played during or before the performance would have resonated with his audiences — they would have been popular and familiar. In this activity, your students will explore ways to recover that touchstone in the modern day.
Romeo and Juliet
- Metrical Exploration: The Conversational Sonnet: Throughout Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare plays with the familiar form of the sonnet, working it into his prologues as well as into the lovers’ conversation. This activity provides an introduction to the poetic form as well as an exploration of its function in Romeo and Juliet’s first meeting.
- Staging Challenges: Stage Combat: From the first scene to the last, Romeo and Juliet is full of opportunities for violence. How do fight choreographers determine how to stage these fights based on information in the text? Your students will examine Mercutio and Tybalt’s combat to find out.
- Rhetoric: Emotional Highs and Lows: Romeo’s wild mood swings and hyperbolic emotions may be familiar to your teenaged students — but how does Shakespeare construct that hormonal rollercoaster? Explore his rhetorical structure to find out.
- Staging Challenges: Parts and Cues: Theatrical companies in early modern England used “cue scripts” when producing their plays, rolls on which an actor would receive his own lines and only a few cuing words, not the full script of the play. Your students will explore what performance clues may be hidden in those cues.
- Textual Variants: Quarto and Folio: Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s plays that exists in multiple early modern forms, including an early and much-altered quarto. In this activity, your students will explore the differences between the First Quarto and the play as they probably know it, looking at key differences in speech length, speech prefixes, stage directions, and more.
- Perspectives: Comedy and Tragedy: Though one of the world’s most famous tragedies, Romeo and Juliet is a play with a surprising amount of comedy in it. Where does that thin line between the genres live, and how does Shakespeare challenge and subvert audience expectations? Your students will find out in this thought-provoking activity.
Additionally, both guides include:
- The Basics: Getting your students on their feet, working with iambic pentameter, paraphrasing, exploring rhetoric, and turning your classroom into an early modern stage.
- Line Assignments: A way to give your students ownership over a small section of text, which they will use in further language-based activities and staging explorations.
- Advice for how to use film in the classroom judiciously and effectively.
- A guide to producing a 1-hour version of the play in your classroom.
- Guidelines matching these activities to Virginia SOLs and U.S. Core Curriculum Standards.
- Full bibliographies for further reading.
Both of these Study Guides are available for purchase at Lulu, along with guides for ten other plays. You can also view 15-page previews of the guides on that site. Coming soon: The Merchant of Venice and The Two Gentlemen of Verona.