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By Melissa Manny
Since reading Shakespeare for the first time often causes students to doubt themselves or quit from frustration, the purpose of this unit is to support students throughout the reading process so that they learn to appreciate drama as a means for better understanding themselves, rather than letting it defeat them from the beginning. Through an examination of character motivations, in addition to the language and dramatic conventions Shakespeare uses to bring their stories to life on stage, students will experience theatre as a mirror that reflects their own struggles and desires back to them. The relationship between the audience’s reaction to a play and the reader’s interpretation of a literary work will be developed to emphasize the interactive nature of theatre –which has more to do with the reading process than students may think. By the end of the unit, students will demonstrate mastery of genre, plot, literary elements and devices, dramatic conventions, and factors that influence the development of language over time. As they re-write a selection from Shakespeare’s original text into contemporary English to reflect their understanding of a character’s decisions, motivations and speech, students will put the knowledge and skills constructed throughout the unit to the test. The final performance will utilize strategies for oral and visual communication in order to fully engage the playwrights, actors and audience members in the creative process of interpreting and making meaning. When the curtain falls, students will have experienced drama in its most essential form –actors and audience engaged with a story that is universal.
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