Cheryl Petersohn, Harriton High School, Ardmore, PA.
What's On for Today and Why
Act one, scene three is a good time for students to think critically about Othello because it places most of the major characters on the stage together for the first time. The threads of exposition initiated in 1.1 and 1.2 come together in 1.3, and the major conflicts of the play are established by the end of the scene.
In this lesson students will be assigned to small groups to read the scene aloud together, to explore the text and establish understanding, to determine each character's attitude toward Othello and to find lines to justify their conclusions.
Each group will then place its members around the classroom to illustrate visually each character's relationship to Othello. Students will introduce themselves as characters in the play and recite lines which illustrate their attitudes toward Othello. Students should be able to justify orally or in writing their choices of lines and position. In doing this activity, students should become more familiar with the characters in the play and understand more clearly how each character feels about Othello.
This lesson will take two block periods.
What You Need
Folger edition of Othello
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
What To Do
1. Divide the class into groups of seven students. Each small group will then read and discuss 1.3.56-448 aloud, with each student taking on one of the following roles:
Several readings of the scene may be necessary to make the students more familiar with the scene.
2. After small groups have had time to explore the scene aloud, begin a class discussion by asking questions dealing with plot and character motivation. The large group discussion will enable individual students to understand their characters and to interpret their lines, focusing on motivation, attitude towards Othello and Desdemona, and any other factors (such as politics) revealed through discussion.
3. When students feel comfortable with their parts, each small group will work out a staging of the scene. Each group will then present its scene to the class.
1. Individually, students will examine their characters' speeches to discern attitudes towards Othello and his marriage to Desdemona. Students who portray Othello should examine his feelings about himself and his relationship with his wife. Each student must find one to three lines to illustrate his or her character's attitudes. Lines do not have to come from one speech but should sound as though they fit together.
2. Next, each small group will work out its choreography of the characters' relationships to Othello. Placing the student portraying Othello as a focal point in the center of the group, every other member of the group will decide where to stand to visually illustrate his or her character's relationship to Othello.
3. Then each group will demonstrate its visual representation to the whole class. The group's Othello will place himself in the center of the classroom, as the other students place themselves around the room. The students will introduce themselves as their characters, and recite the lines they have chosen to illustrate their characters' feelings toward Othello.
4. When each group has performed, discuss what the whole class has discovered through this activity.
5. Ask students to justify in writing their line choices and their positioning in relationship to Othello. This could take the form of a journal entry from the character's perspective or a more formal, expository character analysis.
How Did It Go?
Did the student groups position themselves in the classroom space appropriately and recite well-chosen lines from the scene? Was each student able to justify line choices and positions to prove understanding of the scene?
If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.