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"I am not well": Unspoken Endings and Unscripted scenes

Teachers' Rating:
  4 ratings

Frederick Holding. Merchant of Venice act 4, scene 1, the trial scene. Watercolor, 1853

October 2003
Sue Biondo-Hench, Carlisle Senior High School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Janet Field-Pickering, Folger Shakespeare Library, Head of Education 1996-2000.

Plays/Scenes Covered
Merchant of Venice 4.1
What's On for Today and Why

Many of Shakespeare’s plays offer tantalizing tidbits of information that allude to scenes, moments, and responses that are not included within the specific text of the play. For example, in Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice says of Benedick, “You always end with a jade’s trick; I know you of old,” making it clear that Beatrice and Benedick had been involved earlier without clearly explaining why the relationship had gone awry. In this lesson, the students will hypothesize the content of these unscripted moments and responses, search for evidence in the actual text to support their hypothesis, and explore how this hypothesis would affect characterization.


This activity emphasizes higher level thinking, performance, and problem solving through direct involvement with the text.


This lesson will take at least two class sessions to complete.

What You Need

Folger edition of The Merchant of Venice
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts

What To Do
1. After reading the play, return to the moment in Act 4, scene 1 when Shylock loses everything and is forced into becoming a Christian by his hated enemy Antonio. Shylock's last lines in the play are, "I pray you give me leave to go from hence. / I am not well. Send the deed after me. / And I will sign it." (4.1.412-414)

2. Divide the students into groups and ask them to complete the following tasks:
a. Create a scene that reveals what happened to Shylock.
b. Look for textual evidence that supports your characterization of Shylock and any other characters you choose to put in the scene.
c. Write and rehearse a script that will bring this scene to life.
d. Prepare a report(including textual support) of your group's decision-making process during the creation and rehearsal of the scene.

3. Have each group perform its pair of scenes and present its defense.

4. Discuss the similarities and differences among the scenes and responses.
How Did It Go?
Did the students create and perform a scene that was logistically supported with evidence from the text? Was the defense clear and complete? Was the performance (both scenes and the defense) prepared and interesting?

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.

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  Common Core State Standards

There are no standards associated with this Lesson Plan.
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