Robert Hiles is English chair at Beth Tfiloh Community School in Baltimore, Maryland.
What's On for Today and Why
This lesson asks students to explore their own curses and epithets, and uses the emotions generated to launch an introductory discussion of the language in Othello.
This activity can be completed in one class period.
What You Need
Folger edition of Othello
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
What To Do
1. Have students take out pen and paper. Give them 30 seconds to write down names and epithets they have called others. Assure them they will not share this work with their classmates.
2. Have a brief discussion of the activity. Possible prompts include: why are those names hurtful? What names have you been called? What was the person's motive for using those words? How do you feel after using them?
3. You may want to make a public show of disposing of this work anonymously. I pass around a manila envelope which I then seal and dispose of at home.
4. Now turn to 1.1 of Othello. On the board or in small groups, have students determine the different things that Othello gets called. Then move on to Cassio and Desdemona.
5. In discussion, see if students can determine any motive for Roderigo and Iago. See if they can draw any conclusions on how Shakespeare wants his audience to react to each character.
How Did It Go?
Were students engaged? Did they make connections between their own epithets and those used in Othello? Did the activity help them understand the characters and the issues of intolerance that the play raises?
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.