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Fools Following the Fools

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Sebastian Brant. Narrenschiff. English & Latin. London, 1509 (Detail)

April 2003
Shade Gomez teaches English at Ithaca High School in Ithaca, New York.

Plays/Scenes Covered
The Winter's Tale 4.3
What's On for Today and Why
Using a primary source and dramatic reading, the class will explore the qualities of fools, both as depicted in The Winter's Tale and as described in Foole upon Foole. Students will apply Robert Armin's categories to the fools in Act 4 of The Winter's Tale, which will permit them to further visualize the characters in the play.
What You Need

New Folger edition of The Winter's Tale


Foole Upon Foole Handout
What To Do

1. Have the students summarize lines 1-51 in Act 4, Scene 3 of The Winter's Tale and then brainstorm everything known about the two characters in the scene.


2. Ask the students to read 3.4.52-133 aloud, changing speakers after each character's lines, so that everyone in the class has a chance to read. Tell the students that each person must portray the character differently than the last person reading. The more ridiculously the character is played, the better.


3. Discuss as a class the different types of "fool" voices people chose.


4. Now, ask the students to read through the scene once again, this time with each reader altering the volume at which the lines are spoken. Discuss as a class how volume affects the way the character is perceived.


5. Hand out copies of the primary source below describing a variety of fools. Explain to the students that Foole upon Foole was a book written by Robert Armin, the second of Shakespeare's fool/clown actors.


6. Have the students read the "rime" at the top of the page and discuss the difference between a "naturall foole" and an "artificiall foole." Ask the students to identify which type of fool Autolycus and the Shepherd's Son are. Be sure to have them defend their answers with the text.


7. For homework, have the students write a brief essay describing the types of fools that exist in today's plays and movies. They should refer back to Foole upon Foole and The Winter's Tale to support their arguments.  

How Did It Go?
Do students understand how fools were classified in Shakespeare's day? Are they able to relate the characters of Autolycus and Shepherd's Son to these classifications? After trying different styles themselves, are they aware of how an actor could play the different types of fools? Do they have a better understanding of what is happening in this scene of the play?

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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1 Comment

Great post, thanks for sharing! C. G. Automated Gates - Automated Gates
Hannah January 9, 2015 6:44 AM
  Common Core State Standards

There are no standards associated with this Lesson Plan.
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