Shop  |  Calendar  |  Join  |  Buy Tickets  |  Hamnet  |  Site Rental  |  Press Room  
About UsWhat's OnUse the CollectionDiscover ShakespeareTeach & LearnFolger InstituteSupport Us
Teaching Resources
• Teaching Modules
Teaching Modules Archive

   Sign up for E-news!
   Printer Friendly

Catching the Beat: Exploring the Function of Verse in Othello

Teachers' Rating:
  11 ratings

Ludovico Marchetti. Othello, act 4, scene 3: "Shall I go fetch..." Watercolor, 19th century or early 20th century

November 2003
Marjorie Margolis teaches English at Conant High School in Jaffrey, New Hampshire.

Plays/Scenes Covered
Othello 4.3
What's On for Today and Why

In this lesson, students will examine the meter Shakespeare uses in the dialogue between Emilia and Desdemona. They will learn how to recognize changes in meter and then use their knowledge of these changes to explore each character's thought process.


This lesson will take one 50-minute class period.

What You Need

Folger edition of Othello
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts

What To Do

1. Review iambic pentameter with your students. Remind them that an iambic pentameter line is composed of 5 iambic feet. Each foot consists of one unstressed and one stressed syllable. Have the students beat out the iambs on their desks while speaking the following phrase: "my BIRTHday IS the TWENT-i-EIGHTH of JUNE." Then, write the phrase on the board, marking each foot with marks for unstressed and stressed syllables, and separating the five iambic feet with diagonal slashes.


2. As a class, read Othello 4.3.63-77. Go around the room, having each student read a line of the scene in iambic pentameter. They will soon discover that this will be very difficult, because many of these lines are not in regular iambic pentameter meter. Each time a student trips up (because the verse does not fit into iambs or because the line is more or less than 5 feet) have the students circle the phrase or line.


3. Place the students into small groups and ask them to look closely at the text just read by the class, paying attention to the circled phrases. Ask them to consider how the changes in meter affect the scene: Why does Shakespeare change the meter at these spots? What can the meter changes teach us about the character's emotions? Tell them to pay particular attention to "split verse," (an iambic pentameter line shared by two or more speakers) and consider what these shared lines tell us about Emilia and Desdemona: How important is the conversation they're having? What is the difference in their experiences? Have each group share its thoughts with the class.


4. Have a student continue reading past line 78. All of the students should notice that the lines are not in verse but prose. Have the student continue to read to line 96.


5. Back in their groups, ask the students to think about why this part of the scene is written in prose: Has the topic of their conversation changed? Have their attitudes altered? They should come up with 1–2 possible reasons to share with the class.


6. Now, once again ask students to read the rest of the scene line-by-line, emphasizing the iambic pentameter. As before, ask the students to circle the places where the meter doesn't fit.


7. Finally, have the students, in groups, repeat step 3, minus the questions on "split verse."


8. In class, or for homework, ask each student to write a one-page essay outlining their conclusions from the exercise. The students should identify the changes in meter and discuss possible reasons for the deviations from iambic pentameter. They should imagine what actors could do on stage with the changes in meter: How could the shifts in meter be used to develop a character?

How Did It Go?
Was the entire class engaged in the process of discovery? Did the students learn to recognize iambic pentameter and deviations from it? Were they able to use the shifts in meter to make observations about the characters and their mental states?

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.

Login or register to post comments.

5 CommentsOldest | Newest

How Are the Wii U version of "watchdog" in the graphical direct comparison with the other versions? A community video explains. emulator xbox 360
FAgaeae November 25, 2014 6:15 AM

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International criticized since the fundamental democratic rights, especially freedom of the press website
fADHASF November 24, 2014 9:01 AM

Device link " Select "Old" and "New Device" On the old device to obtain a code for the benefit of Clash Of Clans On the subject: clash of clans hack
Fewser November 21, 2014 3:15 AM

This post contained much socials information's and you can get much from this.It is worth reading.replique montre www.replicaorologi4it.com
coco November 16, 2014 12:50 PM

Thank you very much for the post festa
Sheila August 5, 2014 6:07 PM
  Common Core State Standards

There are no standards associated with this Lesson Plan.
Additional Information

Note to Mozilla Firefox Users: If the PDF documents are freezing, please try the following fix: Go to Tools. Under Options click the Applications icon. Under Content Type, find Adobe Acrobat Document. Select Use Adobe Reader. If the option already says Use Adobe Reader, try changing the option to Use Adobe Acrobat.

Bookmark and Share   
     Copyright & Policies   |   Sitemap   |   Contact Us   |   About This Site
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Get directions »

Federal Tax ID #04-2103542
PublicReading Room
10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday8:45am to 4:45pm, Monday through Friday
12pm to 5pm, Sunday9am to noon and 1pm to 4:30pm, Saturday
Main: 202 544 4600
Box Office: 202 544 7077
Fax: 202 544 4623