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Enter the Evil Stepmother

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Herbert Schmalz. Imogen from The Graphic gallery of Shakespeare's heroines. Color print, 1896.

May 2005
Sharon Kindle-Smith , Moberly High School, Moberly, Missouri.

Plays/Scenes Covered
Cymbeline 1.1.81-147
What's On for Today and Why

In a play like Cymbeline that deals with intrigue, lies, and manipulation, students need to realize that what the characters say may be very different from what they are thinking. By performing the same piece of text with different subtexts, students can understand the different performance choices inherent in the text.


This lesson will take one to two class periods.

Enter the Evil Stepmother Handout
What To Do


1. Discuss with the students the difference between text and subtext, the underlying and usually unspoken meaning of a character's lines. For example, using the phrase, "I didn't say he left his wife", have the class repeat the phrase emphasizing a different word each time. Examine the differences in meaning that result from the changed emphasis and discover SUBTEXT!


2. Divide students into groups of three and hand out the attached text of 1.1.81–147.



3. Read the selected passage together and discuss the different subtexts that this piece of text could carry. Does Posthumus trust the queen? Does Imogen?


4. Have the groups decide their answers to how much trust they feel each of the characters has in the others. Then have them prepare the scene for a performance that attempts to convey some of the subtext related to issues of the characters' trust.


5. Have the students perform for each other and discuss the results. How easy or difficult is it to convey subtext through the lines that Shakespeare has written? How does the effect of the scene change, based on the different possible subtexts?

How Did It Go?
Were students able to understand the idea of "subtext" and offer possible subtexts for the scene? Were they able to change the effect of the scene based on their performance choices?

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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