Kevin Dunagan, Robert E. Lee High School, Tyler, Texas.
The Merchant of Venice
What's On for Today and Why
Students will work in groups to write and stage an unwritten scene from the play—a scene following Shylock after his disappearance from the courtroom in 4.1.
This lesson will take at least two class periods, one to prepare and one to present.
What You Need
Folger edition of The Merchant of Venice
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
Scene Planning Worksheet
What To Do
1. Begin by asking students to speculate about what they believe Shylock might have done after the courtroom scene, where he might have gone, and what ultimately became of him. Ask students to do this alone and write their speculations in their journals.
2. Divide your class into groups and explain their assignment: to script, rehearse, and perform a scene showing what might have happened to Shylock after he left the courtroom in 4.1. Provide them with the attached handout detailing the steps they will need to follow. They will need to select from their group someone to be the lead scriptwriter, director, set designer, prop handler, costume designer, and techie; the rest of the students will serve as actors. Some students may need to take on more than one role.
3. Allow students the rest of the period to share their journal entries; reach consensus on the setting, action, and characters for their scene; select roles; and fill out the worksheet. If possible, set up rehearsal times for students to practice their scene in your school's theater and stage the scenes there on your performance day.
4. End class by setting a performance day and time. This should be after students have completed reading the play.
5. Have the groups perform their scenes for each other. Get the class to give feedback after each scene. What did they find to be effective? How did it help make the courtroom scene more significant? How did it highlight the attitude of the other characters toward Shylock?
6. Conclude the class by having students compare and contrast their scenes. How do they help the students better understand Shylock, the other characters in the play, the ideology behind those characters' actions, and the gravity of what they do to Shylock?
How Did It Go?
Did students demonstrate an understanding of what happens to Shylock in the courtroom scene? Were they able to create a believable dramatization that demonstrated an understanding of the text and its historical context? Did they perform their scene believably and effectively?
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.