Whit Morgan , Episcopal High School, Alexandria, VA.
As You Like It
This lesson may be adapted for use with any play that features multiple scripted songs: try Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, or Act 4 of The Winter's Tale.
What's On for Today and Why
This lesson allows students to choose modern songs and match them with the mood established by the scripted songs in As You Like It or other plays. To substitute well, students will need a full understanding of the original songs' tone and intent.
This lesson will require one day before reading the play and up to one full week after completing it.
What You Need
Folger Edition of As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, or The Winter's Tale
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
A tape, cd, or mp3 player
What To Do
1. As an introduction, discuss with the class the impact of music on our emotional involvement with visual media. You might want to highlight the point by bringing in an example: show a scene from a movie with a particularly effective soundtrack. (The opening scene of Chariots of Fire works well.) Then play the same scene again with the sound turned all the way down. What is the effect of the music on the scene?
2. Announce to students that, as part of their work with As You Like It, the class will be "dusting off" Shakespeare by updating the music he has written into the play. Divide students into five groups and assign each group one of the five songs in the play: 2.5.1-8, 36-43 and 48-55; 2.7.182-201; 4.2.11-19; 5.3.16-39; and 5.4.146-51. Have the group work through their song, writing a paraphrase of its content and looking up any unfamiliar words. Finally, ask that they summarize the song's main point in two or three sentences. Collect these sheets for later use.
3. After reading the entire play, redistribute the sheets to the original groups. Pass out the attached handout on tone and ask the students to assign one or more adjectives from the handout to describe the tone of the song. If the tone shifts during the song, they should pick a word to describe each segment. Remind students to examine the context in which the song appears for clues to the tone.
4. Next, have the students brainstorm titles of popular songs that capture Shakespeare's original emotional intent. They are looking for parallels in tone, not in content. After generating a list, have the group members vote on one song to replace Shakespeare's original. You might want to establish some content restrictions, such as no profanity.
5. After students have chosen, ask them to fill out the bottom of their handout with specific textual reasons for choosing the song they did. Have one member of each group present the decision to the entire class, justifying the choice with specific references to the texts.
6. Ask all groups to bring a playable version of their chosen song the next day. On that day, have the students in each group divide up the speaking parts of the scenes in which their song appears. Have students spend a bit of time blocking the scene, indicating in particular what the actors should be doing during the song. Students in the longer scenes might want to pick a shorter section to rehearse and perform.
7. Have one student from each group remind classmates what has just happened prior to the song. Then have the groups act out their scenes, playing their new song choices in place of the originals. Have them continue reading briefly after the song to establish a fuller context.
8. Ask the class to discuss each choice in terms of appropriateness of tone, effectiveness in establishing the proper mood, and general appeal. Were some song choices more effective than others? Why?
How Did It Go?
Did students accurately identify the tones of the plays' songs? Were they able to cite specific lines of Shakespeare's text to justify their choices? Did they increase their sense of ownership of the play in the process? Was the classroom enlivened by the performances?
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.