Courtney Lawton, Public Academy for Performing Arts, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Julius Caesar 1.2.225-308
Optional: Hamlet 3.2.145-56
This lesson may be adapted for use with other scenes in which actions are reported, not seen.
What's On for Today and Why
Often in Shakespeare, significant events are reported by actors who have witnessed them, rather than the audience seeing the events themselves. Today, students will create "silent scenes" of Caesar rejecting and then accepting the crown, in order to better understand the story and its significance.
This lesson will take one to three class periods—assigning script writing for homework will shorten the length of the lesson; adding the optional Hamlet extension will lengthen it.
What You Need
Folger edition of Julius Caesar
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
What To Do
1. You may want to begin by familiarizing yourself with the concept of the "silent scenes", a scene that enacts a story silently. The play-within-the-play in Hamlet (3.2.145-56) is the most famous example of one. If you think your students will need to start with an already-existing silent scene, divide them into groups and have them act out the silent scene from Hamlet.
2. Read 1.2.225-308 from Julius Caesar as a group. You may want to try having readers switch at each punctuation mark; if so, follow up by reading it again, switching readers when the speaker changes. Ask some questions to ensure comprehension: what scene does Casca narrate? How do you think he feels about the scene he is describing? What kind of person do you think he is?
3. After students seem comfortable with the passage, divide the class into groups of five. Ask each group to prepare a silent scene of the scene that Casca narrates. Groups should provide roles for each of the students in the scene; they may want to consider having a written script and a narrator to read it as the others perform their actions.
4. Allow preparation time for the silent scenes; ensure that each student knows his/her role and that all groups have a chance to rehearse their scene.
5. Have each group perform its silent scene for the rest of the group. After the performances, conclude with a discussion. Possible questions include: is Casca a reliable source? Are Antony and Caesar planning something? Is Caesar faking his illness or his reluctance to take the crown? Why is this scene reported, rather than enacted? What did students learn from this exercise?
How Did It Go?
Were students able to understand the events of the coronation? Did their silent scenes successfully relate those events? Did they gain a greater understanding of this scene and its characters?
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.