Maurine Slaughter, Interlochen Arts Academy, Interlochen, Michigan.
Julius Caesar 2.1.94-252
What's On for Today and Why
With multiple characters to follow, students can easily lose track of the many details in this passage. Today, students will use close reading skills to edit this piece of text in various ways, requiring them to identify the most significant features of the conspiracy.
This lesson will take two class periods.
What You Need
Folger edition of Julius Caesar
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
What To Do
1. Have students read 2.1.1-93 outloud, each reader reading to a full stop. Read a second time, looking for any references to sleeping, waking, light and dark. You may wish to direct them also to the end of Act 1, where we learn it is after midnight.
2. As a group, discuss the role of these images in the passage. Why does the letter say Brutus sleeps, when in fact he is still awake? Why does Brutus connect conspiracy with darkness? Why does Cassius want to awaken Brutus
3. Divide students into groups and direct them to 2.1.94-252. Tell them that, because of time constraints for a hypothetical production, they must cut at least 60 of these lines and still retain a coherent scene. Begin by discussing as a group different evaluative criteria for a good cut. Then, give the groups time to work on this scene.
4. Ask a representative from each group to report to the whole class on the kinds of cuts each group made. If time permits, you might want to see some of these different shortened scenes performed, to compare them with each other. What different kinds of approaches did groups take to this assignment? How did the shortened scenes differ from each other?
5. Ask students to undertake this activity a second time, only this time, give each group specific instructions for its cutting of the text. One group should attempt to make Brutus look more sympathetic, while another group should make him look less sympathetic. Cuts could come from Brutus' own words but also from the thoughts and observations of other characters.
A third group should emphasize the imagery of sleep, light, and darkness, while a fourth should try to de-emphasize that imagery. Advise students to look out for figurative techniques such as assonance and alliteration as well as the words themselves.
6. Again, have groups discuss the cuts they have made, reading or acting out the shortened scenes as appropriate. Conclude with a discussion. How different did these scenes look? What conclusions can students draw from this exercise?
How Did It Go?
Return to the student-generated evaluative criteria for cuts, and ask each group to evaluate itself using those criteria as a rubric. Have they uncovered the motivation or motivations of the conspiracy? Have they developed a better understanding of the character of Brutus?
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.