Hannah Kang, Garden City High School, Garden City, New York.
Julius Caesar 4.3.299-355
What's On for Today and Why
Students will read the famous scene where the Ghost of Caesar appears to Brutus in his tent. The purpose of the lesson is to have the students visualize the scene on stage and think about different aspects of staging and performing it through the creation of prompt books. Prompt books are essentially scripts with performance notes used by actors to rehearse their parts.
The prompt books will include directorial commentary and notes about the following: emotion prompts for actors, words or lines to emphasize, exits and entrances of actors, description of the Ghost and Brutus, movement, lighting, props, and music. After students finish their duties as directors, they will report to the class about the directorial choices they made. The teacher can decide whether to advise students to adhere to original staging practices or use more modern methods.
This lesson can be adapted for any scene in Shakespeare's plays that are visually rich. This lesson reminds students how staging affects performance. The teacher should avoid showing students a filmed version of the scenes that the students will be working with before conducting this lesson.
Completing the prompt books and presentations should take approximately three 40 minute 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 4.3 from the point where the Ghost of Caesar appears to Brutus to the end of the scene.
2. Divide the class into groups of 3 or 4.
3. Explain to students that they will be directors of this famous scene and that their job is to plan how to stage it and assist the actors in their performance of it.
4. Distribute copies of 4.3 that students will be able to mark up. These will become their prompt books.
5. Write down a list of the different types of directorial commentary students should use on the board for students to refer to during the exercise. These should include: emotion prompts for actors, words or lines to emphasize, exits and entrances, description of the characters, gestures, and other movements; lighing, props, and music.
6. Allow students at least a full period or two to complete their notes. Circulate among the groups, monitoring their progress and answering questions as necessary.
7. After the students have completed their prompt books, have students perform their scenes. Ask the students to comment about the directorial choices they made after their presentations, but limit the initial discussion to no more than five minutes to allow all groups to present within the class period.
How Did It Go?
What were the different ways that the student directors staged the scene? Ask students to write a short journal entry reflecting on their experience as a director. Which staging did they find the most effective and why?
Another follow-up activity would be to show students a filmed version of the scene they directed and to discuss the choices the film director made.
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.