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Arguing the point in Meaure for Measure

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Measure for Measure

July 2011
Danette Long teaches at Montana State University, Bozeman, MT

Plays/Scenes Covered
Measure for Measure, 2.4 
What's On for Today and Why

Students will investigate the nuance of rank and power in argumentation through role play. They will apply these insights from 2.4 as they prepare this scene for performance.


This lesson works well in two separate forty minute class periods.

What You Need

Measure for Measure (Folger edition)


Pieces of paper, numbered


Paper, markers

Handout #1

What To Do

1.Explain the objective of the lesson to the students.


2. Have a discussion with students about why, when we speak to others, we generally speak in a manner that allows us to obtain what we want. Depending on the social rank and power associated with each negotiator, (i.e. child to child, child to parent, parent to parent, student to teacher, employee to boss, etc.), individuals adapt their behavior in order to achieve a desired outcome.


3. Create 2 sets of numerals (2-10) on small pieces of paper and place them in a can/basket. Have students draw out a number without sharing it with anyone. Explain that the numbers represent social rank.

2-5 peasant, uneducated, low wage earner

5-7 Middle class merchant, professional

8-10 titled nobles, royalty


4. Have students stand in a circle around a chair and say their name in the manner of the rank they have selected.

This delivery should reflect their power or lack of power-a king would hold his head high, puff out his chest,  a peasant would avoid eye contact, merchant may remove hat, etc. .... Continue until every student has tried out his/her role and returned numbers to basket..


5. Shake up the numbers and redistribute. This time, have 2 students verbally negotiate for a seat in the chair according to their new rank. Encourage students to work with their character's personality and not capitulate too quickly-a poor old woman may win against a young lord by appealing for pity.


6. Have students discuss what they noticed in relation to rank and power. Was anyone of lower rank able to win the seat? How? What tactics did they employ? Did any 2 people of the same rank compete for the chair? Who won? How and why?


7. Have students discuss what techniques we use when we argue-put downs, pleading, begging, sweet talk, logic, name calling, accusation, humor, guilt, manipulation etc.). Record these on paper and display in class.


8. Have students suggest reasons for arguments-money, getting one's own way, TV choices, use of car, etc.


9. Have 2 students volunteer to role play an argument using one of the topics and several of the techniques recorded on papers in the room. If  a student is losing the argument , encourage him or her to try a new technique.


10. Repeat several times using other volunteers.


Second session


1. Review what happened in the first session.


2. Distribute Handout #1 and have students read the scene silently a few times until they understand what is being said. What is the relationship between the characters? How is their status revelealed through language? Who wants what from this exchange? Have students identify places in the text where specific techniques of argument are being used. Are these techniques  subtle or obvious?


3. Have students pair up and read through the scene as characters.


4. As a class, discuss the nature of this argument and  then ask 2 students to play the scene in modern language. Paraphrasing will reinforce the powerful nature of Shakespeare's argument while


 allowing students to relate it to their own speech.


5. Have 2 students perform the lines in the original language. Discuss how doing the activities has/has not altered the impact and their understanding of the scene.

How Did It Go?

Were students able to brainstorm a variety of arguments situations and techniques?

Were students able to convey various levels of social rank and power through their voice and body lanaguage?

Did this activity increase their understanding of the play and Shakespeare's skill as a dramatist?



Look for argumentative techniques used in Richard III (1.2) and/or A Midsummer Night's Dream (3.2) and explore how these are used to achieve different goals.


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.

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4 CommentsOldest | Newest

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Pat January 20, 2015 4:34 PM

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Dr Clint January 17, 2015 8:35 AM

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marcos January 8, 2015 12:55 PM

Have students identify salon sukien slubnych places in the text where specific La Mariee techniques of argument are being used
marek December 23, 2014 10:52 AM
  Common Core State Standards

There are no standards associated with this Lesson Plan.

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