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"Sir, the people must have their voices": Giving Voice to the Voiceless

Teachers' Rating:
  7 ratings

Merchant of Venice. Act 2 Sc. 5. Engraving, 19th century.

March 2013
Greta June Brasgalla teaches English at Mission Early College High School in El Paso, TX

Plays/Scenes Covered

The Merchant of Venice


This lesson can be adapted to any of Shakespeare's plays.

What's On for Today and Why

Students will:

  • Choose a character that has some direct effect on the action
  • Write  a monologue for an off stage character in the style of Shakespeare

This lesson will take 2 x 40 minute class periods.

What You Need

Folger editions of The Merchant of Venice



Model monologue

Second Person Familiar

Weird Words

Slugs and Clods




Shakespeare Set Free, Volume I (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth edition)


Shakespeare's Book of Lists, Michael LoMonico, Franklin Lakes: New Page Books, 2001, p57-60




Model monologue
Second Person Familiar
Weird Words
Slugs and Clods
What To Do

1. Have students discuss examples of major news stories or films where a minor character affects the action.

e.g Lion King 1 1/2 video (running Time 1:40)


2. Have students choose a scene from The Merchant of Venice and write a monologue for an off stage character

e.g a person who witnessed Jessica eloping

      a person who saw Jessica on her honeymoon

      a person who related the elopement to Tubal

      a person in Portia's household who witnessed the suitors


NOTE-the monolgue must include a line from the play as an "overheard" line and should show how the invented character had an effect on a major plot point. (see Model Monologue handout)


3. Have students write the first 10-12 lines in their own language.


4. Through revisions, have students add in Shakespearean language using SSF tools (see below), metaphors, similes, as well as 2-3 rhetorical devices.

To achieve consistency, the students should use text evidence in their monologues.

SSF (Shakespeare Set Free) tools:


i) Change verb tenses and pronouns (see Shakespeare Set Free, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth edition, p.54
(See Second Person Familiar Handout)


ii) Use "Compliment" and "Slugs and Clods" handouts to increase and vary vocabulary


iii) Use Shakespeare's Book of Lists to add in "Weird Words".


iv) Include other Shakespearean language from here

How Did It Go?

Evaluate the lesson by creating a rubric that includes the following:

Plot point described

Translation into Shakespearean language

Overheard line

Recitiation/presentation (See Rubric Handout)



If you have a class blog, post the monologues and have students read them using http://vocaroo.com or http://voxopop.com



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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