Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Teaching "Taming of the Shrew?"

I'm expected to teach "Taming of the Shrew" in a week or so. Anyone taught it before? Had any special successes with a certain lesson? Have any ideas that would be great fun?



At 9:06 AM, Blogger Holbrook said...

It's cool that you get to teach something that isn't a curricular standard. However, I've never taught Shrew, and it's been years since I've read it.

From what I remember, the plot is pretty confusing. Several sets of lovers, three characters in disguise (one in disguise as the other), and characters with similar names. It's hard to keep straight. I'd have them make a "character map," which is kind of like a family tree that shows the relationships. Who is related, who loves who, etc. You can get the information from the dramatis personae at the front of the play without even reading a word of text, and the kids can keep their characters maps as reference when they read.

At 8:08 AM, Blogger Meg said...

I don't know what age group you're teaching to, but with my high school seniors I started by giving everyone a little card with one word on it (all representing items in the Elizabethan Chain of Being) and then had them guess/figure out where they would stand to be "in order." From there we talked about the Elizabethan sense of balance and order, and I used that to help them understand that to the Elizabethans, women were seen as less developed humans than men, the same way that a slug is not as developed as a dog. And then we didn't have to waste all our time being offended because our modern sensibilities war with the values the play was written with--we could actually engage the text. It was also a useful way in to all the animal imagery that permeates the play--we also talked about that in context of where various animals were on the chain. Hilariously, the most outrageous kid randomly drew the "Chaos" card, and we laughed about that for the rest of the semester.

There's also a lot you can do with the idea of the Framing Device--kids will be familiar with that trope from movies and TV, but the Christopher Sly is an unfinished frame--why? Why tell this story as a play-within-a-play? Why not present the events as real?

There's a fantastic movie version of Shrew--it's a filmed stage performance at the ACT that I got online--I don't think it's that hard to come by, but totally worth it. My kids loved it.

Finally, I was teaching it in companion with Much Ado, since in a lot of ways Shrew is kind of a first draft for the later, more sophisticated comedy. If anyone gets really excited about Shrew, point them at Much Ado.

I don't know if any of this will be helpful, but I know you'll do a great job. Good Luck!

At 11:28 PM, Blogger Rieker said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 11:40 PM, Blogger Rieker said...

Well done, Meg.

I remember studying Shrew in college... and being shocked to learn of the actual devices used to "tame shrews" during Elizabethan times. Woman who challenged fathers/brothers/husbands were paraded around while wearing metal cages over their heads that pinned down their tongues (because of course, shrews needed to be taught to control their tongues). This definitely would be worth exploring with high-school age students.

As pointed out before: Shrew and Much Ado are great to study side by side. If anyone is working with elementary/middle school and interested in performing a Shakespeare play, please consider my <a href="> Much Ado About Nothing adapted script. </a>


Happy Teaching!


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