Tag Archives: Shakespeare

English 9: English Speaking Union Shakespeare Competition

English Speaking Union competition

Each year, regional branches of the English Speaking Union holds local contests in preparation for the National Shakespeare Competition held in Washington, DC.

This year, I held a Shakespeare contest at Webster Schroeder, and students had to memorize and perform a 20 line monologue or soliloquy from one of the Bard’s plays, as well as one of his sonnets.  Sadly, because we found out about the local contest late and had to rush to hold a school contest, our competition was not as successful as I had hoped (attendance-wise).  However, we did have a winner, Stephanie Bertman go on to represent Webster Schroeder at the regional competition held in Rochester.

While Stephanie did not win the regional contest, she did gain some wonderful experience in both public speaking and familiarity with the language of the Bard.  She did credit to Ophelia’s mad scene in Hamlet, Act IV, scene v, and she worked very hard on Sonnet #71.  I am hoping that she will continue to work on her familiarity with Shakespeare and try out again next year!

The contest was covered by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, and their article specifically mentions Stephanie’s performance (click on our picture below for the link)!  Way to represent Schroeder, Stephanie!

Stephanie is one of my English 9 Regents students!

Stephanie Bertman and Me


Leave a comment

Filed under Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities, English 9 Regents

Visible Thinking in Romeo and Juliet

In an effort to clearly see how students interact with Shakespeare’s text, our classes do periodic Visible Thinking Exercises so that they can share what they see in the text, wheat they think is going on, and what they wonder about what it happening.  I also give them a specific focus for each exercise to look for in the text and a short writing assignment to allow them an opportunity to explain an idea after we have had some (student led based on their Visible Thinking responses) discussion about it.

These are a couple of the discussions we have had so far:

Act I, scene iii: Characterizing Friar Lawrence

I asked students to carefully read through Friar Lawrence’s opening soliloquy in  Act I, scene iii and look for five things that he says in the speech that say something about his character (that’s the SEE part of the exercise).   They then had to write three things they think about him, and then three things they wonder.  All responses had to be textually based on the soliloquy.  I gave each student a different colored PostIt (one color for See, another for Think, and still another for Wonder) so that each group was sharing about all three topics (the variety of colors in each category See/Think/Wonder show the different class sections that did the exercise).  After sharing and posting their ideas, each had to write a paragraph characterizing Friar Lawrence based on the soliloquy.

R&J Friar Lawrence

Act I, scene iv:  Using Mercutio’s imagery in the Queen Mab monologue to characterize Mercutio

As we did in the exercise above, the students had to closely examine Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech, but this time I asked them to identify ten specific images that Shakespeare put into the speech.  For the “I Think” and “I Wonder” part of the exercise, they had to write three things they thought or wondered about Mercutio’s character based on the imagery in his monologue.  Again, we used multiple colored PostIts, and each classes responses are identifiable by mixing the colors up.  Their paragraphs then were about how Mercutio was characterized in the monologue.

R&J Queen Mab

Act III, scene i:  Identifying the catalyst that led to the climax:

For this exercise, I used a video clip from the 1978 BBC production of Romeo and Juliet.  I specifically chose this clip because many of my students are Harry Potter affectionados, and Alan Rickman plays Tybalt in this production.  If you do not know who Alan Rickman is, get thee to a Blockbuster and rent any of the Harry Potter films!  (Love me that Professor Snape!)

I had students write down ten things they saw in the clip, and then share what they saw with a partner.  They then had to write three things they thought about the action, and then three things they wondered about the scene.  Same deal with the multi-colored PostIts and the sharing.  The writing assignment this time was to identify the catalyst that led to the climax of the play (be discussed both of the terms first), being sure to explain how a certain person/event functioned as the catalyst as well as explaining why a certain event is the turning point of the play.

R&J Catalyst

Leave a comment

Filed under Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, Visible Thinking

English 9 Enriched: Visible Thinking- the Beatles as Pyramus and Thisbe


  • A comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations (Google definitions)

Prepare for a See(Notice)/Think/Wonder Exercise:

Watch the following video clip from The Beatlemirko:

The farce is taken from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but the Beatles have also added their own dimension to it.

As you are watching:

1- list TEN (10) things you NOTICE that are a farce of the “Pyramus and Thisbe” myth that we read from Ovid’s Metamorphosis

2- THREE things you THINK about the video as it relates to the tale of “Pyramus and Thisbe”

3- THREE things you WONDER about the video as it relates to the tale.

Write a three-chunk paragraph explaining how the video clip falls under the definition of a farce.

In your groups:

Choose a scene from Romeo and Juliet (a different one for each group, please!), and create your own farce to perform for the class.


Leave a comment

Filed under Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 3: Instruction, English 9 Enriched

English 9 Enriched: “Pyramus and Thisbe” and Romeo and Juliet

After reading Act V of Romeo and Juliet:


From Ovid’s Metamorphosis (around 1 AD), read the retelling of the ancient Babylonian myth of “Pyramus and Thisbe,” and prepare a See/Think/Wonder exercise:

1-      Highlight ten (10) things you SEE in the text of the myth that remind you of Romeo and Juliet (direct quotations)

2-      Three (3) things you THINK about the comparison between the two AND three (3) things you THINK about the contrast

3-      Three (3) things you WONDER about why Shakespeare, like Ovid, may have chosen to retell the storyline of an ancient Babylonian myth in his Romeo and Juliet

Using your See/Think/Wonder exercise, write a four-chunk paragraph explaining:

–          What themes or messages about human nature prevail in the stories of Pyramus and Thisbe, and Romeo and Juliet;

–          How those themes are evident in today’s world;

–          What lessons can be learned about human nature as you examine the timeline of this plot:


Ancient Babylon (around 2300 BC)

“Pyramus and Thisbe” myth

Ovid’s Rome (43 BC – AD 17/18)


Shakespeare’s London (1597)

Romeo and Juliet

today (2013)


Student Examples:

by Muyri A.


–          “They wished to join in marriage, but that joy their fathers had forbidden them to hope.”

–          “No relatives had guessed their secret love, for all their converse was by nods and signs.”

–          “All is arranged according to their hopes: and now the daylight, seeming slowly moved…”

–          “When Pyramus and Thisbe, who were known the one most handsome of all youthful men, the other    loveliest of all eastern girls…”

–          “They grew fond, and loved each other…”

–          “Our lovers found the secret opening, and used its passage to convey the sounds of gentle, murmured words…”

–          “When the night began to darken they exchanged farewells.”

–          “And he imbrued the steel, girt at his side, deep in his bowels; and plucked it from the wound a-faint with death.”

–          “No more she said; and having fixed the point below her breast, she fell on the keen sword, still warm with his red blood.”

–          “And from the funeral pile their parents sealed their gathered ashes in a single urn.”



–          Romeo and Juliet were two young people who fell in love just like Pyramus and Thisbe.

–          Romeo and Juliet’s families forbade their love; likewise, Pyramus and Thisbe’s fathers also came in the way of their love.

–          Romeo kills himself after thinking that Juliet died and then Juliet sees Romeo dead and kills herself; the same thing happens to Pyramus and Thisbe.


–          In Romeo and Juliet, both parents re-united the lovers by promising to make gold statues of Rome and Juliet and lay them next to each other; in “Pyramus and Thisbe”, the parents seal the lovers’ ashes in a single urn.

–          Romeo kills himself by drinking poison, whereas Pyramus kills himself by falling on his sword.

–          In Romeo and Juliet, the nurse and Friar Lawrence knew about Romeo and Juliet’s love; in “Pyramus and Thisbe”, no one knew about the secret love between Pyramus and Thisbe.


–          Why Shakespeare included other characters (like the Nurse and Friar Lawrence) to know of Romeo and Juliet’s secret love instead of having no one know like in “Pyramus and Thisbe”.

–          Why Shakespeare included another character (Rosaline) whom Romeo loved before seeing Juliet.

–          Why Shakespeare didn’t make Romeo and Juliet see each other more to make it seem more realistic, like Ovid had made Pyramus and Thisbe communicate through a little opening in the wall separating them.

Romeo and Juliet and “Pyramus and Thisbe” are both love stories that are realistic and can be evident in today’s world too. The main theme in both stories is the forbidden love between two young individuals. In Romeo and Juliet, there was a family feud between the Montagues and Capulets which forbade Romeo and Juliet from seeing each other. In “Pyramus and Thisbe”, the lovers’ fathers didn’t allow them to be together and a partition was built to prevent any encounters between the two. Another message/theme about human nature was that in both stories, the lovers were so in love that they would do anything in order to be together. In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo and Juliet got married secretly without the consent of their parents by Friar Lawrence. In “Pyramus and Thisbe”, Pyramus and Thisbe conveyed messages and communicated through conversations in the little opening from the partition. Moreover, in both stories, the lovers commit suicide because they can’t live without their love. These themes are evident in today’s world. Young teenagers today fall in love and claim that they want to be together forever. There are parents who don’t allow their children to date certain people for various reasons as well. However, like Romeo and Juliet/Pyramus and Thisbe, many teenagers today date secretly without their parents knowing.  Furthermore, some lovers elope and get married without their families knowing, just as Romeo and Juliet did. A lesson that can be learned about human nature is that love can overtake reason and common sense. Romeo and Juliet loved each other so much that they would do anything for each other. Throughout the story they would reference to killing themselves because they couldn’t be with one another. Eventually they committed suicide for each other. Pyramus and Thisbe also committed suicide for each other and their love. Another lesson is that young love should not justify suicide. In both stories the love between the two lovers was just infatuation. The lovers had only known each other for a few days, and true love takes time to build. Romeo and Juliet and “Pyramus and Thisbe” are love tragedies that teach valuable lessons about human nature.


by Nazariy T.

I see…

1.) “They wished to join in marriage… their fathers had forbidden them hope”

2.) “No relatives had guessed their secret love”

3.) “Our lovers found the secret opening, and used its passage to convey the sounds.”

4.) “What harm could happen thee shouldst thou permit us to enjoy our love?”

5.) “Deceived her parents, opened the closed door. She flitted in the silent night away.”

6.) “Alas, one night has caused the ruin of two lovers!”

7.) “Deep in his bowels; and plucked it from the wound a-faint with death.”

8.) “Thisbe returned… she though her lover must await her at the tree”

9.) “No more she said; nad having fixed the point below her breast, she fell on the keen sword, still warm with his red blood.”

10.) “… her prayers were answered, for it moved the Gods and moved their parents.”

I think…

1.) Shakespeare used this ancient Babylonian myth as a basis for the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.

2.) The plot of this ancient Babylonian myth is extremely similar to Romeo and Juliet.

3.) The main point of this ancient Babylonian myth and Romeo and Juliet is to teach a lesson about young love.

I wonder…

1.) Why Shakespeare used this myth to base Romeo and Juliet off of.

2.) What persuaded Shakespeare to want to teach this lesson about young love.

3.) If Shakespeare relates to any of these stories personally.

There are many messages, or themes that are prevailed from Romeo and Juliet and “Pyramus and Thisbe” such as secrets can be fatal, revenge hurts both the avenger and the victim, the elder forget the power of young love, but the main point trying to be focused on is how young love can blind a couple. Human nature is the general mix of feelings and behavior traits that humankind experiences. Human nature is what causes the lovers from Romeo and Juliet and “Pyramus and Thisbe” to eventually take their own lives because of the feelings that emerge from a series of casualties. Juliet’s love is so deep for Romeo that she is willing to put her family through great grief just so that she can be with him. This shows that Juliet has been blinded by the young love that many young couples experience. They have this mindset for one another that leaves everyone else in their life out and they don’t realize the harm they can inflict on the ones that love them. In “Pyramus and Thisbe” the two couples tell their fathers, “What harm could happen thee shouldst thou permit us to enjoy our love?” This question asked could have prevented every harmful thing that followed and would have saved lives. Sometimes parents are just unaware of their surroundings and themselves judge blindly with the many years of wisdom that they have. The themes mentioned above are present in every young couples live’s today. More often than not a breakup between couples ends up taking a great toll on the mental state. A breakup often ends up with blackmail or just rivalry between one another and sometimes can get serious with threats. Also, parents forget about how young love has a low boiling point. If two couples are neglected and forbidden to see on another, they will find their ways just like how in Ovid’s metamorphoses he states, “Our loves found the secret opening, and used its passage to convey the sounds.” Lessons that may be learned from human nature from this plot is to be logical. When Thisbe dropped her veil this doesn’t immediately suggest that she had been killed; if Pyramus had waited a prevention of two deaths could have occured. Suicidal decisions are not logical as they bring nothing but grief. Also, before getting in a mess of things be more decisive and don’t be blinded by young love.


by Jamie L.

I See…

  1. “they grew fond and loved each other… and as the days went by their love increased.”
  2.  “but that joy their fathers had forbidden them to hope”
  3. “the passion that with equal strength inflamed their minds no parent could forbid”
  4. “No relatives had guessed their secret love”
  5. “when the night began to darken they exchanged farewells”
  6. “one night has caused the ruin of two lovers!”
  7. “she kissed his death-cold features”
  8. “having fixed the point below her breast”
  9. “she fell on the keen sword”
  10. their parents sealed their ashes in a single urn”

I think the two are similar in that:

  1. The two are great lovers who’s families forbid them to see one another
  2. The male protagonist killed himself first when he thought that his lover was dead
  3. The main characters in both stories committed suicide when they thought they had lost their lover.

I think the two are different in that:

  1. Pyramus and Thisbe used a small crack in the wall to communicate with one another while it’s the Nurse that help the love between Romeo and Juliet
  2. Romeo killed himself with poison while Pyramus killed himself with his sword
  3. Romeo and Juliet did marry while Pyramus and Thisbe did not

I Wonder:

  1. I wonder if these stories are to show how powerful love can be?
  2. I wonder if this is to show that nothing good can come out of sneaking behind the parent’s back?
  3. I wonder if Shakespeare liked this story because the main characters die in the end?

Themes are human nature can be seen in the both the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare and “Pyramus and Thisbe” by Ovid. In both stories, main characters “grow fond and love each other” (Ovid), leading them to do unexpected and sometimes quite dangerous things. This shows how it is human nature to love something and to do anything to continue to feel that love. This can be seen today where people are always trying to find something or someone to love either finding it on the web or going on blind dates. The two protagonists, although love one another very dearly, are not allowed to be with one another because “their fathers have forbidden them to hope” (Ovid). If there is a grudge between a certain two families, it is natural for the two families’ grudge to affect their children. Today, it is seen that parents may not approve of their child’s relationship to, and may try to prevent the relationship from expanding.This, however, can result in that the forbidden love will actually cause the love to sprout. The protagonists of both stories had kept their love a secret so that “no relatives had guessed their secret love” (Ovid). With this forbidden love, it is usual for people to continue to see one another, but to do so in a secretive manner, as to not arouse suspicion. This is similar to today, when a relationship would keep going even when the parents don’t approve, while all don’t suspect a single thing of the secret. Lastly, lost love can cause a person to feel overwhelming grief and will feel like “the ruin of two lovers” (Ovid). Grief is a common feeling to people when they lose a person that they really care about. Although most people today won’t go out of their way to actually kill themselves, the crushing feeling of loss will always be there. Times have greatly changed since Shakespeare and Ovid’s time, but th empathy and feelings expressed in the situations in these stories are still very common today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 3: Instruction, English 9 Enriched

English 9 Regents: Critical Lens Essay- Irrational Hate (Romeo and Juliet)

Irrational Hate

In both William Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet and Jerome Robbins’ musical West Side Story, two feuding groups display irrational hatred toward one another.  While all hatred may be considered “irrational”, there seems to be no known cause for the animosity other than one group simply does not like the other.

Your Task:  Provide a valid interpretation of the critical lens below, and demonstrate how both Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet and Jerome Robbins’ musical West Side Story support the main idea of the critical lens. How does the universal theme of irrational hate play an important role in the plot of both the tragedy and the musical?  How does Robbins carry this theme further in his presentation? How does irrational hate still play a role in real-life events today?

Critical Lens:            

“Always remember others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.”      — Richard M. Nixon

Leave a comment

Filed under Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 3: Instruction, English 9 Regents