The study guides are coming, the study guides are coming!
Not just yet, but hopefully we’ll be rolling out the first two new study guides, Julius Caesar and Hamlet, sometime in the next week or so. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry V, Much Ado about Nothing, and Richard III will follow between now and mid-October. Last year’s guides were already an upgrade from our previous offerings, but this year, we’ve expanded the material even further. Our Basics section now includes in-depth instructions on getting students intimately familiar with their text and how it works, with lessons on scansion, paraphrasing, rhetoric, working with the audience, and transforming your classroom into an early modern stage. My favorite concept that goes along with these lessons is Line Assignments. We’re encouraging teachers to give each students a segment of text, between 25 and 100 lines, depending on the student’s skill level, to take ownership of during their Shakespeare unit. Teachers have their own Line Assignments — the first 100 lines of the play, to use as examples and for group exploration. Those are the segments I used in my previous posts on scansion and Wordles earlier this summer.
Beyond the Basics, we’re thinking more critically and creatively than ever about how to get students engaging with the text up on its feet. Staging Challenges in Julius Caesar examine mob dynamics and how Shakespeare crafts the feeling of unpredictable violence into the script. We also examine the visually striking moments surrounding Caesar’s assassination and the conspirators dipping their hands in his blood — and what important character choices that blood can reveal. In Hamlet, we look at playing darkness, at the impact of realizing that Hamlet’s most famous speech is not actually a soliloquy, but overheard by several people, and at the challenge of dealing with all those dead bodies left on stage at the end of the play. We also examine Perspectives, to help students link the world of the play, Shakespeare’s world, and our modern world. In Julius Caesar, this means looking at adaptation throughout the ages, whether it’s Shakespeare borrowing from Plutarch or Christopher Nolan rebooting Batman, as well as examining ideals of honor and virtue. In Hamlet, we examine revenge tragedies, then and now, and their vicariously vengeful appeal, as well as the idea of media influencing behavior, whether it’s a conscience-catching play or a violent video game.
Our Study Guides will be available for purchase online soon — and they’ll always be included as a perk of our Teacher Seminars and of bringing your class to a student matinee. In the meantime, you can see a sneak-peek 10-page preview of the Julius Caesar Study Guide on our website.