At last! I get to share the Study Guide for my very favorite play, Much Ado about Nothing. As I noted in a previous post, I’ve enjoyed this one tremendously, and I’m already super-excited about getting to work through these activities with attendees at our Winter Teacher Seminar.
Here is a ten-page preview for your enjoyment. This Study Guide includes the following activities:
- The Basics: Getting your students on their feet, working with iambic pentameter, paraphrasing, exploring rhetoric, and turning your classroom into an early modern stage.
- Line Assignments: A way to give your students ownership over a small section of text, which they will use in further language-based activities and staging explorations.
- Too Wise to Woo Peaceably: Benedick and Beatrice are one of Shakespeare’s finest couples, witty and brilliant and endearing. Better than all of that, however, they’re both fantastically smart — and in this activity, your students will explore the rhetoric of their scenes and discover how Shakespeare uses their language to show the audience that they deserve each other and belong together.
- Perspectives: Slanderous Tongues. Much Ado about Nothing‘s plot revolves around an issue that your students experience every day in high school life: rumors. Your students will examine the language of slander in Much Ado and will relate Hero’s unfortunate situation to their own lives. What words hurt the most? On what basis can a girl’s reputation become ruined? How is reputation different from a male perspective?
- Dogberry: Before malapropism was malapropism, it was something else entirely. From everlasting redemptions to odorous comparisons, your students will discover the comic gold that is Dogberry’s creatively mistaken vocabulary.
- The Gulling of Benedick and Beatrice: Your students will explore the staging requirements of two of the play’s best comic scenes, when Benedick and Beatrice each hear their friends conspiring against them. Where can you hide the eavesdroppers so that the audience can see their reactions — critical to the success of the scene — without breaking the imaginative fiction that allows Benedick and Beatrice to believe that their gullers are unaware of their presence? These scenes take advantage of early modern staging conditions in creative ways, and working through them will get your students thinking actively about thrust staging, universal lighting, and audience contact.
- Staging Challenges: Kill Claudio. Shakespeare’s plays rarely fit neatly into the categories of comedy and tragedy that we’ve created for them, and a key example of this in Much Ado about Nothing is the moment when Beatrice challenges Benedick to prove his worth to her by killing the man who dishonored her cousin. Through active staging, your students will explore different potential interpretations of this scene and will determine which version they feel tells the best story.
- Textual Variants: The earliest printed versions of Much Ado about Nothing have several textual oddities — oddities which reveal that this play may be more closely related to Shakespeare’s original manuscript than any other in the canon. Activities on speech prefixes and stage directions will walk your students through an examination of the transmission of text in early modern London.
- Production Choices: A guide to producing a 1-hour version of the play in your classroom.
If you would like to purchase a downloadable PDF of this or any other ASC Study Guide, just visit our website. I’m already well into work on the Study Guide for Richard III — the last for this artistic year! After which, my plan is to bring the 2010 set up-to-date with the modifications we introduced for the 2011s, and then I will start work on 2012.