Aim: Personal and collective experience of extract.
Activity: Introduce the extract very briefly so the students know enough of its basic context to be able to launch into experiencing it (for example, regarding Extract 5, ‘This is Queen Gertrude announcing and describing the death of Ophelia’). Get the group reading the passage aloud a number of times, varying the way it is read by them and by you (encourage variation in voice, gesture, intensity, volume and pace; play with the sounds of words, images stretching over a few lines, and sets of evocative words). Make sure the students can verbalize the basic meaning of the extract. Probe them about how they would feel if they were the character speaking thus or another character listening. Find out what bits of the extract they particularly like, dislike or relate to and why (let them feel free to express reasons that might be idiosyncratic, trivial, obvious or serious). Get them to sort out difficult words, clauses, sentences, metaphors and similes via group discussion (including teacher guidance). The objective is to establish a basic familiarity and connection with the text so as to remove its scariness and solve tricky bits. It should be a fun, diverse, learning experience around and within the text that will equip students to try a translation in Stage 2.
Using the Table: The ‘Language’ and ‘Stagecraft’ columns of the Table will be useful here. To a lesser degree, some of the questions raised in the ‘Characterisation’ column may help.
- Divide the extract up into smaller sections (that are coherent in terms of sense, sound or image) with different students speaking different sections and consider how this illuminates the text further;
- Stand up and act out the extract to concretise some staging and characterisation possibilities;
- Explore the historical meanings of words or the rhetorical figures used via the notes in an edition or an historical dictionary like the Oxford English Dictionary;
- Get students discussing their sense of the value (or not!) of studying Shakespearean language.