by Gene Campbell
Before You Watch
The idea behind this video is a simple one: get your students to immediately get the play on its feet. Here you’ll learn how to help your students take a scene from any of Shakespeare’s plays (though in this case it’s a portion of Act 5, Scene 1 from Twelfth Night) and turn it into a montage of one-second movies using iMovie. Through this process, students will be asked to break down the dramatic structure of the scene, to do a close reading of the scene, and then to distill that scene to its barest essence.
After You Watch
While I did not teach Twelfth Night this year, I used a simplified version of this lesson for our first day’s discussion of Henry IV, Part I. Due to a time crunch that I’m sure everyone reading this blog has felt at one point or another, I didn’t think that I could afford the extra day or two that filming and editing a one-second movie montage could have entailed, so I opted for tableaux vivants instead. The principle was the same — get the students to do a close reading of the text and then translate the poetry, rhetoric, and imagery into one representative moment — though the time required was reduced to a single day and the finished product was a still image rather than a very brief film clip. I split my students into two groups and asked them to come up with an image for each line of King Henry’s opening speech. One student read the part, the rest of the group acted, and I photographed each tableau and then projected the photos as the reading was repeated at the end of the class so that everyone could see the finished product. Henry’s manipulation of his audience came alive as an image of unity was followed by one of discord in a neatly repeating cycle that highlighted his political savvy and duplicitous message as well as set up the questions that I would be asking them to consider when Hal begins to behave in eerily similar ways later in the play.
There were audible gasps from the students when I projected their work for them at the end of the day, and that energy and engagement helped carry us through our discussions in the following weeks. There was something about seeing the imagery made concrete that connected with them and allowed them to understand that speech — one that I have taught to at least two sections every year for the past fifteen years — in a way that was never possible before. I believe both the tableaux vivants and the one-second movies provide access to this level of understanding while lessening the anxiety many of the students feel when I ask them to act out a scene in class, and this shared process of creating meaning is everything I want my classes to be.
If you have any questions or ideas about this lesson in either of its forms, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out on Twitter (@21stCenturyLit).
Gene Campbell is the Dean of Students and an English teacher in the Upper School of St. Albans School, an all-boys Episcopal school in Washington, DC. He received his BA in English from Georgetown University and his MA in English from The Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. He currently teaches British Literature to 10th graders as well as 11th and 12th grade electives ranging from Comparative Literature to 21st Century Literature to Narrative Film.