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Lesson Plans
Around the Globe and Back Again: Shakespeare's Globe Theater Then and Now
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials

Prep for Teachers

Prior to the teaching, bookmark all Web sites used in the lesson. CUE the videotape Shakespeare's Globe to actors in battle gear coming on stage when the narrator has just said, "I wonder what an audience would make of this today?" When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of video segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements. Prepare the hands-on element of the lesson by gathering and assembling the items listed in "Materials." Place items into a Time Capsule (a sealed box will suffice).


Introductory Activities: Setting the Stage

Setting the Stage

The following activities will prepare your students for a lesson on Shakespeare's Globe Theater by forming a connection between popular entertainment today and that of Elizabethan England. They will provide students with a sense of the physical and cultural environment of London at the turn of the 17th century.

Step 1: Establishing a Connection Between Now and Then

Ask your students to calculate how many years into the future the year 2403 is (402 years). Ask them to imagine constructing a time capsule that would be opened in the year 2403. However, the time capsule can only contain items that would give the futuristic people an idea of popular entertainment in the year 2001. Ask them what items they would put in. (When references are made to movies and theater, elicit items specifically related, i.e. ticket stub, candy wrapper, popcorn bucket, playbill, theater program, etc.)

Tell your students that although many things change in 402 years, some things stay the same. Ask them to subtract 402 years from our present year, 2001 (1599). Tell them that they will open a time capsule constructed by citizens of London in the year 1599. Ask them to identify the country and continent where London is located (England/Europe). If a classroom map or globe is available, ask a student to locate it.

Step 2: Establishing a Cultural Context for History

Ask your students to take out their notebooks and a pencil or pen, and divide the students into groups of three or four. Place the time capsule in a central location where all students can view it. Explain to the students that each group will be examining and identifying each item in the time capsule. Ask one volunteer from each group to shut his/her eyes and remove one item (or more, depending on how many items you have placed in) from the time capsule. (Sprinkling a bit of talcum powder on the items might give this exercise a light-hearted authenticity. The students can blow the powder off as if it were dust.) The students bring the item(s) back to their groups.

The groups should examine the item(s) and try to identify it/them. As each item is identified by the group, each group member should record the determination in his/her notebook. Give the groups about thirty seconds to examine and identify each item, and then instruct them to pass their item(s) on to the next group. The examination and identification should proceed until each group has viewed each item. Then, when all items have been viewed, the groups should discuss the information in their notebooks and speculate on how all the items might be related.

A representative from each group should share the group's conclusions with the rest of the class. If the students have trouble identifying the more obscure items (i.e. the bundle of straw), you can lead them a bit by asking them how buildings might have been constructed four hundred years ago. (The class debriefing should yield various conclusions, such as the fact that theater was a form of popular entertainment; people of different classes frequented the theater; theaters were located in and around the city; the seats surrounded the stage; admission prices varied; hazelnuts were a popular snack during performances.)


Step 3: Establishing a Personal Connection to History

Ask your students where they prefer to sit when they go to the movies or to the theater and to explain their preferences. (Responses will vary. Students may respond that they like to sit in the center of a movie theater so they can view the screen optimally. Some may say they like to see a live performance from the orchestra section so they can see the actors up close.)

Ask your students to log on to http://www.rdg.ac.uk/globe/newglobe/Pictures/MarkedPlan.gif. At this site, they can examine the floor plan of the Globe.

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by explaining that they will be examining the floor plan of a theater that existed over four hundred years ago. Ask them to study the plan and decide from where they would like to view the performance. (Try to avoid asking them where they would like to sit, keeping the option open of standing in the yard.)

After they have made their decisions, ask them to provide a rationale for their choices. Accept all responses as equally valid. Encourage the students to comment on one another's responses. Ask your students where they think the best seats in the house would be. Ask them where they think they could view the play for the cheapest admission price.


Learning Activities

Step 1: Introducing the Globe Theater

Ask your students to name the most famous playwright they know who lived four hundred years ago (William Shakespeare). Ask them to name some Shakespearean plays with which they are familiar, and discuss what they remember or liked about the plays they mention. Explain to your students that they will be exploring the theater where Shakespeare's plays were performed. Tell them that it was called the Globe Theater. Ask them why they think it was given this name. (Responses may refer to the shape of the building. More insightful speculations might include that Shakespearean plays dealt with universal themes. All responses should be treated as valid.)

Ask your students to imagine they are audience members at a performance of a Shakespearean play. Ask them to describe what they envision and to describe the atmosphere. (Focus on responses that suggest a subdued, respectful, rather snobbish mood. This idea will stand in contrast to the scenes in the video.)

Tell the students that they will be viewing a video about Shakespeare's Globe Theater, which will teach them about the Globe itself during Shakespeare's time and show them the Globe today. It will also familiarize them with the type of people who frequented the Globe four hundred years ago.

Insert Shakespeare's Globe, and provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to notice how the theater experience presented in the video is different from what they expected. START and PLAY the tape when you see actors in battle gear coming on stage. The narrator has just said, "I wonder what an audience would make of this today?” PAUSE the tape when you hear the stage actor say, "There's witchcraft in your eyes, Kate," and see a befuddled-looking actress (a scene from The Taming of the Shrew).

Ask your students if the audience's experience differed from what they expected. (Possible responses: The audience was lively and engaged in the performance. The audience was having fun. Many people were standing up and some were very close to the stage. The actors interacted with the audience.)

Ask your students why they think Shakespeare wrote plays for a living. (Responses will vary and may include the fact that he liked to write, that he made money doing it, that he gained popularity by doing it.)

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to identify Shakespeare's intention in writing plays. PLAY the tape. PAUSE when you see the narrator and hear him say, "...much in the way that cinema and TV is today."

Ask your students what Shakespeare's intention was (to entertain a wide audience). Ask what in today's society entertains a wide audience. (Responses will vary and most likely include TV and the movies). Emphasize that Shakespearean plays were not written exclusively for the rich; that, in fact, everyone enjoyed them.

Tell your students that the narrator will now take them back in time to another place. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to raise their hands when they hear the year and the name of the city the narrator has entered. Ask them to identify some of the professions the narrator mentions. PLAY the tape. PAUSE the tape when you see two tavern patrons conversing at a table and hear one of them say, "I should think these players have got it by now."

Ask your students to identify the year and city (1599, London). Ask them to identify some professions of the people who were interested in plays (apprentices, tradesmen, prostitutes, vagabonds). This is a good opportunity to introduce them to new vocabulary. Ask if anyone knows the definition of "vagabond." This will reinforce the idea that people from all walks of life enjoyed theatrical performances.

Ask them to recall the conversation between the two tavern patrons and remember a danger associated with playhouses the men mentioned (the plague). Ask the students if they know about the plague. Explain to them that it was a deadly disease that killed one-third of the population in Europe. Many public places (including theaters) were closed during an outbreak of the plague. It was finally determined that the plague was caused by fleas on rats.

Ask your students why poor or working class people were interested in Shakespearean plays. (Responses will vary and may include the fact that it was fun, that it was cheap, that it gave them a way of forgetting about their own troubles.)
Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to listen for how the tavern patrons convinced the waiter to go to the Globe to see a performance. PLAY the tape. PAUSE when you hear the waiter say, "Well he would, wouldn't he," and see him leave the tavern.

Ask your students how the tavern patrons got the waiter to leave work and go with them to the Globe. (Responses should include: intriguing plots about the lives and secrets of royalty, the cheap price of admission – one penny, the fact that it was banned by Puritans.) Explain to your students that the Puritans were an extremely religious sect that left England because of religious persecution and settled in the New World.

Ask them if they heard the waiter mention any disadvantages of the Globe. (He mentioned having to stand for three hours.) Emphasize to your students that if people were willing to stand for that length of time, the play must have been worth the trouble.

Explain to your students that the narrator will now return to modern-day London. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to determine what happened to theaters in London around the turn of the 16th century. PLAY the tape. PAUSE when you see the narrator sitting on a wall and hear him say, "If you wanted entertainment, you had to go out of the city."

Ask your students what happened to the theaters in London around the turn of the 16th century. (Officials closed entertainment and forced the theaters outside the city because they feared riotous behavior. They also thought that if people were at the theater, they weren't working.) Emphasize that the theaters moved out of the city and across the river in order to stay in business.

Ask your students if they can think of other forms of entertainment besides drama that could be performed within a theater. (Responses may include sporting events, musical concerts, wrestling.) Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to raise their hands when they hear three types of entertainment (besides drama) that people crossed the river to see, and to raise their hands when they can name the first two public playhouses. PLAY the tape and PAUSE when you see the narrator looking over a model of the Globe and hear him say, "These attacks did not prevent the new theater opening."

Ask your students if they can name the three types of entertainment people left the city to see (bear-baiting, cockfighting, sword fighting). Explain to your students that bear-baiting was a cruel though popular form of entertainment where a bear was tethered while dogs attacked it. Ask them if they can name the first two theaters (the Theatre and the Curtain).
Explain to your students that although Shakespeare's Globe was not one of the first theaters to open, it was the most successful. Explain to them that Shakespeare was not only a great playwright, but had other abilities as well. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to determine when the Globe opened and who owned it. PLAY the tape. PAUSE when you see a bird's eye view of the Globe model and hear the narrator say, "He called it a wooden O."

Ask your students to infer what other profession Shakespeare had. (He was a businessman since he was co-owner of the Globe. He must have been good in business if the Globe was the most successful theater.) Ask them when the Globe opened (1599).

Ask your students how long successful businesses stay in existence in today's world. (Responses will vary, but ask students to justify their answers.) Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to determine how long the Globe stayed in business and what happened to it in 1642. PLAY the tape. PAUSE when you see an inside view of the Globe, facing the gallery and hear the narrator say, "...ending one of the greatest periods in English history."

Ask your students how long the Globe remained in existence (43 years). Ask them what happened in 1642 (The Puritans closed it down). Explain to your students that Shakespeare died in 1616, 26 years before the theater closed. It remained open long after his death.

Explain to your students that the Globe was eventually torn down and other buildings were built on the site. About 350 years after the Puritans closed the Globe, an American actor and director named Sam Wanamaker decided to locate the original spot and rebuild the theater.

Tell your students that the narrator will take them on a brief tour of the New Globe Theater. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to determine how many people fit in the theater and what the people in the yard were called. PLAY the tape. PAUSE when you see the narrator standing in the yard and hear him say, "Their faces looked as if they'd been par-boiled."

Ask your students how many people the theater held – and holds today (3,000). Ask them what the people in the yard were called (stinkards). Ask them to speculate why they were given this name. (Responses may include the fact that they didn't wash regularly, that the number of people packed in so tightly created a bad smell.) Explain to your students that the "stinkards" were also called "groundlings" since they stood on the ground to watch the performance.

Ask your students if they can think of advantages and disadvantages of being a groundling (weather, crime, darkness). Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to determine some advantages and disadvantages of being a groundling. PLAY the tape. PAUSE when you see the narrator in the yard and hear him say, "...or get dark too early." You will also hear dance music.

Ask your students to name some advantages of being a groundling (good view, mobility, interaction with actors). Ask them to name some disadvantages (rain, darkness).

Ask your students why they think the Globe attracted so many people. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to raise their hands when they hear three reasons why the Globe was popular. PLAY the tape. STOP the tape when you see a performance on stage and see the credits.
Ask your students why so many people went to the Globe (hear different plays, see actors dress up as royalty, see prominent people mocked).

Step 2: Understanding Events Chronologically

Distribute the attached Scavenger Hunt Worksheet. Divide the class into groups of three and ask them to log on to the Globe timeline of the Shakespeare's Globe Research Database Web site http://www.rdg.ac.uk/globe/home.htm. Ask them to click on the Shakespeare's Globe link and then click on the timeline link (the last one on the list).

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to decipher the clues on the sheet using the timeline.

Allow about 15 minutes for this exercise. Then ask one volunteer from each group to move to the group to his/her left with the Scavenger Hunt Worksheet his/her group completed. At this point each group of three should have one new member. The new member should report his/her group's findings to the new group, and the group should present their findings to the new member. When the information has been shared, the volunteer returns to his/her original group and reports any discrepancies or overlooked information. Then debrief the entire class by going over the sheet together, ensuring that all students have accurate answers.

Step 3: Touring the Globe


Ask your students to recall the year in which the Globe was torn down to build tenements (1644). Explain to your students that in 1949, 305 years after the Globe was torn down, an American actor and director named Sam Wanamaker began his dream of rebuilding the Globe. Ask your students if they find anything unusual about these circumstances. (Possible responses may include these ideas: Shakespeare is arguably the best-known playwright in history, yet for centuries, the Globe was ignored. A foreigner, rather than a British national, undertook the project.) Tell them that the New Globe Theater was built approximately 200 yards from where the original Globe stood. In 1997, the New Globe Theater opened with performances of Henry V and The Winter's Tale.

Explain to your students that they will take a virtual tour of the New Globe Theater. Ask them to log on to the Shakespeare Globe USA Web site http://www.shakespeare.uiuc.edu/ and click on the Tour the New Globe Theater, London link in the upper left-hand corner.

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by explaining that they will tour the outside and inside of the theater, making sure they view every picture by using the forward, back, left, and right links. Ask them to imagine they are on a guided tour of the Globe. For each picture they visit, ask them to record one observation and develop one question to ask the guide. This can be done in their class notebook.

After they have taken the tour and completed the related activity, divide them into groups of three and ask them to share their observations and questions with one another. Circulate around (as if you are the tour guide, perhaps) and provide answers to questions that they cannot as a group answer.

Step 4: Becoming an Actor


Ask your students to recall the video and ask if any one can remember what Shakespeare added to the English language. This type of question is useful in assessment because it will give you an idea of the degree to which students absorbed information not explicitly asked of them during the viewing of the video. (Elicit a general recollection that he created hundreds of words and phrases. Prompt them to remember that he also was a master at the art of insult.)

Explain to your students that they will be practicing speaking Elizabethan insults through logging on to Randy's Shakepearean Insult Server http://www.randyworld.com/shakespeare. Provide them with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by asking them to work in pairs and take turns clicking the "new insult" box and reading the insult that appears. Encourage them to read with expression and experiment with various forms of delivery.

Distribute the “What Did You Call Me?” Worksheet. Explain to the students that the snippet of dialogue on the sheet comes from King Lear, one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies. Divide the students into pairs and ask them to read the directions on the Worksheet and complete it.

When they have completed the Worksheet, ask them to log on to the Proper Elizabethan Accents site http://www.renfaire.com/Language/index.html. Provide them with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by explaining to them that they will construct their own short skit using the mix-and-match Shakespeare insult sheet.

Ask your students to remain in pairs and click on the "insults" link near the top of the page. Ask them to read through the brief introduction and scroll down to the three columns of insults. Ask them to follow the directions given at the site, which require them to create insults by combining phrases from the three columns. They should construct five or six insults.

Encourage them to translate the Elizabethan idioms to discover the meanings of their insults. Circulate around the room and assist in the translation. Encourage your students to speculate about words and phrases that are unfamiliar to them and to you. You can also have them log on to the Shakespearean Glossary site http://eserver.org/langs/shakespeare-glossary.txt. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by encouraging them to use the glossary if they need help defining a word or phrase.

After they have constructed their insults, ask each pair of students to create a skit in which the insults are put into context. Ask them to create a situation in which one character angers the other. For example, one character can spill a drink on the other as he/she is walking past. An argument can ensue leading to the Shakespearean name-calling. Suggest that they use the dialogue between Kent and Oswald as a model.

After they have constructed the skits, ask each pair to perform for another pair of students near them.


Cross-Curricilar Extensions

In order to help students synthesize the various pieces of information presented in the learning activities, have them try this cross-section activity in which they role play. Groups of four students will demonstrate their understanding of the dynamism of the Globe Theater through taking on the roles of actors, groundlings, and wealthier spectators. They will each take turns explaining the theater experience from their own unique point of view. The group's performance will end with the actors performing the skit developed in the previous learning activity.

Step 1:

Divide your students into groups of four. Have them determine which two will be actors and which two will be spectators.

The Actors: The actors will perform the skit they developed in the previous learning activity. In addition, they will also individually create a brief monologue in which they reveal what it is like to be an actor. The actors will each perform his/her monologue before performing the skit. Encourage them to focus on the whole experience as they have understood it through the learning activities. (You can make some suggestions, such as dealing with society's view of actors, the potential dangers posed by the groundlings, stage fright, playing women's roles, etc.)

The Spectators: The students should determine who will take on the role of a groundling and who will take on the role of a gallery spectator. Ask the students to create a brief monologue in which they reveal who they are, what their profession is, why they are at the Globe, and what it is like to be a groundling or a gallery spectator.

Step 2:

Ask your students to direct and practice the performance. They should determine the order in which the monologues are performed. Remind them that the performance should end with the name-calling skit developed in the previous activity. Here is an example of a possible format:

  1. Groundling's monologue (provides a segue to the next character)
  2. Gallery Spectator's monologue (provides a segue to the next character)
  3. Actor #1's monologue (provides a segue to the next character)
  4. Actor #2's monologue (provides a segue to the skit, for example: I must bid you a farewell – the performance is at hand!)
  5. Actors perform the name-calling skit

Step 3:

Ask the groups to perform for the class.


Cross-Curricilar Extensions

MATHEMATICS
Visit Shakespeare's Globe Research Database at http://www.rdg.ac.uk/globe/newglobe/Dimensions.htm#orig and construct a sketch or three-dimensional model of the original Globe using the dimensions listed.

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE
Explore and report on the excavation of the original Globe and the use of radar exploration in archaeological digs.

SCIENCE/HEALTH
Public theaters were closed in the 17th century due to outbreaks of the black plague. Research the cause of the deadly disease and include mortality rates. Research current diseases caused by lack of sanitary conditions. Suggest preventive strategies.

SOCIAL STUDIES/HISTORY/DRAMA
Research and report on the history of the Puritans, their persecution in Europe, and their decision to settle in the New World. Create a short skit or monologue from the point of view of a Puritan living in Elizabethan England


Community Connections

  • Contact a theater group or organization, such as Theatreworks USA, and have a representative visit to discuss the challenges of Shakespearean acting.

  • Interview a modern craftsperson, tradesperson, or apprentice and compare their professional experiences with those of the people living in Elizabethan England.

  • Research current censorship cases in which particular groups have attempted to ban performances, literature, or art. Discuss with the class the protections the Constitution grants.