Before You Read the Play

Sound & Sense

To the teacher: excerpt 30 lines from the play that are rich in Shakespeare’s language or are descriptive of char­acter. Distribute a line or lines to each student on a slip of paper, not revealing the character that spoke it. Look at your line/s and, as you all walk around the room say it aloud again and again— without addressing or looking at anyone. Continue to walk around the room and deliver your line directly to your classmates, as they do the same. Regroup in a circle, each reading your line aloud in turn. Sit down in the circle and discuss the lines. What questions do you have about the words? Imagine what this play is about based on some of the words you’ve heard its characters speak. What do you imagine about the character who spoke your line? Did you hear lines that seemed to be spoken by the same character? All ideas are encouraged, and none can be wrong! This is your time to listen to the language and begin to use your imagination to think about the world of the play you’ve just entered. CONSIDER COMMON CORE ANCHOR STANDARDS R3, SL1

Shared Lines

Shakespeare’s text contained many clues to help his actors, who often had only a few days to rehearse a play. You’ll notice that some lines are indented, starting well to the right of other lines. This happens when two speak­ers share a ten-syllable (sometimes eleven…) verse line. By sharing a line, Shakespeare indicates to his actors that the pace is fast, and the two lines are to be delivered as one. There should be no pause between the end of one character’s line and the beginning of the next. Brutus and Lucius share a few lines in 2.1, and so do many of the Plebians in 3.2. First, identify which lines they share. Pair up and read these scenes to one other, each person choosing a part. Whenever a single verse line is split between characters, practice until you get to the point that there is no pause between where one character’s line ends and the other’s begins. You can also use a ball (like a hot potato!) for this activity to throw back and forth as you toss the lines to each other. CONSIDER COMMON CORE ANCHOR STANDARDS RL1, SL1

Make a Connection

One of the reasons Shakespeare’s plays haven’t disappeared is that his characters experience life as we still do. Before you start reading Julius Caesar, it may be helpful to think about your own experiences to help better understand what the characters experience. Jot down some of your ideas about one of the following situations. Don’t worry about your writing style. CONSIDER COMMON CORE ANCHOR STANDARDS R3, R6, W3, W4

  • Think about a time when you had to choose between a friend’s wish and doing what you thought was right. Were you absolutely certain you were doing the right thing? How did it affect your relationship? Looking back, do you feel you could have done something differently?
  • We’ve all felt envy because someone had something we didn’t—a possession, a quality, an achievement, or a person. Think of a time you envied a friend for something they had that you didn’t. What was it? How did it make you feel? Did you do anything about it? Did it affect your relationship? How?
  • What are your ambitions, or goals, in life? Taking the one most important to you, what are you willing to do to achieve it? Under what circumstances could a person be said to be “too ambitious,” if any?
  • Think of a situation in which you talked yourself into believing that what you wanted to do was really the right thing to do. Was it easy or difficult to rationalize your decision? What were the consequences?
  • Think about fights you’ve had with people you’re close to. Do you believe that an argument can ever strengthen a relationship? Do you think that true friends never deeply disagree? Write about a fight you’ve had that made a friendship either stronger or weaker.
  • Have you ever been told that you’d be great at something (like a school office) that you know, deep down, was not a good fit for you? How did the person’s confidence in you make you feel? Did you end up going against your gut feeling and do it anyway? If so, how did it make you feel—and how did you do?

Assassination Interview

Caesar’s assassination caused quite a stir in Rome. Assassinations affect people deeply. Interview someone who remembers an assassination during his/her lifetime. (Osama Bin Laden, JFK, Malcom X, John Lennon, Mar­tin Luther King Jr., Lee Harvey Oswald, Leo Trotsky, Anwar El-Sadat, Harvey Milk, etc.) What does that person remember? How did it affect him/her? Did it change anything about his/her life? Write your findings up in a one-page report, and present them to the class. CONSIDER COMMON CORE ANCHOR STANDARDS SL2, SL3, W4, W7



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