1. GENERAL HEADING: Visual Materials
2. TITLE OF EXERCISE: "Picturing the Moment"
3. GOALS: To develop understanding of how theatrical staging interprets text. To demonstrate how different ages and cultures interpret the plays.
4. NUMBER OF STUDENTS: Any number
5. EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES: Pictorial representations of scenes: slides from productions, reproductions of paintings, etchings, or drawings.
6. CLASS TIME NEEDED: Depends on how much discussion or presentation time you want to allow.
7. STEP-BY-STEP DESCRIPTION: In the eighteenth century, scenes from Shakespeare's plays became a popular subject for artists, taking over in popularity for scenes from the Bible and classical mythology. Some research and leg-work will be necessary preparation. Select a group of paintings and/or photographs capturing moments in a play (or group of plays) and make them available to students. Remove captions or explanatory notes. First ask students to try to identify the scene. This will engage them in a close examination of the clues. If help is needed to identify context, provide it. Then ask students to answer several questions. What line or lines would best caption the work? Who are the characters represented? How do you know who they are? How are the characters pictured? What is the historical context in which they are pictured? How does clothing or costume contribute to impressions of character, time, and place? What is the background? Are any props in evidence? How do they relate to the dramatic moment? What is the mood of the picture? How do the physical positions of characters in relation to each other contribute to the message? Any other relevant bits of iconography? Are there any characters present in the picture who should not be there? Any missing?
Depending on the selection of pieces you assemble, more questions may be pertinent. If you can find contrasting representations of various moments from the same play done at different times and different places, pictures can go a long way to demonstrate lots of lessons about the dynamics of interpretation and how variously Shakespeare has been/is staged.
8. POINTS FOR OBSERVATION, DISCUSSION: See above
9. SOURCE/REFERENCE: Paul Nelsen's classroom experiments; others have certainly introduced similar assignments.
10. ADDITIONAL READING: Dennis Kennedy's Looking at Shakespeare and Foreign Shakespeare provide an array of pictorial resources. If you can find reprints from Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery, they include some wonderful eighteenth-century images of scenes.
11. VARIATIONS: Have students compose their own arrangements of a scene
moment on stage by using other students as statues. Once an arrangement
has been set, try inviting others to introduce variations or alternatives.