Shakespeare in the ESL Classroom

For general discussion between teachers

Moderator: Susan

Peter Easton
Gold Member
Posts: 131
Joined: 02 Mar 2007, 14:06

Shakespeare in the ESL Classroom

Unread postby Peter Easton » 16 Aug 2007, 07:37

Anyone had any experience of this? How did you go about it?

Do you just pick on one scene at a time or do you cover several scenes over a period of a few weeks and build up to a big end of term performance?

Do you do a watered-down version of Shakespeare just focusing on the plot and characters then have students improvise the whole play (but include the really famous lines) in a one hour class?

Peter Easton
Gold Member
Posts: 131
Joined: 02 Mar 2007, 14:06

Unread postby Peter Easton » 30 Aug 2007, 02:32

OK so I worked it out and out the goodness of my heart I am going to provide one of my lesson plans here for you free of charge:


In this 40 minute class the students are to focus on the real crunch in the scene. It’s what I call the ‘fly in your soup’ moment when the customer in a restaurant suddenly discovers, to his obvious disgust and disbelief, that there’s a fly in his soup! I have chosen the sample scenes which best display the inevitable Greek tragedy-like turning point of something going from good to bad. In concentrating on this pivotal point students understand and adequately express the emotions of the players concerned. The students attribute and express emotions, feelings and motives like anger, love and happiness through tone of voice, gestures and exclamations. We want the students to really take-on their roles and really act out their part.

Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Scene – For full story read the plot below

Lady Macbeth goads Macbeth into performing an unethical or unappealing act (Act 1, scene 5).

Understanding the mood – After telling the story introduce these questions

• Why is Lady Mac trying to persuade her husband (her motive)?
• What is she wanting inside herself?
• What does she think of her husband's reluctance and how does it affect her opinion of him?
• Why is Macbeth reluctant?

Characters – To be photocopied and handed out to every student

Macbeth – A brave soldier and victorious general led to wicked thoughts by the witches’ prophecy and led to subsequent wicked deeds by his wife’s persuasion.

Lady Macbeth – A deeply ambitious woman who lusts for power and position. Stronger and more ruthless than her husband, she urges her husband to murder Duncan and seize the crown.

Duncan – The good king of Scotland whom Macbeth murders to seize the crown.

Application – Volunteers perform this (improvise their own lines)

The typical Shanghai wife pressures her husband into taking another job or crossing some personal boundaries resulting in the hen-pecked husband losing control of his life.

Famous Lines – Asking students to use these is optional

Lady Mac: Yet I do fear thy nature; It is too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way.

Lady Mac: Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty.

Lady Mac: What beast was ‘t, then,
That made you break this enterprise to me?
When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man.

Plot - For the Teacher’s reference

In Inverness, Macbeth’s castle, Lady Macbeth reads to herself a letter she has received from Macbeth. The letter announces Macbeth’s promotion to the thaneship of Cawdor and details his meeting with the witches. Lady Macbeth murmurs that she knows Macbeth is ambitious, but fears he is too full of “th’ milk of human kindness” to take the steps necessary to make himself king. She resolves to convince her husband to do whatever is required to seize the crown. A messenger enters and informs Lady Macbeth that the king rides toward the castle, and that Macbeth is on his way as well. As she awaits her husband’s arrival, she delivers a famous speech in which she begs, “you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, / And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty”. She resolves to put her natural femininity aside so that she can do the bloody deeds necessary to seize the crown. Macbeth enters, and he and his wife discuss the king’s forthcoming visit. Macbeth tells his wife that Duncan plans to depart the next day, but Lady Macbeth declares that the king will never see tomorrow. She tells her husband to have patience and to leave the plan to her.

Duncan, the Scottish lords, and their attendants arrive outside Macbeth’s castle. Duncan praises the castle’s pleasant environment, and he thanks Lady Macbeth, who has emerged to greet him, for her hospitality. She replies that it is her duty to be hospitable since she and her husband owe so much to their king. Duncan then asks to be taken inside to Macbeth, whom he professes to love dearly.

Inside the castle, as oboes play and servants set a table for the evening’s feast, Macbeth paces by himself, pondering his idea of assassinating Duncan. He says that the deed would be easy if he could be certain that it would not set in motion a series of terrible consequences. He declares his willingness to risk eternal damnation but realizes that even on earth, bloody actions “return / To plague th’inventor”. He then considers the reasons why he ought not to kill Duncan: Macbeth is Duncan’s kinsman, subject, and host; moreover, the king is universally admired as a virtuous ruler. Macbeth notes that these circumstances offer him nothing that he can use to motivate himself. He faces the fact that there is no reason to kill the king other than his own ambition, which he realizes is an unreliable guide.

Lady Macbeth enters and tells her husband that the king has dined and that he has been asking for Macbeth. Macbeth declares that he no longer intends to kill Duncan. Lady Macbeth, outraged, calls him a coward and questions his manhood: “When you durst do it,” she says, “then you were a man”. He asks her what will happen if they fail; she promises that as long as they are bold, they will be successful. Then she tells him her plan: while Duncan sleeps, she will give his chamberlains wine to make them drunk, and then she and Macbeth can slip in and murder Duncan. They will smear the blood of Duncan on the sleeping chamberlains to cast the guilt upon them. Astonished at the brilliance and daring of her plan, Macbeth tells his wife that her “undaunted mettle” makes him hope that she will only give birth to male children. He then agrees to proceed with the murder.

Peter Easton
Gold Member
Posts: 131
Joined: 02 Mar 2007, 14:06

Unread postby Peter Easton » 30 Aug 2007, 02:43

By the way, to purchase the full course which includes 12 classes plus a teaching manual outlining the methodology and how to set up effective role plays please PM me or email

english_skills @



Return to “General Teacher Discussion”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 15 guests