When studying or teaching Julius Caesar, don't tackle too much at once. Breaking down speeches will enhance understanding and improve critical thinking skills.
"Why do we have to do this? This is stupid!" asked Katie Streetsweep.
"Shut up!" was my reply. What I should have said was, "Katie, I'm so glad you've questioned the validity of my lesson plan on Julius Caesar. The purpose, my young scholar, for teaching Julius Caesar is to help you develop critical thinking skills. Shakespeare excels at the English language, but understanding Shakespeare is not easy. It, therefore, forces you to stretch your mind. So shut up and do the character and speech analysis."
Review the types of speeches common in Shakespeare's play that would be unrealistic in real life:
Soliloquy: a long speech given by one character with no other characters on stage with the purpose of divulging one's thoughts to the audience.
Monologue: same as a soliloquy, but with another character on stage.
Aside: a remark heard by the audience, but not by the other characters on stage.
Create a graphic organizer to help students track speeches and meanings.
- Write the scene and line number in column 1.
- Write the character who speaks it in column 2.
- Identify it as a soliloquy, monologue, or aside in column 3.
- Write what it reveals about the charcter in column 4. In many speeches, more than one thing is revealed. This column will take up the most space.
Following is an abridged list of speeches from Julius Caesar that you may use for analysis:
- Act I, Scene i, lines 33-57: Monologue by Marullus
- Act I, scene ii, lines 90-131: Monologue by Cassius
- Act I, scene ii, lines 308-22: Soliloquy by Cassius
- Act II, scene 1, lines 10-34: Soliloquy by Brutus
- Act II, scene ii, lines 124-5: Aside by Trebonius
- Act II, scene ii, lines 128-9: Aside by Brutus
- Act III, scene i, lines 254-75: Soliloquy by Antony
- Act III, scene ii, lines 75-109, 120-39, 172-200, 213-33: Monologue by Antony
Take one or more of the above speeches and do one of the following activities:
- Rewrite the speech using more modern language.
- Present/act out the speech in front of the class.
Annotate the speech.
- Write a paragraph analysis of the speech, identifying dramatic elements, figurative language, and rhetorical strategies. Include the effects these elements have on the overall theme of the play.
- Show a cinematic production of famous monologues and soliloquies. Marlon Brando as Marc Antony is acting at its best.
Understanding the Bard
In addition to sounding pretentious, using "the Bard" as part of the title of my understanding Shakespeare lesson plans draws attention to the fact that there is more than one understanding Shakespeare lesson plan and that you should click on the one you haven't read.
- Strategies for Understanding Shakespeare
- Julius Caesar Lesson Plan: Analyzing Speeches
- Webhunt Questions for Shakespeare Online: Fun Lesson Idea
- Strategies for Teaching Classical Drama
- Teaching Summarizing: Strategies in the Classroom