Students would discuss the poem and the characters. There might be considerable difference between how the female students see these characters and how the male students see them.
1)How would you describe the female character if she were a relative of yours, a sister or a cousin?
2)Would you have a different opinion than if you didn’t know the character?
The same questions would be asked of the female students.
1)How would you describe the male character, if he were a relative of yours, a brother or a cousin?
2)Would you have a different opinion if you didn’t know the character?
It will be interesting to hear the responses to these questions. Based upon those answers we can begin developing the characters each student will act out.
In both poems, “Annabel Lee”, and “Lord Walter’s Wife”, the time and setting are more than a hundred years ago. In my experience, as a teacher, I find that most students have no sense of times past, so a discussion of the attitudes and morals of that time may be very helpful. Another way of getting students to feel more comfortable portraying these characters is by role playing. I would use the answers given during our discussion as the basis for the role playing. Hopefully, this will make the “acted out” poem more fun and more substantial.
I feel that the poem “Lord Walter’s Wife”, would make a very good One Act play. The poem itself would act as a foundation. The first thing we must do is establish which direction the characters are going to take. Lets say that both characters feel that they are engaging in a harmless flirtation. The female character with her coy response, and the male character with his wit and charm. Perhaps they both start to feel, somewhere, during their conversation that the other is getting a bit too serious and each character slowly backs away from the flirtation. This would be one possible direction. The second step would be to add visual behavior. (Actors are always looking for “behavior”. Behavior is all the things an actor does on stage: drink a cup of coffee, light a cigar, eat a bowl of pasta. This combined with the words goes toward making a good performance. People don’t generally stand around and talk, they do things. It is finding the “behavior” that gives the impression of reality.) An example of behavior in this piece might be, taking line eighteen, “You kissed my fan when I dropped it. No matter!-I’ve broken the thing.” We might see the male character pick tip her fan kiss it and slowly hand it back to her. Perhaps a smile or a gazed look might accompany the return. Visually this would make the lines come to life, and that is an actor’s job to make characters come to life.