To use digital tools to enrich the students’ study of Shakespeare
To identify and teach vocabulary that is important to the understanding of the text
To use soliloquy to help students gain greater access into a character’s thoughts and feelings.
To practice the art of storytelling by having students retell the story of the three caskets to other students
To use graphic organizers to help children organize the information they have learned, compare characters, summarize the stories, etc.
To use Readers’ Theatre to introduce students to Shakespeare’s Three Caskets scenes in
The Merchant of Venice
To use ‘think-pair-share’ to help stimulate student discussion of important concepts found in the play.
To use student pairs to write bio poems about the play’s characters
I have divided my curriculum unit into 3 main sections:
Section 1: Pre-reading Activities
Section 2: The Three Caskets Scenes
Section 3: Post-reading Activities
A major theme in Shakespeare’s
The Merchant of Venice
deals with people’s financial and emotional ventures that involve risk-taking and self-sacrifice. Antonio ‘hazards all he has’ to help his dear friend, Bassanio by agreeing to a bond he makes with Shylock, a Jewish moneylender, for the sake of his friend. This financial venture almost costs Antonio his life.
In this unit I plan to focus on the other type of venture, the emotional one between Bassanio and Portia, the rich heiress he seeks to woo. It may be that it is not really until he is in the midst of taking the three caskets test to win her hand that Bassanio realizes he truly loves Portia and becomes willing to risk everything for her. This concept of self-sacrifice out of love for another is a difficult one for first-graders to understand but in Section 1 of this unit I will offer an anecdote and some activities that address self-sacrifice at a level that I think they can relate to.
The three caskets scene, which is really a play within a play, reads like a fairy tale the setting of which takes place in the magical city of Belmont and employs the motif of three choices. ‘Living happily ever after’ is a destiny that two of the couples, Bassanio and Portia and Gratiano and Nerissa, will share but, alas, for Antonio no such promises are made as he finds himself quite alone at the play’s end. In this unit I will not be doing much more than to introduce Antonio as the generous friend who lent Bassanio the money he needed to impress Portia.
For my students the focus will be on the challenge that Portia’s suitors face in the context of the three caskets test, an engaging paradigm that children can easily identify with because it is present in many fairy tales they have heard. During this moral trial the suitors will have the rare opportunity to look beyond mere appearances in making their choices. But will they take a risk and do that? In these scenes we will look at how the choice of each of the suitors reflects his own character and decides his ultimate destiny.