The first task would be to define and amplify the meaning of transgressive. It is imperative that in this unit all students are able to identify the transgressive speech in the scene. As in Sesame Street, there is the word of the day; and it is, you guessed it,
. This may actually be the easy part of this curriculum for your students. As they begin to understand the idea of transgressive behavior the light bulb should begin to click on and they will be able to comprehend so much more. I would suggest setting up a few scenarios as practice examples so that the class is all on the same page.
Michael told his teacher he had a huge surprise in his pocket, something he could definitely get in trouble for by showing a teacher. Even his mother told him that it was his personal business and that’s for him and only him, not to be taken out and shown to anyone especially at school. He told his teacher it’s something that makes him very happy, and that he likes to play a game with it. Michael’s teacher was shocked and appalled. She was stunned at what she just heard but knew that what she heard warranted a trip to the principal’s office. Once Michael arrived at the principal’s office, Michael’s teacher told him to tell the principal what he was describing in his pocket. A very nervous Michael blurted out, “I wasn’t going to take my phone out, I swear. I was just telling my teacher how I like to play games on it. How is that wrong?” The confused teacher stared back at the principal who did not quite understand the visit. Michael’s teacher quietly mumbled, “I thought he was talking about something else.”
“Jumping to conclusions,” right or wrong, does not seem to be the same thing as transgressive verbal or corporal action. What about Michael telling the teacher that he knows he should keep what’s in his pocket to himself and would do so “unless someone started a fight and I need to take it out to get a better shot.” Michael might mean “to take a picture in focus” while the teacher assumed Michael had a gun. Crucial to a discussion of transgressive speech is consideration of whether the transgressive meaning was intended or only belatedly understood.
In a photography class “to get a better shot” might be immediately understood to refer to camera work, while in home room Michael’s phrase might be transgressive talk (intended or not); pulling Michael’s hands back and reaching into his pockets is decidedly transgressive
The transgressive speech in this situation involves Michael describing something inappropriate in school and others jumping to conclusions. You can use this example or something similar but it shows something that many of us do on a daily basis. We tend to get that foot of ours stuck in our mouths and then have to hop around on one foot trying to get it out.
Your students should come up with a few examples from their everyday lives to connect to transgressive speech. Allowing them the opportunity to share their own experiences makes the lesson more personal and will allow them to be open to hearing more about the behaviors Shakespeare has written for us. The more personal connections we find, the easier it is for us to take down the wall between Shakespeare and us.