The assessment can be competed at different levels, extending for more capable students or if there is more time to complete the assessment. In summary, the assessment requires the students to choose someone or something that they think is ultimately to blame for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet at the end of the play. They then must find examples in the play that support their argument. The assessment can be completed as an essay or reading journal or for extension, the students could write a script to be performed where the character explains and defends their actions and offers alternative outcomes if they have acted differently or if other factors had worked differently.
Purpose: To explore Shakespearean text, character, theme and imagery to reflect a critical
understanding through transformation of the text.
Assessment Instrument: Forming: Scriptwriting, dramatic treatment, Presenting: performance,
Responding: critique of transformation of text, Analytical essay: looking for alternate readings, Reading Journal: reflecting understanding of text and alternate readings.
Conventions and techniques: Dramatic languages: focus, symbol, role, relationship, tension, space, voice, movement, mood, human context; shaping dramatic action; skills of performance; dramatic style: monologue, dialogue
English Links: Essay, reading journal, character profiles, script writing, transforming text
This assessment has the flexibility to apply to other Shakespearean texts. Rather than exploring blame, the assessment can explore alternate readings of the text. Hidden meanings or elements of the text and character can be explored that establish varied or alternate meanings, themes and outcomes. Students can approach the assessment by asking ‘what if?’ rather than ‘Who’s to blame?’.
Developing a Script
As for an essay, choose a character who played a role in the tragedy and Romeo and Juliet and who could defend/justify/explain their actions, level of blame or responsibility and discuss ways they could have acted differently.
Research that character to establish the following the same details needed for the essay
Once you have established a clear understanding of the character and their operation within the text and the text itself, the process of scriptwriting can begin. There are a couple of different ways in which this piece can be written:
1) Monologue- The piece could be written and performed in character as more of a stream consciousness. You could choose to set the script in a particular moment of the play, possibly when the bodies of Romeo and Juliet were found. This piece would raw and emotional as the character grapples with the events and their role within them. This form allows exploration of character and events and would require the performer to immerse themselves in the character.
2) Direct Address- The Friar John piece sits comfortably within this category, the actor is in character and is speaking of his experience but he directly addresses the audience, which helps him plead his case of innocence. This form offers freedom in tone and can offer moments of humour while allowing the piece to be set in time and place removed from the play itself.
3) Interview- This piece would operate like an extended hot seating activitiy, this form could allow the character to be interviewed about the role they played in the outcome of the play. The character from the play could be interviewed by another character or a reporter type character. The interview would explore the role they played, level of responsibility and how they could have acted differently. This form would work well for less confident students as it still enables them to show their understanding of the text without having to carry performance on their own.
4) Dialogue- The dialogue would be an extension of the interview. Students could choose to use one character from the play and an unrelated character for them to speak to or they could choose two characters who both could shoulder some blame in the outcome of them play. They could debate or argue the extent they are each to blame while pointing out ways they could have behaved differently.
Obviously there are endless ways the piece could be written and could incorporate forms such as verbatim or epic theatre.
Things to keep in mind while preparing script:
1) Map out an outline of the scene before writing it.
Establish where the character/s is both physically and emotionally at the beginning of the piece. Friar John addressed the audience with the frustration of the letter still being attached to him 400 years later. The character of the nurse might be standing outside the tomb in shock over the death of her beloved Juliet, she would have a series of emotions to process before she would really get into the process of dissecting her role in the outcome
Take the character/s on a journey which does not have to be linear. Emotions will flux, thoughts will jump about the place, one thought might trigger another, thoughts might be left unfinished.
Establish were you want to get to in the end- will they have come up with how they should have acted differently? Will they have established who or what is truly to blame? Will they still be unsure of events and their role within them?
2) Maintain the character- while iambic pentameter probably won’t be used, language choices that reflect the character need to be chosen. Tybalt would speak very differently to the Nurse and the emotions they would experience throughout the piece would also be very different.
3) Consider the space to be used and how your character will fill it. Different characters will move differently depending on their gender, social status, emotional experience and reaction to other character. They may however, break the behaviour expected of them, given the gravity of the situation which would offer a powerful moment for the performance.
Developing an essay style response
Development and Writing Process Using the Friar John Performance – as an example -
1) Students have an understanding of the text, the events, themes and characters, choose a character or issue, or combination of the two, who might be considered to blame for the death of Romeo and Juliet
2) Identify the moments in the play in which the character appears or influence the actions of others.
3) Analyse what they say/do throughout the play and at key moments and how it relates to the final outcome
4) Research and analyse what other characters say/feel about them (if anything). Analyse what it reveals about their position, social standing, personality, likability etc
5) Identify key quotes from the play that reveal the role the played in the tragedy, or moments where they could have acted differently, or quotes from others where it could be argued they are to blame. These quotes will be used in your essay.
6) Look for moments when the character may have acted out of place or turn at any point and analyse whether this had any impact on events or the outcome of the play.
7) Identify the commonly understood interpretation of the character
8) Is there an alternative reading of the character?
9) Detail how the outcome may have been different if they had acted differently. Students might explore that the outcome was inevitable due to factors such as fate.
Some examples could be;
Friar John discusses the fact that if he had not gone to see his friend, he would not have been exposed to the plague and been quarantined he would have been able to deliver the letter. He also discussed however, that Shakespeare was manipulating fate and that he was only one cog in the machine, so without doubt, if he had delivered the letter something later down the track would have happened to lead to the eventual deaths of Romeo and Juliet.
The Nurse- the nurse could have acted differently and not helped Juliet marry Romeo. Would have Juliet worked out a way to sneak out anyway?
Friar Lawrence- Should have acted within his position and not agreed to marry the pair with the hope of becoming a peace maker.
Mercutio- could have chosen to walk away from the fight, not curse the families. Would that have ended the fight or just delay it?
10) Discuss the impact of other factors such as fate, loyalty, love etc on the actions of the character- were they entirely in control of their actions?
ROMEO & JULIET
WHO IS TO BLAME?
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