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A Midsummer Night's Dream

William Shakespeare

Theme: Love and Magic
Grades: Grades 10-11


Summary:
Love and magic rule the world of this fanciful comedy set in ancient Athens and a nearby woods. The fair maiden Hermia loves Lysander, but her father insists that Demetrius be her mate. To escape a forced marriage, Hermia runs away with Lysander to the woods, followed by Demetrius (who is madly in love with Hermia) and Helena (her friend who hopelessly loves Demetrius). Unknowingly, the lovers enter the kingdom of fairies, where love potions and magical transformations are the order of the night. After a wild night of confusion, harmony is restored, love is set right, and weddings are celebrated.


THEME OPENERS
  1. Chart.
    Have students work in small groups to create a chart that lists different sources of romantic attraction. Encourage students to be as specific as possible. For example, one column of the chart might list physical attributes, such as sparkling eyes, a delicate complexion, luxurious hair, athleticism, and so on. A second column might list personality characteristics, such as a sense of humor, kindness, intelligence, and so on. Challenge students to go beyond the obvious in their lists. Have each group share its completed chart with the class. Discuss what the charts reveal about the nature of romantic attraction.
  1. Linking to Today: Contemporary Images of Love.
    Invite students to discuss how romantic love is portrayed in contemporary culture. Encourage them to consider how love is depicted in movies, television shows, commercials, music, and other media. Is love depicted as irrational, or does it have a basis in sound judgment? Is love measured by the excitement it creates or the commitment it elicits? Discuss how popular images of love might influence young people or reflect their own experiences of love.
CROSSCURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
  1. Speaking of Love.
    Ask students to imagine that they are one of the characters in the play. Have them write and deliver a speech about the nature of love and its importance in marriage. Instruct them to use quotes from A Midsummer Night's Dream and refer to incidents in the play.

  1. Fairy Cartoons.
    Have interested students create a cartoon strip of their favorite scene in the play. Encourage them to illustrate elements that would be especially difficult to portray onstage, such as the size of fairies and Bottom's fantastic transformation.
RESEARCH ASSIGNMENTS
  1. The Magic of Mythical Creatures.
    Instruct students to research a type of mythical creature, such as mermaids, gnomes, leprechauns, golems, or genies. Have them write an essay comparing the creature that they research and the fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

  2. Here Comes the Bride.
    In this project, students will work in groups to research and present marriage customs around the world and across the ages.

    Suggested Procedure:

  • Have the class brainstorm to create a list of countries and historical periods that students are interested in researching. Then have them ask questions about marriage that they think should be answered, such as the following: What are the typical ages of brides and grooms? What role do the parents have in the choice of a marriage partner? What financial arrangements are involved? What are the customs of the marriage ceremony and celebration?
  • Divide the class into small groups. Have each group choose a country and a historical period. Group members should discuss and decide among themselves how they will divide work and present information. Possible formats include posters, collages, audiotapes, videotapes, computer presentations, dramatic scenes, puppet shows, lectures, panel discussions, and question-and-answer sessions.
  • Each group should do the necessary research and ensure that information about marriage customs is presented clearly and accurately. Some groups may require rehearsal time.