"Teaching Shakespeare Through Exercises on Acting and on the Basic Emotions"
Later in the semester, after we had read and discussed the plays enough to be familiar with them, I again returned to the core exercises and asked students to consider this:
After discussing this, I again had them divide into small groups, make
lists, pool them, and share with the whole class.
We then turned back to the plays and looked for examples. For instance, Juliet has two moments of glorious expectation: one followed by a long, teasing fulfillment, the other followed by tragic disappointment.
We looked for other changes in a character's emotional state. Lear in Act I and II is a good example. Cataloguing and charting his emotional progress focusses attention on the play in an intense, definite, personal, participatory manner.
I advanced the suggestion that many scenes in Shakespeare are based on recurring, perhaps universal emotional modulations. The opening of Romeo and Juliet, for example, progresses from banter to hostility to fight to chaos to a sudden clamping down of stern authority. I suggested that this pattern of emotional movement was a basic human experience and bore some resemblance to the movement of the entire play. Like most of the exercises, this led to a discussion of the play.
Using this focus, we looked at some short scenes of apparent "exposition" only to find that, even here, there were basic emotional patterns at work which reflected upon the play at large. For example, when Juliet is first approached about marrying Paris, the simple facts of the scene are subordinate to the nurse's highly-charged memories of Juliet as a child, of her own lost child and dead husband. (This is another way of asking the familiar teaching question, "What is lost when you summarize the scene?")