By Chris Lavold
If you are a fan of Folger Education, you are well aware of the focus on performance-based teaching and how getting kids up on their feet is an effective way to understand and appreciate Shakespeare’s plays.
I have found that an excellent complement to this is to view film clips of performances to generate intelligent class discussions. Some of the most interesting and insightful days of my ninth grade Macbeth unit were the days we watched multiple interpretations of the same scene. This also fits the Common Core Standard RL.7 perfectly:
Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem (e.g., recorded or live production…), evaluating how each version interprets the source text.
The clips I mostly use are from the Folger 2008 production and the Polanski 1971 film. For certain scenes I might use the 2006 Australian version, the 2010 BBC version starring Patrick Stewart, or the 1948 Orson Welles film.
On video analysis days, my class uses Michael LoMonico’s video expert sheet. I break the students up into four or five groups. Each group has five individual jobs, and each student in the group will do their task while watching the film clips.
- The screenwriters follow the text and write notes about which lines were omitted or rearranged.
- The cinematographers watch the camera angles and lighting. They ask questions such as “Is the lighting trying to portray a theme? Does a low camera angle tell the viewer someone is in an authoritative position?”
- The sound editors are not allowed to watch the clip. They must have their backs to the screen and write down sounds they hear. Examples would be natural background sounds like a dog barking or the wind blowing. They also observe what the music tells us about what may be taking place on the screen.
- The set and costume designers pay attention to the location, costumes, and props. This is always fun to talk about during the opening witch scene in Macbeth or the banquet scene where Banquo’s ghost appears.
- The last group are the actors who concentrate on an actor’s performance paying close attention to accents, tone, subtext, and emphasis on certain words or lines.