On the first day of my Merchant of Venice unit, I asked had my Grade 9s to do a graffiti wall and answer a bunch of questions. One of them was, “What scares you about Shakespeare?” I got the classic answers, mostly having to do with unfamiliar language, challenging new vocabulary and boredom. One student wrote, “dudes in tights,” and yet another admitted being afraid of Shakespeare’s moustache.
While I can’t do anything about the Bard’s ‘stache, my overall objective over the next month is to make Shakespeare a bit less scary for my students. We started with a round of Shakespearean balderdash, a game introduced to me by my English prof at OISE last year. Now we’re on I.ii, the scene where Portia and Nerissa gossip about the suitors. I created a little activity to help the students see the humour in the scene: Shakespeare meets Perez Hilton. It gets them to apply their own language to the text, and it will be a good opportunity for formative assessment, as our unit summative is a teen magazine.
William Shakespeare meets Perez Hilton
Lady Gaga wears a dress made of Q-Tips!
Brangelina adopt quintuplets from East Timor!
Miley Cyrus spotted binging on pickled eggs!
Celebrity gossip is everywhere these days, but it’s nothing new. In Act I, scene ii of Merchant of Venice the wealthy heiress Portia and her lady in waiting, Nerissa, are discussing the potential suitors who are competing for Portia’s hand in marriage. The two women gossip about the suitors – their clothes, their manners, their habits, and their personalities.
Your task is to be an Elizabethan celebrity gossip blogger. Write a creative blog post about any of the suitors in this scene, or about one of the other characters we have met in Merchant of Venice.
- Your post must contain accurate and specific references to the character
- Use your imagination – fill in the details as though the character is a contemporary celebrity
- Include a creative headline
- Write in a playful, casual tone but use correct spelling and grammar