Graphic Play Maps as Pre-Reading Summarizers

Lesson by Mary Ellen Dakin

Plot is the least important reason why we read Shakespeare, and though the temptation to focus on what happens, where it happens, and when in a play by William Shakespeare is difficult to resist, we need to remember that our students are only a click away from obtaining online summaries of the action. Even the prestigious Folger editions of the plays provide a brief plot summary for every scene. To free up precious class time for students to play with Shakespeare’s rich and strange language, characters, themes, film adaptations, and performance possibilities, we need to get creative.

Chapter 6 of Reading Shakespeare with Young Adults (2009) outlines a series of pre-reading plot summarizer activities we can undertake in the classroom before and during our reading of the first act of a play. To help students understand the plot of seven plays they will only read in abridgement, Chapter 8 of Reading Shakespeare Film first (2012) includes a collection of graphic maps. In order to understand the broader context of the scenes excerpted from these plays, students begin by “reading” the plot of the whole play illustrated in each map and making educated guesses about what happens.

Click on these links for full-size copies of the seven graphic maps drawn by Jennifer Sao:

The Taming of the Shrew
The Tempest
The Merchant of Venice
The Winter’s Tale
King Lear
Twelfth Night

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