By Lori Porter
Once you and your students have read and discussed The Taming of the Shrew, take the students back into the text to further analyze individual characters. This activity can be used to demonstrate knowledge of the characters or it can serve as preparation for a character analysis essay.
Copies of the play; blank, unlined paper
Class Time Needed:
This activity will take one to two class periods, depending on the ability level of the class.
Give the students a piece of unlined paper and have them fold it into quarters to create four squares. Ask students to choose their favorite or least favorite character and write that character’s name in the center of the paper. At the top of each of the four squares, have each student write a different personality trait for his or her chosen character. For example, Petruchio could be described as impulsive, and egotistical. Encourage the students to be exact in their wording. Under each trait listed, students should note three to five scenes in which the trait is demonstrated. Discourage the students from listing the same scene more than once.
Next, students must locate a quotation from the play to support each trait. A quotation may be something the chosen character says or something others say about him or her; it can be long or short. Explain how to cite a quotation: Act 1, Scene 1, Line 154 should be listed as 1.1.154. If students moan, “I can’t find it,” remind them to go back to the scenes they have already written down and look for quotations there.
Once these steps are completed, have the students flip their papers over to the back. Ask students to describe the appearance of their characters in the first square. Encourage them to cite quotations from the play that support their descriptions. For example, if a student states that Bianca is beautiful, he might cite 1.1: Lucentio: “Sacred and sweet was all I saw in her.”
In the second square, have students write the name of the person closest to their characters, explaining the relationship and anything it indicates about the character’s personality.
Have students fill the third square with any other facts about their character that the students can glean from the play.
Finally, in the last square, students should write one sentence to sum up what makes the character unique.
Hold small group or class discussions to reveal the students’ findings. If you choose to hold small-group discussions, group the students by character. If you prefer a class discussion, write several characters’ names on the board and have student volunteers toss out the traits they listed for those characters along with their best supporting quotations. Discuss the validity of choices in character traits and supporting quotations.
Assign a character analysis essay, requiring students to use the supporting materials they discovered through the brainstorming process in their essay.
Were the students engaged in the brainstorming activity and in the discussion process? How full of information were their squares? For a more formal, graded evaluation, collect the brainstorming and check for cohesiveness between the quotes chosen and character traits. When you assess the essays, evaluate the entire process, assigning a grade for both the brainstorming and the final product.
Lori Porter has taught for four years at Douglas High School in Wyoming. She teaches ninth through twelfth grades at different ability levels. Some of her students enter college; just as many choose a trade school or enter directly into the work force.