Shakespearean Character Study | Lesson Plan

Lesson plan created for the course “Literature for English Teachers.” Corresponds to I Don’t Believe in Shakespeare article. 


Grade: 12, English IV

Note: This lesson is designed to be at the end of a Shakespeare Unit, after students are familiar with several plays. They have not been required to read every play in its entirety, but have been studying the overall plot of each play, close-reading excerpts, and comparing and contrasting the 3 plays against each other. In addition, the class will have already learned rhetoric and argumentative structure strategies in previous lessons.

Note: This lesson will take about one week to complete: 1 introduction day, 1-3 days for research and 2-4 days for courtroom proceedings, depending on class size.

TEKS Addressed (Texas Essential Knowledge & Skills Standards)

§110.34. English Language Arts and Reading, English IV. 5.B, 5.D, 20.A, 20.B, 23.A, 23.C, 23.C, 23.E, 24.A, 24.B

Enduring Understandings

The moral dilemmas and quandaries of Shakespearean characters have underlying motivations, which can be revealed through studying the behaviors and actions of the character.

Effective arguments rely on factual and evidentiary support, good presentation skills, and strong organization in order to persuade an audience.

Lesson Objective

After becoming familiar with the Shakespeare plays, “Richard III,” Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and “Romeo and Juliet,” students will work in pairs and use a Research Worksheet to conduct detailed research of one character from one of those plays. Each group will present their findings in the format of a courtroom-style class discussion, where the group must defend a claim about the actions of their character by presenting evidence from the text that supports their argumentative claim. The whole class will then display listening and argumentative skills by cross-examining the evidence and claim.

Preparation & Resources

Note: The research portion of this lesson would be best conducted in a computer lab, in which students can quietly work in pairs. (2-3 days, scheduled in advance.)

  • Character lines for “Who am I?” game (Moderate difficulty)
  • Powerpoint for “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” game (and computer/projector)
  • List of acceptable main characters to research
  • Handout Packet, including:
    • Research Worksheet (Included, see page 6)
    • Courtroom Procedural Guide (to be written)
    • Grading Rubrics (Presentation & Participation) (Included, see page 7)
    • Persuasive Essay Instructions (for Absent Students)
  • Access to online Shakespeare Concordance and other online resources
  • Copies of each Shakespeare play for the class to read and study

Worksheets & Rubric Download

Lesson Steps

  1. (Friday) Engagement & Stated Objective
    1. (10 mins) Recall Game, “Who am I?”: Class will begin with a short “Who am I?” game, in which 3 students will randomly be given a line from one of the plays we’ve been studying. 3 students will act out that line, and the class will guess which play and character said the line. (Ideally, these will be moderately difficult– students should need to know the story of each play to guess correctly.)
    2. (2 minutes) Stated Objective: Teacher will say: “Over the last few weeks, we have been reading and studying “Richard III,” Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and “Romeo and Juliet.” This week, you will be working in pairs to research one character from one of these plays. I have a Research Worksheet you can use to take notes, but you may want to be more detailed. You’ll have two (or three) days to work in the computer lab on your research, and each group will present their findings during three (or four) days next week. We will be holding a “court session” for each group. Your group must make a claim, and support the claim with evidence, about the actions of your character. You will need to provide evidence from the text that supports your claim. The whole class will then cross-examine the claim, and I will be the judge.”
  2. Active Learning
    1. (Day 1, 2 minutes) Introduce: Teacher will say: “I’d like for you all to start thinking about these characters like they are real people. For instance, Richard III killed a lot of people, including his family members! But, was it completely his fault? He grew up in a world of war, where everyone around him was hungry for power. He was treated cruelly because of his deformity, and probably exposed to violence very early– does anyone think they could make a defense in his favor?” Allow students a moment to respond.
    2. (Day 1, 5 minutes) Explore: Teacher will say: Perhaps you could argue that, although Richard did make the choice to murder people, he was only the product of his environment.” Allow students time to think, and ask if any of them have a similar thought about different characters, perhaps from one of the other plays.
      1. (15 minutes) Recall Game “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”: Using Powerpoint, the teacher will show the class 5-7 examples of “good” claims, “bad” claims, or “ugly” claims (ugly claims are just mediocre or weak statements). The class will form teams, and each team will compete to label each example correctly. The teacher will lead a brief class discussion following each example.
    3. (Day 1) Explain:
      1. Pass out the Handout Packet, and allow time for students to select a character and find their partner. Partners should work on the same character, and students should be allowed to select their preference from a list. (Two groups may not cover the same character, so some compromise on preference will be necessary.)
      2. (Move class to computer lab for remainder of class) Teacher will now model the research using the Research Worksheet. Teacher will walk students through the worksheet with examples, giving detailed advice and instructions. Teacher will show students how to use the online concordance and other resources to find information on specific characters. Teacher will set expectations for the type of information he/she is looking for in the research, and will provide plenty of resources for students to start working with.
    4. Apply:
      1. (Days 2 – 3): Students will work in the computer lab with their partner for as long as time allows to complete the Research Worksheet and persuasive argument outline. The teacher will walk around the lab and check in with students, offering help and guiding their research. The teacher may need to review topics for students as they formulate claims and draft argument outlines. The Teacher will also look for pacing during this time, checking to approximate how much time in the lab the class still needs to complete their argument (an additional computer lab day may be required).
      2. (Days 4 – 6): Students will return to class and begin holding court, group by group. Using the Courtroom Procedural Guide, the Teacher will mediate and preside as judge. Each group will present their case about their character, providing backstory along with their evidence. The class will then examine and evaluate the evidence. At the end, the teacher will then ask the class to vote on a conclusion: What is the class verdict on the claim: true or false?
    5. Evaluate: After their presentation, the teacher will complete a Presentation & Participation Rubric for each student.
  3. Closure
    1. (End of final class, 20 minutes) When all students have presented and all characters have been examined, the Teacher will hold a final class discussion, allowing the students to reflect on what they’ve learned. He/she will ask the class:
      1. What was your favorite character that we explored? Why?
      2. Did anyone change your mind or, did you have a new thought?
      3. Did anyone find it difficult to think from a different perspective about a character? Was it challenging to disagree with your classmates?
      4. Did anyone feel underprepared for their argument? Why? How do you think you’ll prepare differently next time.


  • The teacher will use the IEP accommodations.
  • Absent students will be assigned a 2-page essay in the persuasive genre in which they must defend or attack the actions of a Shakespeare character.