The sounds of ta-DUM ta-DUM ta-DUM ta-DUM ta-DUM you hear walking outside the hallways of English classrooms are the sounds of an iambic pentameter rhythm used by William Shakespeare in his plays and poetry. Every spring, Shakespeare in a featured author with the Advanced Placement English Literature students reading Hamlet, the 10th grade students reading Macbeth, and the 9th grade students beginning Romeo and Juliet.
I have used the following video to explain iambic pentameter in class. Maybe one year, I’ll make on of our own?
Works by Shakespeare are required reading that is specifically named in the Common Core State Standards. For example, in learning to identify and analyze an author’s “Craft and Structure” Students will:
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors –CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.4)
Students also look at “Integration of Knowledge and Ideas” in Shakespeare’s work in Grades 9 and 10 in order to:
Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare-CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.9).
This practice is continued with students in grades 11 & 12 as they analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem, evaluating how each version interprets the source text. The standards state to include “at least one play by Shakespeare- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.11-12.7.”
Should you walk past an English classroom through the month of April, perhaps you may hear one the following:
- “Two households both alike in dignity/In Fair Verona where we lay our scene…” (Romeo & Juliet)
- “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow/Creeps in this petty pace…” (Macbeth)
- “To be or not to be/that is the question…” (Hamlet)
Too much Shakespeare? Nay, never enough for the Wamogo English Department!