Hurling Insults, Tableaux Vivant, Foam Swords, and Romeo and Juliet

Dear Reader,

A couple of my classes are finishing a Shakespearean unit, so I asked my students what their favorite part of the unit was and most of them said one of two things: hurling insults and tableaux vivant. Now, hurling insults is exactly what it sounds like…we carefully craft a Shakespearean insult (using his amazingly vast vocabulary) and then we hurl them…mostly at the white board…I’m not a proponent of bullying (then again, who really is? bullies? I digress). I’m such a dorky teacher sometimes: I remind the students that this is a safe place and that we are merely hurling the insults within the personas of the Montagues and the Capulets…and that the insults should stay within “Verona’s walls.” They look at me so innocently then obediently nod — such dear little lambs. (Confession: I’m so taken with Shakespearean insults that I have a calendar that gives me a new Shakespearean insult everyday…I usually share them with my classes, and we have a good laugh…some are a little too inappropriate…those I keep to myself…Oh Shakespeare, you saucy bard!). The other activity the students usually enjoy is tableaux vivant — living pictures. I got this idea from the Folger’s Shakespeare Set-Free curriculum guide (superb stuff!). I have somewhat tweaked their lessons for this year in particular. The students are assigned a scene to produce by creating snap shots of the the action as they say a line. Many times the students try to memorize the lines as they hold their pose (for that I give them extra credit 🙂 ). Traditional tableaux vivant has separate speakers and posers, but I’ve combined them to make it more interesting for the students.

My main goal this year when teaching Romeo and Juliet to my freshman English class was to show them that this is not just some mushy love story about two hotblooded minors. It is beyond that: R and J is a story of the tragic fruition of unchecked hatred and anger. So, I bought some foam swords…for all the fighting! There are some epic fight scenes in this play (BTW my class is all boys except for three girls — four if you count me). Funny story, last week one of my male students during their tableaux vivant rehearsal time kept bopping his partner on the arm with his foam sword, so I took the sword away. As he handed me the sword, I asked him, “why must you hit him with the sword; can’t you just hold it still?” As I grasp that floppy foam sword, something came over me, like the spirit of a warrior, and I felt compelled to bop my student on the arm with the sword…I smiled to myself as I quickly walked back to my desk and thought “Oh, that’s why…the sword demands a fight!” Now, I only distribute the swords during the performances. Here are some pictures of our fight scene from yesterday’s tableaux vivant: baseball and softball had games, so some my students were dressed in their game uniforms.

Thanks for reading!


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2 thoughts on “Hurling Insults, Tableaux Vivant, Foam Swords, and Romeo and Juliet

  1. Your students at so lucky to have such a passionate teacher who allows them to experience the literature in this way! They will never forget you and the impact you have made in their lives!


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