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Activity Three – “Creating the Fairy Kingdom”



                                                       By Brian Crowe, Education Director

                                                                 The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey




Lesson Focus:

Utilizing a short passage of text for Shakespeare’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM and their own imagination, students are encouraged to work together to create unique visions of the fairy kingdom. This exercise is easily mutable to apply to the witches in MACBETH or the spirits in THE TEMPEST, but also quite applicable to creating even the less fantastical worlds of any of Shakespeare’s plays, such as the two armies in TROILUS & CRESSIDA.



  1. Students create a vision of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays that is unique and personal to them.
  2. Students understand that there are myriad possibilities when visualizing (and staging) Shakespeare’s plays.
  3. Students collaborate with their peers as their world vision comes into focus, much like a artistic team does when designing sets and costumes for a production.
  4. Students mine inspiration and support for their visions from the text.
  5. Students incorporate sounds, visuals, gestures, et cetera from the world around them, giving a more immediate connection with Shakespeare.


Alignment with Common Core Standards:

2009 Visual & Performing Arts      1.1 The Creative Process & 1.3 Performance


2010 English Language Arts  Key Ideas & Details

Reading: Literature                CCSS.ELA – Literacy.RL*.1

CCSS.ELA – Literacy.RL*.2

CCSS.ELA – Literacy.RL*.3

Craft & Structure

CCSS.ELA – Literacy.RL*.4

CCSS.ELA – Literacy.RL*.6

Integration of Knowledge & Ideas

CCSS.ELA – Literacy.RL*.7

CCSS.ELA – Literacy.RL*.9

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity

CCSS.ELA – Literacy.RL*.10

Speaking & Listening             Comprehension & Collaboration





Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas




Vocabulary Acquisition and Use    CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.*.4



*Suitable for grades 1-6





  1. Abbreviated passage of text from ACT II: Scene 1 of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (See below)
  2. Video snippet from Shakespeare Is interview with Bonnie J. Monte, Artistic Director of The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
  3. Images of various productions of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (for use at the end of the exercise)
  4. Easily found via a search on the internet, or in a variety of source books-

Shakespeare in Performance, edited by Keith Parsons and Pamela Mason

Shakespeare on Screen by Daniel Rosenthal

  1. Scenes from the MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, found in video form on-line or from DVDs





Depending on the group with which you are working, you could also begin with “Exploring the Text” and then move on to “Creating the World.” I suggest starting with the “Creating the World” unit for younger students if possible, so they don’t feel intimidated by the text. There are also three versions of text attached, for you to choose from. Remember it is much more about the quality of the students’ engagement with the language, not the quantity of the language that they speak. Choose which cutting will work best for you and your students. This workshop can be run in one 90-minute sitting or broken up over two separate class periods.


CREATING THE WORLD (30 minutes):

  1. Break the class into small groups of 3 to 6 students.
  2. Each group will be an individual, magical fairy kingdom for Shakespeare’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.
  3. Have the students explain what they envision when they hear the words “fairy” and “magic.”
  4. Most students will immediately talk about a Tinker Bell or the “Disney image” of fairies.
  5. Explain that there are many different visions of fairies throughout history.
  6. In Shakespeare’s day, for example, fairies were not cute little girls with butterfly wings, but mischievous creatures that lived in shadows and stole children from their beds.
  7. Fairies can be anything you want them to be.
  8. When actors and directors begin to work on a production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, one of the first things they need to do is create an evocative and cohesive fairy kingdom. Today, the students get to be the actors, the directors and the designers, as they create their own fairy kingdom.

6. Each group will create the culture of their fairy kingdom by answering the following questions:

**NOTE: There is a danger in letting people talk too much here. Make sure they are actively exploring and trying out ideas. Giving a time limit helps quite a bit to keep things moving forward and in a productive manner.

7. Some questions the students can consider:

a. Who are your fairies? (2 minutes)

b. Are they quick or slow? Big or small? Heavy or light?

c. Are they bird-like? Insect-like? Squirrel-like? Cat-like? Human-like? Lizard-like?

d. What do they sound like? (3 minutes)

8. Encourage each group to come up with a very distinct and fun manner of sound communication. This will become the aural palette for the fairy kingdom, and should include both vocal work (humming, growls, whistles, whispers, etc) as well as physical work (clapping, stomping feet, sliding feet, etc)

9. More questions for students to consider: Do they chirp? If so, do they chirp like birds, or like crickets? Do they grumble or are they super crisp in the way they speak?

10. If a group is stuck, you can have them begin by mimicking animal sounds or musical           instruments. The more unusual, the better!

11. How do they move through space? (5 minutes)

a. Each group will create a unique form of locomotion that is specific to their fairies.

b. Do they flit about? Do they slither? Do they soar in like hawks? Do they jump or bounce?

c. Don’t feel limited by bi-pedal locomotion. They could walk on all fours, or inch along on their knees, or wobble along on their seats.

d. As they move, they should also be making noise. This is not a silent movie.

e. Have the students incorporate the sounds they explored in the previous activity.

12. Create the cultural commonalities! (5 minutes)

a. In our culture, if someone raises a hand and moves it back and forth, we know they are saying hello. If someone’s eyes get big and they cover their open mouth, we know they are surprised. If someone shakes a fist, we know they are probably angry. b. Along these lines, have each group create unique GESTURES AND SOUNDS for the following:

-Friendly greeting


-Happy surprise

-Startled or frightened

-Angry or offended

-Applause or show appreciation

c. Within each individual group, the students practice their cultural gestures and sounds as they greet each other, say farewell, etc.

13. The Fairy United Nations (10 minutes, including discussion)

a. Now that each group has established a framework for the culture of their fairy

kingdom, call a meeting of all the fairy nations.

b. Establish a “stage” or general assembly hall

c. Each group presents itself before the other fairy kingdoms.

d. They should enter the stage utilizing the sounds and manner of locomotion they   have created.

e. Once on stage, they greet the assembly with their greeting gesture and sound.

f. They then show Surprise, Frightened, Angry, and finish with their farewell.

g.The other groups demonstrate their “Applause” when the group finishes.

14. Discuss & Refine the Kingdoms

a. How were each of the groups different?

b. Based on what they saw, what can the students tell about each of the kingdoms?

c. Are they smart? Silly? Diligent workers? Warriors?

d. Do they live in nature? Where? Trees, flowers, brooks, weeds, thistles, etc.

e. Identify what was your favorite part about each group.

f. Based on what you saw, which fairy kingdoms would get along? Which would  not?

g. Through these fun and easy steps, you have already started to create a world in which to create an entire production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.

15. Additional questions to ask to help clarify each kingdom include:

a. Do they work together (like the school of fish that help give directions in

FINDING NEMO), or do they work independently?

b. Are they pleasant or grumpy? Are they friendly helpers of mankind or prank-pulling thugs?

c. Do they like to work, or do they like to play?

d. Are they young or old? Define what that means in “fairy years”.

16. Ask the students to consider ways in which they can be more specific and cohesive in each of their individual kingdoms. They can apply these adjustments to the next part of the exercise.


EXPLORING THE TEXT (15 minutes):

  1. Read through the short scene from A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. An edited version ideal for classes is attached below. You can reassign lines based on the size of your groups.
  2. Do NOT tell the students in advance anything about the scene. They should only be focusing on exploring the language, and mining the contextual and relationship clues found in the text.
  3. Clarify any unfamiliar words, discuss their meaning and what they think is happening in the scene. This does not need to be too in depth at this point. More detailed analysis will come into play later in this exercise.
  4. Ask the students what they know from clues in the text:
  5. There are several fairies in the scene (based on the names of the characters alone)
  6. Puck is an outsider from the other characters. How does the reader know this?
  7. What do the fairies think of Puck?
  8. What does Puck think of the fairies?
  9. The fairies work for the Queen of the Fairy Kingdom, Titania
  10. Do the fairies take pride in their work, or are they disgruntled?
  11. What are their specific jobs?
  12. Puck works for Oberon, the King of the Fairy Kingdom
  13. Puck is a prankster
  14. What clues in the script suggest this?
  15. The fairies have specific tasks that they are in charge of
  16. What tasks are specified in the text?



  1. Each group will now perform the scene using the elements of sound, movement and gesture they created for their fairy kingdom.
  2. Make sure they are incorporating their unique sounds as they are speaking the lines.
  3. The scene has several moments of greeting, surprise, aggressions and possibly fear; all of which were defined for the fairy kingdom in the previous parts of this exercise.
  4. After a few minutes to work on the scenes independently, have the groups return to the stage to present their work to the assembly of fairy kingdoms.
  5. Remember to have the other groups applaud in their own unique fairy way.

**MORE ADVANCED: If you have a more advanced group of students, you can pull your “Puck” and “Oberon” from a different fairy kingdom and through him/her into the mix of a different fairy group. This clash of styles and sounds and manners will be fun to explore with the students. Does one combination work better to depict the relationship between Puck and the fairies?


  1. If time allows, or if you would like to provide opportunities for more crafty students:
  2. Have students draw their fairies, using all the information that was gleaned from the exercise.
  3. Create costumes for the characters
  4. Have the students find visual research that could be used as inspiration for their characters

-clippings from magazines

-“Fairy Box of Stuff” – pine cones, crumpled-up paper, old colorful socks, etc.

-create a Pinterest account

-These do not need to be pictures of fairies, but rather textures, expressions, colors, that “feel like the world” of the fairies as the students created it.

d. Have the students find two 10-20 second musical/audio selections that sound like their fairy kingdom. These should not include lyrics, but rather can be the sounds of a forest, or the sounds of thronging metropolis, or a jazz clarinet riff, or a swarm of bees, or a colony of ants. Encourage them to find unique aural landscapes that will help specify their work even more.




STUDENT HANDOUTS (Select the edited version most appropriate)





PUCK                         How now, spirits! whither wander you?

FAIRY 1                     Over hill, over dale,

Thorough bush, thorough brier,

FAIRY 2                     Over park, over pale,

Thorough flood, thorough fire:

ALL FAIRIES            We do wander everywhere

FAIRY 3                     Swifter than the moon’s sphere,

FAIRY 4                     And we serve the Fairy Queen

FAIRY 1&4                To dew her orbs upon the green.

FAIRY 2                     Farewell, thou lob of spirits; We’ll be gone.

FAIRY 3                     Our Queen and all her elves come here anon.

PUCK                         The King doth keep his revels here tonight.

Take heed the Queen come not within his sight.

FAIRY 4                     Either I mistake your shape and making quite—

FAIRY 1                     —Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite—

FAIRY 1&4                —Called Robin Goodfellow.

PUCK                                                             Thou speak’st aright;

I am that merry wanderer of the night.

                                                (Enter Oberon and Titania )

But make room, fairies: here comes Oberon.

FAIRY 1                     And here my mistress. Would that he were gone.

OBERON                   Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.

TITANIA                   What, jealous Oberon?—Fairies, skip hence.

I have forsworn his bed and company.







PUCK                         How now, spirits! whither wander you?

FAIRY 1                     Over hill, over dale,

FAIRY 2                        Thorough bush, thorough brier,

FAIRY 3                     Over park, over pale,

FAIRY 4                          Thorough flood, thorough fire:

ALL FAIRIES            We do wander everywhere

FAIRY 1                     Swifter than the moon’s sphere,

FAIRY 2                     And we serve the Fairy Queen

FAIRY 3&4                To dew her orbs upon the green.





PUCK                         How now, spirits! Whither wander you?

ALL FAIRIES            We do wander everywhere

FAIRY 1                     Swifter than the moon’s sphere,

FAIRY 2                     And we serve the Fairy Queen

FAIRY 3                     To dew her orbs upon the green.

FAIRY 1                     Either I mistake your shape and making quite—

FAIRY 2                     —Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite—

ALL FAIRIES            —Called Robin Goodfellow.

PUCK                                                             Thou speak’st aright;

I am that merry wanderer of the night.



Activity One “The Duke at Bardland”

The Duke at Bardland:
Modern Musical Interpretations of Shakespearean Sonnet Style
By Line Marshall, Columbia High School
Maplewood, New Jersey

Lesson Focus:

Most students find popular music as accessible as they find Shakespeare’s language and meter challenging. This lesson utilizes jazz and popular music to reinforce a previous lesson on the basic technical aspects of iambic pentameter or blank verse. Before starting the lesson, students should have been introduced to the basics of Shakespearean sonnet structure (14-line lyrical poem) and iambic pentameter (i.e. ten syllables per line, alternating stressed and unstressed syllables etc.). Focusing on how Shakespeare’s signature style of poetry and its meter are reinterpreted by more recent composers and musicians renders Shakespeare’s writing style more accessible and relevant to students.


Students will them to develop their own metrically accurate interpretations in the forms of original sonnets or soliloqies.

Alignment with Common Core Standards:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7 Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.9 Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5 Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7 Analyze multiple interpretations of a story, drama, or poem, evaluating how each version interprets the source text.

Grade Levels: 9-12

Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare

1. Copies of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29, double spaced, so that students can mark them up.
2. Copies of “3-2-1” Chart handout for formative assessment. (Provided below)
3. Video recordings from YouTube* of the following (See links below):
a. “Heartbeat Sound Effect” (Optional)

b. “I Believe I Can Fly” (with lyrics) by R. Kelly

c. Excerpt from Antoni Cimolino/Stratford interview from (time signature- 00:39:32 to approx.. 00:40:38)

d. “Sonnet for Caesar” by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra

(Fast forward three and a half minutes into video recording)

e. “Sonnet 29” by Rufus Wainwright

*If you cannot access YouTube for classroom use, audio recordings of each of the above musical selections are readily accessible for nominal fees via iTunes, Amazon and other vendors.


1. For a DO NOW activity, hand out hard copies of Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare (“When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes”) as students enter the room. Instruct students to begin reading the sonnet with a partner for syllabication only. Students should have previous lesson’s sonnet notes on their desks for reference.

2. Once class is settled and students are reading, begin playing the heartbeat sound effect. As students begin to react to the sound, elicit responses that note the similarities between the sound effect and the meter of the poem. Introduce students to the idea that one line of iambic pentameter is meant to imitate the rhythm of five human heartbeats.

3. Ask the class to read a few lines of the sonnet chorally to the beat of the sound effect.

4. Next, tell the class that they are going to listen to a very popular song for how it incorporates these “five heartbeats”. Play “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly. [With careful listening, students should be able to discern that the verses are written in iambic pentameter]. Tell students that another easy way to recognize iambic pentameter (apart from the “five heartbeats”) is if they can “sing” a line of poetry to the melody of the verses of this song. [Student volunteers may want to try this with Sonnet 29 for starters].

5. Point out to students that while the rhythmic connection between Shakespeare and R. Kelly may be coincidental, legendary American composer and band leader, Duke Ellington, a great admirer of Shakespeare’s works, composed an entire suite of music, Such Sweet Thunder, inspired by Shakespearean characters and dedicated to a famous Shakespeare festival in Ontario, Canada: [Play two-minute excerpt from Antoni Cimolino interview].

Excerpt from Shakespeare Central Interview: Antoni Cimolino (General Director, Stratford Shakespeare Festival, Ontario, Canada)

Musicality/Power of Shakespeare

00:39:32 AC: Well, he came here in the 1950s. First of all, I think for the year that Chris Plummer was playing Hamlet. That would have been, I bet, in 1958, and was just really interested in Shakespeare. And he would sit and just listen; he would be at the back of the room listening. One day during one of the dress rehearsals Christopher Plummer who, you know, could get very antsy at times if you’re in that moment where you’re just trying to make sure you’ve learned our lines and you’re getting ready to get on and he was in a dress rehearsal and he noticed somebody at the back just sitting on the steps listening, and he stopped the rehearsal and he said to the director, “Look, can we please clear the tent of people who aren’t in the show? I just want to . . . .”

00:40:10 And the director, Michael Langham, said “Chris, just a moment. Do you mind if I introduce you to someone who is here as our guest.” And he brought him up and he said, “This is Duke Ellington.” And Chris, you know, just kind of was mortified because he’s a huge jazz fan and a great piano player and just, you know, fell down the steps backwards, went back on the stage.

00:40:32 And eventually Ellington wrote, you know, an ode to that Hamlet. He then wrote – composed beautiful music for Michael Langham’s production of Timon of Athens, and was here and was a major fan. And you can, in listening to the arithmetic – the joyous and complex arithmetic that is in Ellington’s music – you could see why he would be an enormous fan of Shakespeare. Just, you know, just because of what – the juxtapositions that are there in Shakespeare’s language as well as what it does to your heart.

6. Four of the pieces in Such Sweet Thunder are musical “sonnets” in which Ellington uses music to literally re-create the sonnet structure, including the iambic pentameter and the 14 lines.

7. As an introduction to Ellington’s “Sonnet for Caesar”, ask students what they might expect a musical sonnet based on a tragedy to sound like. What instruments might best reflect the story of the hero’s downfall or the tragedy’s solemn tone? [Elicit thoughts/suggestions briefly and then play video.] As music plays, help students recognize the fourteen ten-note “lines” of the sonnet played by a solo clarinet [If time permits, re-play all or part of the piece]. After listening, ask students to discuss how Ellington interprets the “five heartbeats” [They should note that he slows them down considerably (to achieve a dirge-like effect)] Ask: How does this interpretation affect the mood of the “sonnet”? Discuss.

8. Finally, call students’ attention back to Sonnet 29. At this point students would have read the sonnet but may still not have truly understood it. Keeping this in mind, play Rufus Wainwright’s musical version, asking class to focus primarily on the mood of the song. Ask: Does the mood remain static as in “Sonnet for Caesar” or does it shift? If so, where? [Note: There are musical variances among all three quatrains and the final couplet however the most notable shift in mood occurs during the third quatrain, as the speaker’s state of mind improves]. Again, replay video if time permits and continue discussion as needed.

Suggested Formative Assessment:
A. At the end of the lesson, ask students to complete individual “3-2-1” charts (Student Handout):
3. Things I Learned
2. Things I Found Interesting
1. Questions I Still Have
Students may complete these at home and return them the following day as “admit slips” if time is an issue.

B. Challenge students to find other popular songs that employ iambic pentameter.

Going Forward:
For the ensuing lesson, you may want to re-visit the Wainwright piece to help illustrate how the quatrains and final couplet operate as units within Shakespeare’s sonnets. Then have students apply what they’ve learned in these lessons to close readings of self or teacher-selected Shakespearean sonnets and soliloquies.

Suggested Summative Assessment:
Assign students to compose original sonnets or soliloqies in iambic pentameter to perform for their classmates. Final products may be rendered in words, music, or both.