The Provocations and Tasks
Reading the play came first. During our reading, I frequently antagonized the class by suggesting the thesis that Shakespeare had intended the play as an indictment of his culture, and specifically as proof that romantic love is a myth. The first time I presented this argument, the class thought that this was my personal belief — which I immediately ran with, challenging them to disprove my thesis and then cynically shooting down their optimistic examples of teen love. (In order not to commit complete character assassination, I eventually relented… but not until we got to the last act .)
After we finished reading, students had a general brainstorming day where they were split into groups and collected quotes from the play relating to the following themes:
- Male ideas on courtship/dating
- Female ideas on courtship/dating
- Boyfriend/girlfriend as a status symbol or possession
- Parental interference in courtship/dating
- Romantic love/love at first sight
- Male/female expectations in relationships
- Honesty and deception in relationships
These quotes were posted online for later reference. Then we watched My Best Friend’s Wedding in class.
During and after the screening, I would prompt students to compare and contrast the movie with the play, via the themes listed above. The movie was a place to model and practice this activity, as it had both obvious overlaps (irrational, underhanded pursuit of a mate) and differences (girl chases boy this time) from “Shrew.”
The final step was for students to chose their own romantic comedy to analyze. Armed with ideas the class brainstorm, they would pick one or two of the themes to zoom in on. They had to pick a movie that portrayed contemporary society, and it couldn’t be an adaptation of Shakespeare. And to acknowledge the difference in mediums, their final product would blend quotes and screen shots into a “visual essay” published to the web.