TEL Lesson Plan
Shakespearean Language and Historical and Social Contexts in Literature

Grade Level: 12
Subject: Language Arts/English IV (3005)/ Reading
Time Frame:


Using various critical articles to understand the language used in Shakespeare’s literature, students will write a report giving several examples of the language used during the Elizabethan era and the meaning of those terms and phrases. They will then share orally with the class.

Databases/Other Resources

Expanded Academic ASAP


Students will research the use of language by Shakespeare, write a report explaining what they found, and then discuss their findings with the class. In the report and discussion, students will ideally synthesize and analyze the readings and articulate their own thoughts on how language evolves over time, and how interpretations of Shakespeare and of other historical writings may (or may not) change due to social, cultural, and historical changes. This is an opportunity for students to reflect on how culture shapes literature, including both the writing and the reading of it.


Steps for Teacher

Steps for Librarian


Steps for Student

1.    Access the Tennessee Electronic Library.

2.    Select Expanded Academic ASAP.

3.    Enter the subject search: William Shakespeare.

4.    Click on the narrow by subdivision button.

5.    Click on View under language.

6.    Examine several articles that explore the use of language by Shakespeare.

7.    Write a report giving several examples of language used in Shakespeare’s time that isn’t used today and tell how this knowledge improved your understanding of his plays. Include in the report thoughts on how Shakespearean language reflects Elizabethan culture or the historical moment.

8.    Discuss your research with your class.

Related Activities

1.  Write a scene for a play using Shakespearean language.

2.  Watch a video production of a Shakespeare play and compare the language of the video to that of the
     print version.

3.  Obtain a copy of these books if possible: Coined by Shakespeare:  Words and Meanings First Used by
    the Bard
by Jeff McQuain or Shakespeare’s Language by Frank Kermode.

4.  View clips from contemporary performances and/or adaptations of Shakespeare’s work (e.g., the 1996
     film Romeo and Juliet (Dir. Baz Luhrmann); the modern adaptation Hamlet directed by Michael
    Almereyda (2000). Discuss differences and commonalities among different performances and readings  
    of Shakespeare. How much is the work and subject matter of Shakespeare specific to his time? In what
    ways is his writing relevant to readers today?

Students’ presentations, in-class discussions, and written reports will provide a variety of assessment methods. Students’ oral and written comments may be evaluated particularly in terms of:

-          Locating information sources appropriate to the search task

-          Using those sources to extract, analyze, and articulate information relevant to the assignment

-          Applying critical thinking to synthesizing and analyzing both Shakespearean literature and related
           literary criticism

-          Articulating in oral and written form both others’ and one’s original ideas

Other approaches to assessment might include small group discussions and small group presentations.  

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