English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Directing
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Performance
  • Plays
  • Shakespeare
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Character Analysis

    Character Analysis


    In this lesson, students will revise the final couplet of their sonnet, learn more about the characters in Much Ado About Nothing, and begin their Dialectical Journal. Finally, they will use their developing understanding of iambic pentameter to analyze Shakespeare’s language choices.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.

    The Final Couplet Sonnet Share

    • Have students share their sonnets. Have their partners check for iambic pentameter and the proper Shakespearean rhyme scheme ( abab ,cdcd ,efef ,gg ).
    • Remind them that the rhyming couplet (the last two lines) is special to the poem. It clarifies and can actually give new insight into all that has gone before. Remind them of the two sonnets they have studied and how those last lines gave the sonnets new meaning. Tell them to check for this.
    • Remind them that they will submit their completed sonnets for a graded assignment during the next lesson.
      • SWD: Suggest that students submit their work to you today if they would like your feedback while they have time to make changes.


    Share your sonnet with your partner.

    • Do the last two lines give new insight into the meaning of the sonnet?
    • Talk with your partner about your understanding of what he or she is trying to say.
    • Does your partner need to work on any specific elements of this sonnet? This is your last chance to help each other out!

    The Dialectical Journal

    • Explain the requirements of the Dialectical Journal. You will be collecting this journal after every act so that you can make sure that your students are understanding Shakespeare’s language. This also gives them a chance to correct for the next act what they did not do correctly in a previous act.
    • Because they need to quote act, scene, and line numbers to support their ideas, if they’re ready for it, this is a great place to introduce the standard notation: for example, act 1, scene 2, lines 10 to 12 would be written as (1.2.10–12) or (I.ii.10–12).
    • Model making an entry in the journal on the board, using the scene the class has already read. Think Aloud to show students how they should be using the journal.
      • ELL: Remind ELLs that Shakespeare can be hard to understand the first time around, even for native English speakers. Reiterate that questions are completely acceptable parts of a good Dialectical Journal entry.

    Work Time

    The Dialectical Journal is a double-entry journal that will help you think more clearly about your chosen passages and help you remember what you read.

    • Create a Much Ado About Nothing Dialectical Journal in your Notebook, based on the sample.
    • As you read the play, look for passages that are of interest to you. What is beautiful? What is unclear or puzzling? What is interesting? What tells you about a character’s true intentions? Put these passages’ act, scene, and line numbers in the left-hand column.
    • As soon as you put a passage in the left-hand column, comment on that passage in the commentary space to the right of the passage. The types of comments may include questions regarding, or reactions to, plot, characterization, relationships, or setting.
    • You must have at least two entries per scene, but you should be able to find four or five passages per scene on which to comment.

    Dialectical Journal, Act 1, Scene 1

    • Have students begin the Dialectical Journal in class.
    • Circulate through the room, offering help and advice as needed and answering any questions they have about how the journaling process works.
    • Have students share with their partners what they understand about the last section of act 1, scene 1 that wasn’t discussed as a class. Make sure they jot down their questions, comments, and concerns wherever works best for your class, either in annotations or in their Notebook.
    • Facilitate a conversation regarding the problems that they had with the rest of act 1, scene 1.

    Work Time

    Since you finished act 1, scene 1 on your own in the previous task, complete your first entry in your Much Ado About Nothing Dialectical Journal now.

    • Find a passage from act 1, scene 1 that you find interesting, puzzling, beautiful, or unclear. Create a Dialectical Journal entry for this passage.

    Open Notebook

    When you’ve finished, discuss what you read with your partner. Then, when your class is ready, share these questions and ideas with everyone.

    Act 1, Scenes 2 and 3

    • Review the scene summaries, making sure that your students understand what they are about to witness.
    • Assign roles for today’s reading.
      • ELL: For students who struggle with reading aloud, you can provide opportunities to practice outside of the whole-class reading sessions. This can be with just you, with a partner, or with a small group.
    • Read through scene 2 (27 lines), and then immediately go into scene 3 (75 lines).

    Work Time

    Finish reading act 1 aloud as a class. Your teacher will again assign roles.

    Character Chart, Scenes 2 and 3

    • Check in on students’ use of the Character Chart to this point, and offer comments and suggestions to those who need assistance.
    • Remind students to note the citation for the evidence they add to their chart, for future reference.

    Work Time

    Immediately, we see that nothing is as it appears. The characters are misunderstanding and misrepresenting each other, which, of course, will cause untold mayhem until the end of the play.

    • Take the time to review your Character Chart and update any information that you deem to be relevant.

    Iambic Pentameter or Prose?

    • There are many identified reasons for the switch between verse and prose: to differentiate between classes, for comic effect, for realism (in dialogue), and the like.
      • SWD: For students who may have a hard time initially telling the difference between iambic pentameter and prose, you can try several types of demonstrations, such as modeling how to scan the lines for the two forms, having two students read a line, one after the other, asking students to keep time with the stressed syllables, etc.
    • Facilitate a conversation, having students try to guess Shakespeare’s intent.
      • ELL: Review the idea of “intent,” and provide several options, if students struggle with this activity. Since the plays were written for performers to speak aloud, how does speaking in a rhyming pattern differ from speaking without rhyming?


    Note that not all of act 1 is written in iambic pentameter. Which parts are in iambic pentameter, and which parts aren’t? Why might Shakespeare have used prose?

    Keep in mind that “prose” refers to writing that does not follow a specific rhyming or rhythmic pattern. For example, this sentence (and all the ones that come before it) would be considered prose.

    • With a partner or in a small group, see if you can identify both where prose occurs and why you think Shakespeare might have decided to change his language.
    • Read the lines aloud if that will help you hear the differences in language better.

    When you are ready, discuss your questions, observations, and theories with the class.

    Dialectical Journal, Act 1, Scenes 2 and 3

    • Tell students to complete their Dialectical Journal entries for scenes 2 and 3.
    • Remind students to cite the original text for future reference.
    • Students will submit their entries in the next lesson as they begin working on act 2.


    Complete your Much Ado About Nothing Dialectical Journal entries for scenes 2 and 3. You will submit them during the next lesson.

    • As you go through these short scenes again, consider how these characters are judging each other.
    • What seems to be the determining factor in how one person views another?