OER Administrator
English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Grade 12 ELA
  • Ideas
  • Reading
  • Shakespeare
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Research On Shakespeare's Era

    Research On Shakespeare's Era


    In this lesson, students will discuss human rights. They’ll begin asking who in The Tempest is civilized. Students will research what life was like in Shakespeare’s time. Then they’ll read and annotate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • As the class continues reading The Tempest , determine which students need support, such as a reading partner or a Guided Reading Group.
    • Confirm you can access the Elizabethan Era website ( ).
    • Help students locate copies of the Independent Reading texts.

    Prospero?s Magic

    • Allow students about 3 minutes for the Quick Write.


    Complete a Quick Write as follows.

    • Make a list of the magic that Prospero uses in act 1.

    Open Notebook

    Prospero?s Magic

    • Circulate through the room, visiting each group and listening to their discussion. The written responses submitted by your students can be formative assessments and can help you determine which students need more support.

    Work Time

    Share your Quick Write list with your reading group, and then discuss the following questions. After listening to your group’s responses to each question, jot down brief answers and submit them to your teacher.

    • In what ways does Prospero wield his power (over Miranda, Ariel, Caliban, and Fernando)?
    • Why is Ariel bound to Prospero as a servant? How does Prospero treat him?
    • Why is Caliban bound to Prospero as a servant? How has Prospero treated him in the past, and how does he treat him now?
    • What are Ferdinand’s and Miranda’s responses to meeting each other?
    • What do you think are Prospero’s motives for causing this storm and shipwreck and the saving of those on board the ship?

    Open Notebook

    Who Is Civilized?

    • Facilitate a Whole Group Share.
    • Make a point of calling on at least one person from each group.
      • ELL: As students participate in the discussion, be sure to monitor for knowledge of the topic. Stay alert to follow up on contributions that seem unclear or ambiguous. When ELLs contribute, focus on content, and don’t allow grammatical difficulties to distract you from understanding the meaning (as much as possible). Help ELLs who make grammatical mistakes by rephrasing, but do it only when your rephrasing will not become an interruption or interfere with their thinking.

    Work Time

    With the whole class, discuss the following questions (in either order).

    • Who is civilized in this play so far? Explain your answer.
    • Who do the characters believe is the most civilized?

    Open Notebook

    Elizabethan Era Research

    • Assist students in finding Internet articles about punishments and entertainment during Shakespeare’s time. An Elizabethan Era website is suggested, but students can try searching elsewhere for information about punishments and entertainment in Elizabethan times.
    • After reading these articles, students might better be able to answer the questions about civilized behavior. For example, were the public executions (beheadings) of the Elizabethan era more civilized than what we do today? Is bearbaiting a civilized form of entertainment? Is dogfighting or cockfighting?
      • ELL: Some of the words in the questions can be somewhat difficult for ELLs to follow. If necessary, rephrase using words you know students can understand to allow ELLs to fully participate and to have a fair chance to answer the questions.

    Work Time

    How have ideas about civilized behavior and human rights changed since Shakespeare wrote his play?

    To be clear about this, use the Internet to research what was practiced in Shakespeare’s time when criminals were punished and for entertainment. Work with your reading group, with one part of your group looking for information about punishment and the other for information about entertainment.

    A suggested site for research is

    Look at the Elizabethan Era sitemap and find entries for Elizabethan Entertainment and Elizabethan Executions.

    Share with your group the information you find. Then go back to the initial question: How have ideas about civilized behavior and human rights changed since Shakespeare wrote his play?

    Discuss the following questions.

    • Were the public executions (beheadings) of the Elizabethan era more civilized than what we do today?
    • Is bearbaiting a civilized form of entertainment? Is dogfighting or cockfighting?
    • Are modern boxing and wrestling civilized?

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    • Give students time to read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to ask questions about the rights and discuss their meaning.
    • Some students may be interested in researching how this document has been used and whether or not it has been or can be enforced.

    Work Time

    In 1948, after the devastation of World War II, the newly formed United Nations adopted a set of “universal” human rights, rights for all people on Earth.

    • Read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
    • If you have any questions about what the rights mean, ask your teacher and classmates about them.

    Rights Violated

    • After giving students time to share in their small groups and record their answers in writing, help them find the reading for homework.
      • SWD: Be sure all students are fully engaged. Pair students who need help with students who can peer tutor them. Encourage SWDs to ask their group members to help clarify any concepts they still find confusing.


    Work with your group to determine which of the rights in the document have been violated for characters in the play. Write your answers to the following questions.

    • Who in The Tempest violates those rights?
    • Where in the play are the rights violated? (Which act, scene, and line?)

    Open Notebook

    In the next lesson, you will share your answers with the whole class.

    Choose one character whose rights have been violated according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Work with your group to produce prosecution evidence against the violator of human rights. During Lesson 3, you will have an opportunity to present this evidence. You will need to cite act, scene, and line numbers.

    Ariel?s Song

    • A sample annotation of Ariel’s song is provided. The annotation includes contextual information and clarifies difficult or arcane vocabulary words.
    • Remind students to choose and locate an Independent Reading text before Lesson 12.


    While reading Shakespeare’s The Tempest , you will have the opportunity once or twice to look carefully at the poetry in the play. An obvious place to begin is act 1, scene 2, lines 440–467. Ariel has been asked to lead Ferdinand to Prospero and Miranda.

    Read the lines carefully, and write your answers to the following questions.

    • What is the effect of the first part of Ariel’s song (beginning with “Come unto these yellow sands”) on Ferdinand?
    • In the song’s “burthen” (burden), or refrain, dogs bark and a rooster crows. How might these sounds affect a listener?
    • After the part beginning “Full fathom five thy father lies,” how does Ferdinand respond?
    • Much of this play has magic spells and invisible characters. How do you suppose these “special effects” were done during Shakespeare’s time? Draw a sketch of Ariel leading Ferdinand, and account for the fact that Ferdinand can’t see Ariel.

    Open Notebook