Lesson 2: It’s all Shakespeare to Me: Part Two

Lesson 2: It’s all Shakespeare to Me: Part Two


Lesson Objective: Students will continue to understand and decode Shakespearean language by translating the original Shakespeare scenes into a modern vernacular.



  • Shakespeare Scene Selections



Hook: Gibberish Translator

Introduce your students to the idea of speaking in “Gibberish”. (Gibberish means speaking with silly sounds that don’t mean anything, but still communicate an intention and meaning.)  Ask two students to take the stage.  One will speak gibberish, and the other will translate the gibberish into English.  Give the gibberish student a specific situation to talk about, or take suggestions from the class. (i.e. You have just come back from a walk on Jupiter, and you are telling us, a crowd of reporters, all about it.)  The gibberish speaker should speak only one line at a time, using as much physicality and vocal variety as he/she can. Then the interpreter will mimic the motions and ‘translate’ the phrase into English.


∙ A scientist explaining her recent discovery of a 2nd moon

∙ A pop singer giving a press conference after falling asleep during his concert performance

∙ A child describing what it was like getting her first cavity

∙ A chef explaining how to cook his favorite meal, candy spaghetti (or anything else!)

∙ A farmer explaining how to milk a cow in record time


Extension Activity: Gibberish Conversation

Ask two students to take the stage. They will be the actors in the scene.  Ask two more students to stand on either side of them. They will be the interpreters.  Give the actors a topic. (Or ask for a suggestion from the class.)  The first actor speaks a line in gibberish, then his interpreter will translate it into English for the audience.  The second actor then responds in gibberish, while her interpreter translates.  The translators are there for the audience


  1. Television interview
  2. A job interview
  3. A diplomatic meeting
  4. Doctors appointment
  5. Blind date

Allow several students to try and perform.



Explain to the students that they are obviously expert translators of gibberish so Shakespeare shouldn’t be a problem.



How do you think professional actors are able to perform Shakespeare and really communicate with the audience?

What is the first thing an actor performing Shakespeare needs to know in order to communicate to the audience?

  • They need to know what they are saying before they can say it!!!!


Group Activity: From Shakespeare to Slang

Have students sit in a circle with a pencil or pen.  Hand out a copy of a Shakespeare Scene to each member of the class.  They will go around the circle and each decode a line of Shakespeare and turn it into modern English.  They will all write down the new sentence next to the old one.  Encourage the students to:

  1. just go off their impulses
  2. guess on the words they don’t quite understand
  3. don’t worry if the translation isn’t perfect.

When you are finished the translating ask two students to read or perform the modern English version of the scene.



Did we understand the scene? Why?



Ask the same students to perform again only this time they will do the original Shakespeare.  Have them focus on using the same intention and communication as they did with the modern English.



Could you understand the Shakespeare scene? Why or why not?


Activity: From Shakespeare to Slang Partners

Have students find a partner.  Hand out a brand new Shakespeare Scene to each partnership.  As partners, the students will go through their scene and decode each line into modern slang, just like we did in the group.  They will write down the new sentence next to the Shakespearean one.  If students get really lost on a line they can ask you for help.  Encourage the students to:

  1. just go off their impulses
  2. guess on the words they don’t quite understand
  3. don’t worry if the translation isn’t perfect.

When they are finished the translating explain that we will perform again using our gibberish techniques from the beginning of class.



  1. Each partnership will perform, saying their Slang Line followed immediately by their Shakespeare Line.


Closing Discussion

Ask the students, “How does translating the Shakespeare into slang help or hinder your performances?

  1. Helps you understand the emotions or the reasoning behind the lines.
  2. Helps puts the scene into a meaningful context.
  3. Hinders because it’s not always a perfect translation between time periods.

Point out to students that there can be many different interpretations of Shakespeare; no one interpretation is correct.