Punctuation and King Henry VI Parts 1, 2, and 3


Students will demonstrate their knowledge of the importance of Shakespearian punctuation and Shakespeare’s history plays by discussing Henry VI Parts 1, 2, and 3 and analyzing the punctuation of their monologue to develop their characters.


Materials Needed:

– student’s monologues
– student’s first folios
– Henry VI plays synopses
– 10-12 copies of the Hamlet first folio monologue


Play Synopsis (30 minutes)

Henry VI Parts 1, 2, and 3 all at once!
Select a student to draw on the board again.
Remind students to take notes on the plays.


Discussion: (15 minutes)

What makes this play a history? (British king, historical events, includes a lot of battles)
What does this play have to do with your life? (real friends who tell you what you NEED to hear vs. friends who tell you what you WANT to hear)


Hook: (3 minutes)

Have a student read the following paragraph on the board.
Oh, what a day? Not only are my shoes soaking wet. But I’m running late, I couldn’t find a parking spot:
What’s wrong with these sentences? Punctuation!
Sometimes we forget how important punctuation is in our speech because we’re so used to it matching the temperament of our sentences. If the sentence is asking a question, it ends in a question mark. If someone is extremely excited, we see an exclamation point. But Shakespeare squeezed a little more out of his punctuation than most people.


Instruction: (15 minutes)

As we discussed a few days ago, the first folio was the first complete compilation of Shakespeare’s plays. Only this version of the plays has the correct punctuation in it which is why you have to have your first folio in front of you in order to know the real punctuation. In Shakespeare’s time, he would write a play, hand it to his actors, and have zero rehearsal time to discuss the many finer details of characters. So, he gave his actors clues and hints as they did their own study. The punctuation is the key! It tells us the emotional state and thought process behind the words. This is also why there is no subtext in Shakespeare. Characters say what they mean. They might lie or be cryptic towards other characters, but the audience always knows what they’re actually thinking.


Major punctuation: As a general rule, motivating a short pause at major punctuation is appropriate. Losts of major punctuation close together usually means a brain-storm or breakdown is about to happen.
. period is the end of a complete thought. Beat change. Switch tactics.
: colons represent a logical connection between thoughts
; semicolons represent an emotional connection between thoughts. Because of the power inherent in the point discovered, the character is left with some emotional difficulty.
! exclamation points… if you have one of these in your first folio, just count yourself blessed. It’s Shakespeare’s gift on a silver platter to make this phrase bigger than big.
? question marks are sometimes just question marks signaling the character asking a question. Other times they more figuratively represent the character not being quite sure about what they’re saying, but it shouldn’t be stated like a question.


Minor punctuation: As a general rule, minor punctuation keys you into a new thought, but does not require a pause.
, commas are just commas. But if your character is using more commas than normal in a certain section, it could be deduced that they are drawing attention to small details, or needing every little breath… or perhaps something else. If there is a lack of commas, that may signify a lack of control… or something else.
– dashes on either side of a thought are usually a tangent.
() parentheses basically just mean what they mean now—side information that’s useful to know.
CAPITALS- indicates the character chose this word specifically. Their brain is working hard. Usually, they are being quite intelligent.
Misssspellins- Words that are spelled longer than they should be in the first folio (i.e. shee instead of she sor sonne instead of son) indicate that there is some sort of emotional connection to that word for the character.


Practice: (15 minutes)

This is the first folio version of Hamlet’s soliloquy from Act 1, Scene 2 in Hamlet. There is a LOT of punctuation. Get into groups of 4 and sit quietly for instructions.


First, read through the monologue and WITHOUT looking at the punctuation, decide overall if you think he is being emotional or logical. It’s helpful if only one person can see the monologue so no one else can see the punctuation.
Second, figure out what you think the punctuation means for Hamlet’s character. When is he logical? When is he emotional? Is this similar or different from your initial thoughts?


How weary, stale, flat, and vnprofitable
Seemes to me all the vses of this world?
Fie on’t? Oh fie, fie, ’tis an vnweeded Garden
That growes to Seed: Things rank, and grosse in Nature
Possesse it meerely. That it should come to this:
But two months dead: Nay, not so much; not two,
So excellent a King, that was to this
Hiperion to a Satyre: so louing to my Mother,
That he might not beteene the windes of heauen
Visit her face too roughly. Heauen and Earth
Must I remember: why she would hang on him,
As if encrease of Appetite had growne
By what it fed on; and yet within a month?
Let me not thinke on’t: Frailty, thy name is woman.


Practice: (10 minutes)

Students have the remainder of class to transfer the punctuation from their first folio to their scripts. When they turn their scripts in at the end of the unit, the punctuation must be highlighted in some obvious way. Students should take the time now to look at their monologue in the context of the play. Remember punctuation only gives us clues, not answers. Simply highlighting the punctuation doesn’t do you any good if you don’t know the character well enough to know what it means.



Due next time at the start of class is a bulleted list of what hints you got from your punctuation and how it applies to your character. If you finish before the bell rings, keep it till next class.


King Henry VI.1,2,3 Synopsis