Analyzing the Script


Students will demonstrate their ability to analyze a script by breaking down their monologue/scene into beats of action.



Spark Notes Worksheet   Spark Notes Worksheet.Lesson 4

Turn Words into Drama PowerPoint  Textual Analysis.Lesson 4

Shakespeare glossaries, dictionaries


Go to the computer lab so that students can research their play using Spark Notes (worksheet)


HOOK: Take the Lady Macbeth monologue and pare it down to the barest essential dialogue.  Create a “Tweet” for the monologue in 140 characters or less.  This could be texted in to a specific number or written down and handed in.  If possible, have the Tweets visible to the students through projection.


How accurate and thorough was your tweet?  How many times do actor just get the “gist” of the text?    You need to know it backwards and forwards: the text is your vehicle to ride through on. 


Have the students take notes on the following lecture (PowerPoint).  These notes are taken from an article in Teaching Theatre by Bruce Miller titled “Turn Words into Drama”.


The focus in text analysis is knowing:

The meaning of the words individually and together (including definitions, historical allusions, poetic language, imagery, etc.)

The overall dramatic context for what is spoken

The specific dramatic circumstances that result in the words

The inflection and use of the words and punctuation


In order to know these things without being overwhelmed, it is important to break down the analysis in smaller portions or steps:


Start with learning the chronology of the play – especially leading up to the scene or monologue of the performance piece.  Focus on the learning about the DOING of the plot events through the dialogue; discover what the characters are saying in order to fulfill their needs.


Examine language for repetition, opposites, lists, etc.  These are clues on how to use the language to convey meaning.


Next look up the meanings of unfamiliar words or phrases.  Think of it as detective work where exciting discoveries can be made.  Remind the students again that to make the scene or monologue come alive they must know exactly what the characters are saying and meaning.


Now analyze the text by using the punctuation and identifying the operative words – the words that carry the most meaning in a phrase, line, or sentence.


Punctuation – consider them to be like traffic signals: period = stop = end of an idea; comma = yield = shift of an idea.  Keep the energy constant from one traffic signal to the next.


Operative Words – use scansion (the analysis of lines to determine where the naturally-occurring accented syllables are) and use verbs and nouns to figure out the most important words.


Next divide the piece into idea beats or phrases.  This step is important to separate thoughts and see the power of each phrase.  It also allows actors to play one beat against another. 


Playing the phrases allows thought to continue to the next line and identifies breathing spots. 


After phrasing is complete actors can use the concept of transition to move from one beat to another.  A transition causes a change of tone, a shift in color, a different use of energy, or a new purpose in what the speaker is saying.


Give the students the remainder of the class period to analyze their performance pieces according to the steps taught them today.  Float around the classroom helping the students with any questions or concerns they may have.  Prompt them to use any resources that you have available to them for ease of looking up definitions, etc.



Bring a handful of index cards and a ring or something like that to put them together with.



Students can be assessed through their participation in the tweet text, note taking or text analysis work.