To paraphrase the late film critic Roger Ebert, movies would be a lot shorter if the right two people just got together and had a smart conversation.
It’s certainly something that William Shakespeare could have taken a page from 400 years ago. Instead, he brought us characters who engaged in wicked swordplay, poisoning, spreading scandals, thwarting romance and duplicitously conniving for riches…and that was just within their own families. How very different those lives might have turned out if they could have availed themselves of a professional sounding board; specifically, a trained psychotherapist to help them sort out their feelings prior to acting on them.
The lesson plans this month imagine six of the Bard’s females, each of whom has distinctly different reasons to book a session with the wise Dr. Norma, a contemporary shrink who uses her days off to time-travel to 17th century England. Each scene you write should be 3-6 pages in length and deliver an accurate picture of each lady’s personality and particular quandary.
Not familiar with their storylines? There are a number of great resources online, including:
• No Fear Shakespeare (http://nfs.sparknotes.com/)
• Simplified Shakespeare (http://www.simplifiedshakespeare.com/)
• No Sweat Shakespeare (http://www.nosweatshakespeare.com/characters/shakespeares-most-powerful-women/)
• What Can You Learn from Shakespeare’s Heroines? (http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-37562329)
• Were Shakespeare’s Heroines Liberated? (https://www.bard.org/study-guides/were-shakespeares-heroines-liberated)
For the fun of it, you may even want to experiment with what “modern” English would read like in Shakespeare’s day at https://lingojam.com/englishtoshakespearean. Type in a phrase on the left and its translation will appear on the right:
I want to run away with my boyfriend = I wanteth to runneth hence with mine own boyfriend.
My sisters always steal my stuff = Mine own sist'rs at each moment stealeth mine own stuffeth.
Does this crown make my head look big? = Doest this coronet maketh mine own headeth behold big?
Juliet’s dilemma: Her parents, the Capulets, don’t like Romeo Montague, the new boy she has secretly been dating. They want her to break it off because they think she is much too young to be in a relationship. She thinks it would be way cooler and much more dramatic to pretend to kill themselves so their respective families will see just how serious they are about being together forever.
DOES THIS CROWN MAKE MY HEAD LOOK BIG?
Lady MacBeth’s dilemma: She thought she was marrying a guy with lots of ambition. The passage of years, though, has revealed he really doesn’t want a bigger castle or lots of power. Now contemplating divorce—and knowing he’s averse to couples counseling—she wonders whether he might appreciate her more if she takes matters into her own hands and invites his boss to dinner.
MY SON TALKS TO SKULLS
Queen Gertrude’s dilemma: Accepting a new stepfather hasn’t been easy for her only son, Hamlet. Maybe it’s because (1) the new stepfather is his Uncle Claudius and (2) Claudius may have murdered his brother to become King of Denmark. Gertrude wonders whether there are some bonding exercises they might try to improve communications.
THE SNEAKY SIBS
Cordelia’s dilemma: It’s bad enough that her older sisters, Goneril and Regan, so shamelessly compete for their dad’s affection; she is now forced to share a room with them and they are constantly stealing her stuff. She feels she needs advice on how to speak up for herself and establish boundaries before things get out of hand.
Hermia’s dilemma: Everything was going fine with Hermia’s plan to run off with Lysander until he awoke from a strange evening in the forest and has suddenly decided he’s in love with her best friend, Helena. To spite them both, she could always marry the besotted Demetrius…except that now Demetrius is pursuing Helena, too. How do you cope with a bestie who, overnight, has become more popular than you are?
HE NEVER WRITES, HE NEVER CALLS
Ophelia’s dilemma: She did all of the right things to be the loving, supportive girlfriend. She made him shirts. She baked him cakes. She memorized the lyrics of all his favorite songs. She knows he’s not seeing anyone else but why-oh-why is he too preoccupied to pay attention to her? Would it be practical to take up some of his hobbies—even though she loathes them—in order to forge more “us” time?
As part of my ongoing commitment to supply great lesson plans for today’s classrooms, I always enjoy getting feedback on how the material is used and what kind of new content you’d like to see in future columns. I’m also happy to answer any questions related to specific problems your students may be struggling with. Just drop me a note at or through my website at http://www.authorhamlett.com.
Former actress/director Christina Hamlett is an award winning author, professional script consultant, and ghostwriter. Her credits to date include 36 books (among them, Screenwriting for Teens and Could It Be a Movie), 163 plays for young actors, and 5 optioned feature films.