The Prologue to Henry V

An Introduction to Shakespeare and his Globe

This is a great lesson as an introduction to Shakespeare and the Globe in general, even if you're not reading the whole play! 

Introduction: I have long loved the Prologue to Henry V, even using it as my audition monologue. However, this is the first lesson plan I have written specifically for it, and I believe the plan itself is universal--it could be used in middle or upper school, with students reading the full play or not, and with few students or many. Modify it as you see fit--and don't forget to visit the photos of my students performing their versions! 

Text: Shakespeare's Henry V

Grade: I did this with my juniors and seniors, but I think it could be easily adapted to other grade levels.

Difficulty: Moderate (students can make it as complex as they want to)

Applications: I feel certain you could use the same idea with prologues or epilogues to other plays, but this one lends itself to teaching about the Globe space as well, which is nice.

Objective: To create a student-generated audio-visual performance of the Prologue to Henry V.

Length of Time: Approximately four 40-minute class periods.

Handout: HenryVprologue.doc. This is a two-page document. The first page is a good handout for students. The second page is for you; the color coding shows you how might choose to break apart the line segments. (Each change in color represents the lines of a new student.)

Process:

Day 1:  Take students to an open space (outside, the theatre, the gym, etc.). Give each student a handout of the Prologue and instruct them to read it out loud as they walk and move through the space. They can circle any words they don't know, but they should keep working with the language regardless. Encourage students to try reading loudly or quietly, moving quickly or slowly. After approximately 15-20 minutes, gather students back together to review the Prologue. Define unknown words, then ask students who they think the Chorus is talking to and what the Chorus is instructing that person (or people) to do. Once the students have a better sense of the Prologue, assign each student a segment (possible breakdowns are shown on the second page of the handout). Homework: Begin memorizing your set of lines. Design a frozen picture, representative of your lines, that you will stage the rest of the class in while you are freezing.

Day 2: Today's goal is to stage the whole Prologue visually. Each student will take a turn (when it comes time for their lines) acting as the director and explaining their vision and the reason behind it before moving the class into position for their tableau. Homework: Review your lines and your placement in the frozen pictures for the rest of the Prologue.

Day 3: This is simply a rehearsal day. Students should run through the Prologue, once sitting at their desks and reviewing the lines, then up on their feet acting it several times. Encourage "directors" to really perfect their stage pictures, standing back to look at them and make alterations as needed.

Day 4: Now it's performance day! Let students run through for a "photo call," with you taking pictures as they review one last time. Then, stand back and let them perform their final memorized performance!