Category Archives: Drama

Timeline: A Brief Biography of Shakespeare

Click Shakespeare Timeline below.

Or click here to view a larger version.

The timeline was created using TimelineJS, an open-source tool that can create interactive timelines by using entries in a Google Spreadsheet.

Sources: William Shakespeare: Complete Works (ed. Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, 2007);;;;;;;;


Intro to Drama: Tension

Dramatic readings, role play, and performances are a regular feature of my lesson plans. This connects to some objectives in both the Junior and Leaving Cert syllabus, for example:

“students should encounter opportunities for frequent practice in… interpreting orally and attempting performances” (JC English Draft Syllabus for Consultation (Rebalanced Syllabus), p. 16).

“Students should be able to… approach drama scripts from a theatrical perspective… [and] engage in interpretative performance of texts” (LC Syllabus, p. 14)

The performance of a texts serves many purposes: an interactive encounter with the text through active learning can engage students with the text in a meaningful way, the language is understood more easily (and allows for word decoding), and there is greater potential for enjoyment and appreciation of the text.

Furthermore, performing the text (or simply reading it aloud) offers the opportunity to demonstrate expression/intonation. Expressions can be influenced by punctuation and phrasing, and during the performance of a text this can also be influenced by a character’s body language, how they feel during a scene, and so on. Learning about this can develop students’ awareness of how dialogue is spoken when they are reading individually/silently.

The drama section of the 2001 JC Ordinary paper provided an excellent text for such use in class. Each student is given a copy of the text to read, then seven students are chosen to act out the scene.

A Street in Prague - Tension (2001 JCO paper)

What makes this text challenging (to students of all years) is the tension which must be created in the performance.

A few points for students to keep in mind during their performance:

  • The stage is “dimly lit” and it is “after curfew”. Combined with the information we are given about the play, we know that there is a tense atmosphere.
  • Body language is key for the entrance. For the “four teenagers with a ladder” to convey this tension, they must “enter sneakily”.
  • As expected, the teenagers need to be quiet. If students wished to portray urgency, they could speak the lines quickly and quietly- for example, Jan’s line “Oh no! Where? Where?”.
  • Given the setting and the circumstances, how accurate the performance of the stage directions “They freeze, afraid to look” and “Panic. All scatter” will be important to portray the scene’s credibility in the eyes of the audience. Likewise with the confrontation with the officers (all the while Anna is atop the ladder!).

The Merchant of Venice – Quotes

Title Page (The Merchant of Venice, Quarto 1, Boston Public Library)

Title Page (The Merchant of Venice, Quarto 1, Boston Public Library)

From The Merchant of Venice, Quarto 1, Boston Public Library

From The Merchant of Venice, Quarto 1, Boston Public Library













1.1.79-81 Antonio: I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano; / A stage where every man must play a part, / And mine a sad one.

1.1.132-133 Bassanio: To you, Antonio, / I owe the most in money and in love

1.1.140 Antonio: My purse, my person, my extremest means, / Lie all unlocked to your occasions.

1.1.148: Bassanio: I owe you much and, like a wilful youth, / That which I owe is lost.

1.1.163 Bassanio: In Belmont is a lady richly left, / And she is fair and, fairer than that word, / Of wondrous virtues

1.1.182 Antonio: Try what my credit in Venice can do

1.2.15 Portia: I may neither choose / whom I would, nor refuse whom I dislike, so is the will of a living daughter curbed / by the will of a dead father.

1.2.84-85 Portia: If he have the condition of a saint / and the complexion of a devil, I had rather he should shrive me than wive me.

1.3.11-12 Shylock: My meaning in saying he is a good man is to have you / understand me that he is sufficient.

1.3.24-26 Shylock: I will buy with you, sell with you, talk with you, / walk with you, and so following, but I will not eat with you, drink with you, nor / pray with you.

1.3.29-34, 38-39 Shylock [aside]: I hate him for he is a Christian, / But more, for that in low simplicity / He lends out money gratis and brings down / The rate of usance here with us in Venice. / If I can catch him once upon the hip, / I will feed fat the ancient grudge I bear him… Cursed be my tribe / If I forgive him!

1.3.49-52 Antonio: I neither lend nor borrow / By taking nor by giving of excess, / Yet to supply the ripe wants of my friend, / I’ll break a custom.

1.3.89, 93 Antonio: The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose… what a goodly outside falsehood hath!

1.3.102-3, 105, 116-118 Shylock: You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, / And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine… it now appears you need my help… you spat on me on Wednesday last; / You spurned me such a day; another time / You called me dog

1.3.120-122, 125-127 Antonio: I am as like to call thee so again, / To spit on thee again, to spurn thee too… lend it rather to thine enemy, / Who, if he break, thou mayst with better face / Exact the penalties.

1.3.129-132, 140-143, 155-158, 160-162, 165 Shylock: I would be friends with you and have your love, / Forget the shames that you have stained me with, / Supply your present wants and take no doit / Of usance for my moneys… let the forfeit / Be nominated for an equal pound / Of your fair flesh, to be cut off and taken / In what part of your body it pleaseth me… If he should break his day, what should I gain / By the exaction of the forfeiture? / A pound of man’s flesh taken from a man / Is not so estimable, profitable neither… To buy his favour, I extend this friendship: / If he will take it, so, if not, adieu. / And for my love, I pray you wrong me not… this merry bond.

1.3.170-171 Antonio: Hie thee, gentle Jew. / This Hebrew will turn Christian, he grows kind.

1.3.172 Bassanio: I like not fair terms and a villain’s mind.

2.1.1 Morocco: Mislike me not for my complexion

2.1.15 Portia: the lott’ry of my destiny / Bars me from the right of voluntary choosing.

2.2.14-15, 16-17 Lancelet: I should stay with the Jew, my master, who, God bless the mark, is a / kind of devil… Certainly the Jew is the very devil / incarnation

2.2.49-50 Lancelet: It is a / wise father that knows his own child.

2.2.73 Lancelet: I am a Jew if I serve the Jew any longer.

2.2.104 Lancelet [to Bassanio]: you have the grace of God, sir, and he hath enough.

2.3.2 Jessica: Our house is hell

2.3.15-19 Jessica: To be ashamed to be my father’s child! / But though I am a daughter to his blood, / I am not to his manners. O Lorenzo, / If thou keep promise, I shall end this strife, / Become a Christian and thy loving wife.

2.5.34 Shylock: My sober house.

2.5.53-54 Jessica: if my fortune be not crossed, / I have a father, you a daughter lost.

2.7.80 Portia: Let all of his complexion choose me so.

2.8.12-17, 21-22 Solanio: I never heard a passion so confused, / So strange, outrageous, and so variable, / As the dog Jew did utter in the streets: / ‘My daughter! O my ducats! O my daughter! / Fled with a Christian! O my Christian ducats! / Justice, the law, my ducats, and my daughter!… Find the girl, / She hath the stones upon her, and the ducats’.

2.8.37, 47-50 Salerio: I saw Bassanio and Antonio part… his eye being big with tears, / Turning his face, he put his hand behind him, / And with affection wondrous sensible / He wrung Bassanio’s hand, and so they parted.

2.8.51 Solanio: I think he only loves the world for him [i.e. Bassanio is all he lives for].

3.1.37-40, 44, 45-49 Shylock: If it will feed nothing else, it will feed my revenge. He / hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked / at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated / mine enemies, and what’s the reason? I’m a Jew… If you prick us, do we not bleed?… And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we were like you in / the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his / humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by / Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it / shall go hard but I will better the instruction.

3.1.59-60 Shylock: I would / my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear!

3.1.78 Tubal: One of them showed me a ring that he had of your daughter for a monkey.

3.2.174-177 Portia: I give them with this ring, / Which when you part from, lose or give away, / Let it presage the ruin of your love / And be my vantage to exclaim on you.

3.2.266-268 Bassanio: I have engaged myself to a dear friend, / Engaged my friend to his mere enemy, / To feed my means.

3.2.325 Bassanio [reading letter]: ‘Notwithstanding, use your pleasure, if your love do not persuade / you to come, let not my letter’.

3.3.5-6 Shylock: I’ll have my bond. Speak not against my bond. / I have sworn an oath that I will have my bond.

3.3.29, 31-32 Antonio: The duke cannot deny the course of law… if it be denied, / Will much impeach the justice of the state

3.4.16-17 Portia: this Antonio, / Being the bosom lover of my lord, / Must needs be like my lord

3.5.1-2 Lancelet: the sins of the father are to be laid upon the / children

3.5.7-8 Lancelet: you may partly hope that your father got you not, that you are not / the Jew’s daughter

3.5.14 Jessica: I shall be saved by my husband. He hath made by a Christian.

3.5.22-23 Jessica: [Lancelet] tells me / flatly there is no mercy for my in heaven because I am a Jew’s daughter

4.1.5-6 Duke: A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch / Uncapable of pity, void and empty / From any dram of mercy.

4.1.11-14 Antonio: I do oppose / My patience to his fury, and am armed / To suffer with a quietness of spirit / The very tyranny and rage of his.

4.1.26-27, 35 Duke: touched with humane gentleness and love, / Forgive a moiety of the principal… We all expect a gentle answer, Jew.

4.1.37-38 Shylock: by our Holy Sabbath have I sworn / To have the due and forfeit of my bond

4.1.60-62 Shylock: can I give no reason, nor will I not, / More than a lodged hate and a certain loathing / I bear Antonio

4.1.67 Bassanio: Do all men kill the things they do not love?

4.1.68 Shylock: Hates any man the thing he would not kill?

4.1.69 Bassanio: Every offence is not a hate at first.

4.1.70 Shylock: What, wouldst thou have a serpent sting thee twice?

4.1.84 Antonio: Let me have judgement and the Jew his bond.

4.1.85 Bassanio: For thy three thousand ducats here is six.

4.1.88 Shylock: I would have my bond!

4.1.89 Duke: How shalt thou hope for mercy, rend’ring none?

4.1.90-91, 94-95, 98-104 Shylock: What judgement shall I dread, doing no wrong? / You have among you many a purchased slave… Shall I say to you, / Let them be free, marry them to your heirs?… You will answer / ‘The slaves are ours’. So do I answer you: / The pound of flesh which I demand of him / Is dearly bought, ’tis mine and I will have it. / If you deny me, fie upon your law! / There is no force in the decrees of Venice. / I stand for judgement.

4.1.114-115 Bassanio: The Jew shall have my flesh, blood, bones and all. / Ere thou shalt lose for me one drop of blood.

4.1.116-117, 119-120 Antonio: I am the tainted wether of the flock, / Meetest for death… You cannot be better employed, Bassanio, / Than to live still and write mine epitaph.

4.1.123 Bassanio: Why dost thou whet thy knife so earnestly?

4.1.124  Shylock: To cut the forfeiture from that bankrupt there.

4.1.125-126 Gratiano: Not on thy sole, but on thy soul, harsh Jew, / Thou mak’st thy knife keen.

4.1.144 Shylock: I stand here for law.

4.1.171 Portia/Balthasar: Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew?

4.1.182 Portia: Then must the Jew be merciful.

4.1.183 Shylock: On what compulsion must I? Tell me that.

4.1.184-187, 195-200 Portia: The quality of mercy is not strained, / It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven / Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: / It blesseth him that gives and him that takes… It is an attribute to God himself; / And earthly powers doth then show likest God’s / When mercy seasons justice: therefore, Jew, / Though justice be thy plea, consider this, / That in the course of justice, none of us / Should seek salvation.

4.1.206-207 Shylock: My deeds upon my head! I crave the law, / The penalty and forfeit of my bond.

4.1.218-219 Portia: there is no power in Venice / Can alter a decree establishèd.

4.1.228-230 Shylock: An oath, an oath, I have an oath in heaven. / Shall I lay perjury upon my soul? / No, not for Venice.

4.1.247 Portia: You must prepare your bosom for his knife.

4.1.258-259 Portia: Are there balance here to weigh / The flesh?

4.1.260 Shylock: I have them ready.

4.1.261-262 Portia: Have by some surgeon, Shylock, on your charge, / To stop his wounds, lest he should bleed to death.

4.1.263 Shylock: Is it so nominated in the bond?

4.1.264-265 Portia: It is not so expressed, but what of that? / ’Twere good you do so much charity.

4.1.266 Shylock: I cannot find it, ’tis not in the bond.

4.1.279-281 Antonio: Say how I loved you; speak me fair in death. / And when the tale is told, bid her be judge / Whether Bassanio had not once a love.

4.1.288-289 Bassanio: life itself, my wife, and all the world, / Are not with me esteemed above thy life.

4.1.294-296 Gratiano: I have a wife, whom, I protest, I love. / I would she were in heaven, so she could / Entreat some power to change this currish Jew.

4.1.299-301 Shylock: These be the Christian husbands. I have a daughter. / Would any of the stock of Barabbas / Had been her husband rather than a Christian.

4.1.310-316 Portia: This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood. / The words expressly are ‘a pound of flesh’. / Then take thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh, / But in the cutting it, if thou dost shed / One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods / Are by the laws of Venice confiscate / Unto the state of Venice.

4.1.318 Shylock: Is that the law?

4.1.319-321 Portia: Thyself shalt see the act, / For thou urgest justice, be assured, / Thou shalt have justice, more than thou desirest.

4.1.327-328 Portia: The Jew shall have all justice. Soft, no haste. / He shall have nothing but the penalty.

4.1.342 Shylock: Give me my principal, and let me go.

4.1.344-345 Portia: He hath refused it in open court. / He shall have merely justice and his bond.

4.1.381-384 Shylock: Nay, take my life and all. Pardon not that. / You take my house when you do take the prop / That doth sustain my house. You take my life/ When you do take the means whereby I live.

4.1.388, 393-397 Antonio: quit the fine for one half of his goods… that for this favour / He presently become a Christian. / The other, that he do record a gift / Here in court of all he dies possessed / Unto his son Lorenzo and his daughter.

4.1.403-405 Shylock: I pray you give me leave to go from hence, / I am not well. Send the deed after me, / And I will sign it.

4.1.415-146 Duke: Antonio, gratify this gentleman, / For in my mind you are much bound to him.

5.1.144-145 Bassanio: this is Antonio, / To whom I am so infinitely bound.

5.1.146-147 Portia: You should in all sense be much bound to him, / For, as I hear, he was much bound for you.

5.1.205-27, 210 Bassanio: If you did know to whom I gave the ring, / If you did know for whom I gave the ring, / And would conceive for what I gave the ring… You would abate the strength of your displeasure.

5.1.265-267 Antonio: I dare be bound again, / My soul upon the forfeit, that your lord / Will never more break faith advisedly.

5.1.283-284 Portia: Portia was the doctor, / Nerissa there her clerk.

5.1.299-300 Bassanio: Sweet doctor, you shall be my bedfellow, / When I am absent, then lie with my wife.

Link to film adaptation of The Merchant of Venice (2004, directed by Michael Radford, starring Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons):

Intro to Drama: ‘In the Witch’s House’

In the Witch’s House (PDF) (adapted from TES contribution by diamond_raindrops)

Preview:In the Witch s House-page-001

Intro to Drama: Performance Activity (Macbeth 4.1)

Macbeth 4.1 role play activity (adapted from resource at


satscen(edited) adapted from

Possible questions related to the performance activity:

  • What sound effects would you use?
  • How would you perform the scene as the First/Second/Third Witch? Why?
  • What about stage directions – who would move and when? How would they move? Why do you think they would move in that way?
  • How would you describe/visualise the setting?
  • What about costumes? Colours? Props?
  • What effect does the alliteration, assonance, and rhyming have?
  • Explain how you would perform/stage the scene.

Performance of the scene in groups of threes (one for each Witch) can illustrate to students that it is a living text that is meant to be performed, help students understand pace of the dialogue/scene and stage directions, and offer them the opportunity to improvise staging and prop usage, etc.

stage arena


Follow-up design activity (aimed at Junior Cycle students):

Q.1. Design the front page of a tabloid newspaper. Be sure to include a picture of the witches and a short news report about the scene on the front page.


Q.2. Draw/sketch the scene in detail. Include the witches, setting and props in your drawing.