Comedy, Taming, and Desirability in The Taming of the Shrew

Through their reading of Shakespeare's play and supplemental texts, students examine the thematic idea of desirability and its relationship to societal messages generated by contemporary phobias and ideologies.

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ELA

Unit 5

9th Grade

Unit Summary


In Unit 5, through their reading of William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew and supplemental texts, students will examine the thematic idea of desirability and its relationship to the messages directed at us from the plethora of phobias and ideologies circulating in contemporary society. Throughout this unit, students will examine the relationship between characters and setting in a text and analyze how characters and scenes convey the values, attitudes, and traditions of a place in fiction; unpack how nonfiction writers unfold a series of complex ideas and synthesize their ideas to form a more nuanced understanding of a topic; and analyze how an author’s use of figurative language helps them to interpret poetry. 

This unit starts with a close reading of Li Young Lee's "This Room and Everything in It" and provides students the opportunity to begin to unpack the idea of desire and passion while also examining how a poet uses structure and other poetic techniques to convey meaning in a text. In the remainder of the first arc of the unit, students read a variety of supplemental texts to explore the various perspectives around what is considered desirable. Texts include "Barbie Doll," excerpts from The Bluest Eye, "My body is a cage of my own making" by Roxanne Gay, and "I Want a Wife" by Judy Brady. At the end of Arc one, students will engage in a Socratic Seminar and write an insight piece, putting various authors and texts into conversation with each other and reaching a new conclusion.

The second arc of the unit propels students into the language of Shakespeare using a select few sonnets, soliloquies, and monologues, including an excerpt from King Lear, act 1, scene 1; "My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun (Sonnet 130)"; and an excerpt from Macbeth, act 5, scene 1.  In this phase, students will examine how Shakespeare uses diction and syntax, specifically how he inverts sentences and uses wordplay to create meaning in his plays and poems.

The third arc of the unit is a study of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, a comedy written around 1590 and first published in 1898. The central conflict of the comedy revolves around Petruchio’s taming of Katherine in order to make her a desirable wife and allow suitors to court and marry her more desirable sister, Bianca. Students will analyze how Shakespeare uses fast-paced and witty dialogue to portray complex  characters, their values, and  their relationships. Additionally, students will consider how the comedic effect that Shakespeare produces helps to create social commentary on desirability. 

In the fourth and final arc of the unit, students will engage in a summative unit seminar on The Taming of the Shrew and prepare for the unit performance task in which they will research and analyze a time in history where there was an effort to tame a group of people who were considered less desirable in order to appease normative societal values or ideas using techniques that Shakespeare used in his comedy.

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Unit Syllabus

Build student independence and support their planning and self management by sharing the Unit Syllabus, which outlines the objectives and assignments for each lesson, as well as the assessments for the unit.

Texts and Materials


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Core Materials

Supporting Materials

Assessment


This assessment accompanies Unit 5 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Key Knowledge


Essential Questions

Thematic

  • Who or what decides who is romantically or socially desirable? How do we know a person is desirable or that we find them attractive?
  • What messages have phobias and ideologies directed at us about worth and belonging in our relationships?  What happens when we challenge the status quo around desirability?
  • How might societal standards of desirability impact our self-worth and relationship with our bodies and others?

Skill

  • How does Shakespeare leverage comedy to make a societal commentary?
  • In what ways does Taming of the Shrew advocate for changes in social or political attitudes?

Vocabulary

Text-based

commendable credulous entreat flout intolerable pedant peevish renowned sobriety strife woo wrangling

Literary Term

comedy and humor diction hyperbole monologue pun satire sonnet soliloquy tone wit

To see all the vocabulary for Unit 5, view our 9th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Themes

In order to successfully teach this unit, you must be intellectually prepared at the highest level, which means reading and analyzing all unit texts before launching the unit and understanding the major themes the authors communicate through their texts. By the time your students finish reading this text, they should be able to articulate and explain the major themes the authors communicate through their texts related to the following thematic topics as they uncover them organically through reading, writing, and discourse. While there is no one correct thematic statement for each major topic discussed in the unit texts, there are accurate (evidence-based) and inaccurate (non-evidence-based) interpretations of what the authors are arguing. Below are some exemplar thematic statements.

  • Desirability:
    • Standards of desirability are a social construct. When some people fail to meet those standards, like The Bluest Eye's Pecola Breedlove, it leads to self contempt while others like Katherine from The Taming of the Shrew actively fight against those standards until succumbing to them in order to get what she wants. Ultimately, standards of desirability are tragic and detrimental to those who are not yet considered desirable as it leads to negative feelings of self and impacts their sense of belonging. 
  • Nonconformity and Power:
    • When people meet standards of desirability and other societal expectations, they gain power and status that allows them to fluidly move through the world; however, in failing to conform to societal expectations, people lose power, become oppressed, and are often marginalized. While having a strong relationship with self and a sense of self-worth can counteract powerlessness, society is ultimately responsible for changing its structures of power in order to support those who do not meet societal expectations and are powerless.   

Lesson Map


Common Core Standards


Core Standards

L.9-10.5
L.9-10.5
RI.9-10.4
RI.9-10.6
RL.9-10.1
RL.9-10.2
RL.9-10.3
RL.9-10.3
RL.9-10.4
RL.9-10.4
RL.9-10.5
SL.9-10.1
SL.9-10.1
SL.9-10.1.a
SL.9-10.1.a
SL.9-10.1.b
SL.9-10.1.b
SL.9-10.1.c
SL.9-10.1.c
SL.9-10.1.d
SL.9-10.1.d
SL.9-10.2
W.9-10.2
W.9-10.2
W.9-10.3
W.9-10.4
W.9-10.8
W.9-10.9

Supporting Standards

L.9-10.1.b
RI.9-10.1
RI.9-10.2
RI.9-10.4
RL.9-10.1
RL.9-10.2
RL.9-10.3
RL.9-10.4
SL.9-10.1
SL.9-10.1.a
SL.9-10.1.b
SL.9-10.1.c
SL.9-10.1.d
W.9-10.1
W.9-10.1
W.9-10.1.a
W.9-10.1.b
W.9-10.1.c
W.9-10.1.d
W.9-10.2
W.9-10.2.f
W.9-10.5
W.9-10.5
W.9-10.6
W.9-10.10

Pre-AP English Standards


Core Standards

LO 1.2A
LO 1.2B
LO 1.2B
LO 1.3A
LO 1.3B
LO 1.4A
LO 1.4B
LO 2.2A
LO 2.2B
LO 2.2C
LO 2.2E
LO 2.3A
LO 2.3A
LO 2.3B
LO 2.3C
LO 2.3C
LO 2.3D
LO 2.3D
LO 2.4A
LO 2.4B
LO 2.4C
LO 3.1A
LO 3.1A
LO 3.2B
LO 3.2B
LO 3.3A
LO 3.3A
LO 4.1A
LO 4.1A
LO 4.1B
LO 4.1B
LO 4.1C
LO 4.1C
LO 4.2A
LO 4.2A
LO 4.2B
LO 4.2B
LO 4.2C
LO 4.2C
LO 5.1A
LO 5.1A
LO 5.1B
LO 5.1B

Supporting Standards

LO 1.1A
LO 1.1C
LO 1.2A
LO 1.2A
LO 1.3A
LO 1.4B
LO 2.1A
LO 2.1B
LO 2.1C
LO 2.1D
LO 2.2A
LO 2.3A
LO 2.3B
LO 2.3C
LO 2.3D
LO 3.1A
LO 3.2B
LO 3.3A
LO 5.1A
LO 5.1B
LO.1.1B
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Unit 4

Humor, Love, and Systemic Oppression in Born A Crime