Tutor profile: Brianna M.
This question is geared towards college-level students. "In an essay, take a scene from one of Shakespeare's tragedies and stage it. Describe your choices for costuming, blocking, setting, ect."
The scene in William Shakespeare’s Othello where the play’s titular protagonist strangles his innocent wife under the pretense that she has cheated on him with another man is one of the most well-known scenes in literature. Even those not familiar with the play itself most likely know of Othello’s seemingly imminent downfall into deception and despair. The staging of the scene is pivotal; directors are able to go down vastly different paths in terms of blocking, costume, and character choices. Making a scene memorable and striking involves careful planning around all of these aspects. The first aspect that I will touch on is the costuming. For this particular scene, I would not have Desdemona in any color other than white. The white would work to symbolize the character’s true, inner purity that Othello is so doubtful of. A simple white nightgown would suffice, no need for anything ostentatious. Othello would act as Desdemona’s visual antithesis; he would be fully dressed and in all dark colors, preferably black. While fully dressed, his clothes should be askew, as if he has gone through some long, mildly physical ordeal. I would not choose to change anything setting wise, so Othello and Desdemona would need clothing appropriate for the time. To set up the stage for the scene, I pictured myself being in a conventional Shakespearean theatre. Desdemona’s bed would be able to be easily concealed and thrust out from the discovery space as needed. While this may not be able to be done with ease in front of a live audience, I would ideally like to have simple white wax candles surrounding the bed and scattered sporadically on the stage. I first came up with this concept because of the line “…I know not where is that Promethean heat that can they light relume” (5.2.12-13). By the bed, I would put a simple vase containing a few red roses. I would choose to do this because of the ephemeral beauty of flowers that would symbolize Desdemona’s fleeting beauty and life, and to aid with the staging of the scene. I would also choose to have a sizeable fan offstage and unseen from the audience perspective. I will discuss this choice in more detail further later on. For the staging of this scene, I would have Desdemona already asleep in the bed for the beginning of the scene. The audience would have a few seconds to take in the softly lit scene in front of them; the stage will appear peaceful and perfect to act as a contrast for the violence that is soon to come. After a five-ten second delay, Othello would appear aloft on the above from a door. He should appear agitated, distracted, and torn. As he begins his soliloquy, his voice should not be harsh, but soft and with a deadly edge to it. As the scene progresses, the actor should allow more conviction to enter his lines. He should be travelling down to the main stage as he speaks his lines and reach the main stage by the line, “Put out the light, and then put out the light” (Shakespeare 5.2.7). After the second time saying the line, Othello should pick up the candle closest to him and blow it out, extinguishing it. By the line “When I have plucked thy rose I cannot give it vital growth again,” (Shakespeare 5.2.13-14), Othello should be hovering over Desdemona in her bed and he should pick up one of the roses and in a somewhat creepy, possessed manner, he should stroke her cheek with the rose. After this, there are no specific directorial choices I would make for a while and see what the actors do with the scene, but I would have Othello sitting on the bed beside Desdemona with the uncharacteristic stillness of a man possessed by one consuming thought. At Othello’s line “I say amen” (Shakespeare 5.2.63), the actual physical struggle should start to begin with Othello breaking out of his eerie stillness to reach out and try to push a waking Desdemona back into her original sleeping position. Desdemona should start resisting him, but the physical actions should not be overdone. The struggle will accelerate with the passing of lines, and the rest of the lines should have a somewhat desperate, hurried quality for both of the characters with Desdemona growing more hysterical as she realizes her fate. I mentioned having a large fan offstage previously. I would choose to do this for an added eerie effect to the scene. I would have the fan be audible to the audience, but not loud enough to be noted. The fan should be running as the audience starts to enter the theatre so that it acts as background noise and no attention is brought to it. The fan should run throughout the play until this scene. After Othello succeeds in smothering Desdemona, the fun should be abruptly shut off so that complete silence enters the theatre for the first time. I think that this would be effective in bringing the audience even further into the scene and it may be interesting to try out in practice.
This question is best suited for high school students. "What was the climax of 'Of Mice and Men'? After outlining the climax, describe the falling action."
The climax of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" takes place towards the end of the novel when Lennie accidentally kills Curley's wife. She enters the barn to find Lennie crying over his dead puppy and, in an attempt to console him, lets him touch her hair. Lennie, being the simpleminded giant he is, grabs her hair a little too roughly, causing Curley's wife to cry out in pain. Panicked, Lennie tries to stifle her cry, but in doing so inadvertently breaks the woman's neck. In the falling action of the novel, a distraught Lennie flees from the scene, heading to the previously designated meeting spot that George had told him to go to if trouble arose. The men at the ranch discover what Lennie has done and band together in a search party to hunt down Lennie. George, knowing what Lennie's fate would be if the men catch him, goes to the meeting spot. Upon finding Lennie, George assures him that he is not mad that Lennie did "a bad thing". He begins to describe the farm that they plan to one day own together and the rabbits that would be under Lennie's care. As the sound of the search party makes its way to them, George shoots Lennie in the back of the head so that the angry men cannot harm him.
For section, the question that I have selected would best suite a middle school - junior high school student. "Similes and metaphors are both used to make comparisons. Outline the difference between the two terms and give an example of each."
A metaphor is a figure of speech used to highlight a comparison between two unrelated things. It is to the point, as it directly equates one object or idea to another. Example: "The classroom was a zoo." A simile is a figure of speech used to make a comparison between two unrelated things as well, but unlike a metaphor, similes use the words "like" or "as" to create the correlation. Example: "As fit as a fiddle."
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