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Case Studies: “What Fools These Mortals Be”

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In this second unit, students will read and finish the play while they continue to follow the theme of control in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They continue to trace which characters wish to control or manipulate others, how they attempt to exercise this control, and whether or not they are successful. Students will study how Shakespeare drew upon Greek mythology for the play within the play as they study “Pyramus and Thisbe.” They will study how Shakespeare rendered the story new, and how the texts relate to the theme of control. In the two-part mid-unit assessment, students will first read another myth similar to “Pyramus and Thisbe”; they will then summarize the myth and analyze the narrative structure.

In the second part of the assessment, students will read a passage from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and analyze Shakespeare’s craft as an author in terms of word choice and structure. They will then compare this excerpt from the play with the story “Pyramus and Thisbe” as they engage in a deeper analysis of how the structure of each contributes to the meaning. For the end of unit assessment, students will write an argument essay in which they use the strongest evidence from the play to make a claim about whether Shakespeare makes the case that it is possible to control another person’s actions or not.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • What motivates people to try to control one another’s actions?
  • How do people try to control one another’s actions?
  • What happens when people try to control one another’s actions?
  • Is it possible for people to control one another’s actions?
  • Authors use the structure of texts to create style and convey meaning.
  • Authors use allusions to layer deeper meaning in the text.

Content Connections



Texts to buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please refer to Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Cover Text Quantity ISBNs
Shakespeare Set Free: Teaching Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth & A Midsummer Night’s Dream
by Peggy O’Brien
ISBN: 978-0-671-76046-5
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
by William Shakespeare
One per student
ISBN: 978-0743482813

Texts included in the unit

Texts that are included in the lesson materials.

Cover Text Quantity Publisher
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, film
by Michael Hoffman
Shakespeare’s Universal Appeal Examined,” in DNA
by Jonathan Bate
DNA, 2012
The Lure of Shakespeare
by Robert W. Butler
Calliope, 2005
The Shakespeare Shakedown
by Simon Schama
Newsweek, 2011
Top Ten Reasons Shakespeare Did Not Write Shakespeare
by Keir Cutler, Ph.D
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.,
The Harvest That Never Came
by Aaron Shepard
Cricket, 1993
"Pyramus and Thisbe"
by Thomas Bulfinch,



ELA G8:M2B:U2:L9

Optional Activities

Consider inviting actors from a local theater group to perform some of Shakespeare’s works and/or work with students so that students may perform excerpts of Shakespeare’s works. Local actors and directors might also provide expertise on staging, stage directions, and the choices they make when interpreting a script for a performance.

Consider having students attend a live production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and analyze the choices made by the actor and directors.

Arrange for students to perform excerpts or the entire play for various audiences, including younger children, nursing homes, shelters, etc.

With the library media specialist, provide opportunities for students to research other myths that Shakespeare may have drawn upon in his works.


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