31 – Much Ado About Teen Drama

The characters in Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing — and the social drama they create — will be very familiar to high schoolers.  The young people in this story bicker, gossip, rush to judgment, send friends to handle tricky conversations for them, and fail to consider the reliability of information before repeating it.

The characters in the play mostly come in pairs. The most interesting character contrast happens between Benedick, who is patient, thoughtful, mature, and his good friend Claudio, who is hot-headed, impulsive, and easily manipulated. Teenagers studying this play can look at Benedick and Claudio for excellent examples of who is boyfriend material and who is not, considering how their actions would affect real life relationships.

Activity: Claudio’s Apology

Claudio never apologizes to anyone for his mistakes and bad behavior in Much Ado About Nothing. He feels sorrow, but he never actually says he is sorry. Have students write a letter from Claudio to Hero apologizing for what he did to her. In the letter, he should not make excuses for why he acted as he did or try to shift blame elsewhere. He should take responsibility for his actions and accept the consequences, explain what he should have done, and offer to make what amends he can.

After writing letters, students can share what they have written with one another.

Activity: Should Hero Take Claudio Back?

In Much Ado About Nothing the happy ending is very satisfying. The wicked plot to break up Claudio and Hero is exposed, the good guys are laughing and dancing, and the bad guys have been hauled off to jail. However, if the story happened to young people in real life, everyone may have reacted quite differently.

Ask students to consider the following questions about actions that characters take in this play. Students may use the questions as prompts for discussion or answer one or more of them in writing.

    • How do you think you would react if you were treated the way Hero was when Claudio accused her of cheating on him on their wedding day in front of all of their friends and family?
    • At first, Leonato believes the accusations against his daughter. He shouts at Hero about how disappointed he is and even says he wishes she would die. How would it feel to be treated this way by a parent? How should Leonato have acted instead?
    • Do you think Hero should have resumed her relationship with Claudio  after he had caused her so much harm? Why or why not?
    • What punishment would be appropriate for Don John?
    • Is it ethical for friends to scheme to get couples together, even if the intentions and outcome are good?

Activity: Modern-day Beatrice and Benedick

Choose a scene from Much Ado About Nothing in which Beatrice and Benedick have a “merry war” of words between one another. Rewrite the scene, using the same style of insults and teasing but with modern-day English. The scene could be written as a theatrical script or in prose.

Music In This Episode

“I Care Not For These Ladies” by Thomas Campian from Philip Rosseter’s A Booke of Ayres (1601)

“Breake Now My Heart and Dye” by Thomas Campian from The Third Booke of Ayres (1617)

1 – Hatchet

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is a survival story, but it’s also a tale about a boy just starting to become more grown-up. In this episode, learn about how Brian Robeson has all of his physical and psychological certainties taken away from him, but he emerges stronger than ever after learning to survive on his own. Consider the health impacts of Brian’s diet during his forty-seven days alone in the Canadian wilderness and how he rapidly matures in the way he views his parents’ divorce.

Activity: How would you survive?

Have each student write a story about being in a survival situation all alone. The narrative must include:

    • Arriving at a remote location
    • A description of the location, including plants, animals, and climate
    • What resources or tools are immediately available
    • What resources or tools can be found or made
    • Methods of getting food, shelter, and protection from nature
    • What dangers would be encountered
    • What efforts would be made to escape or be rescued
    • A guess at the chances of survival in the short and long term

The narrative can be a short response or a longer work of art or creative writing. Students should share their work and discuss whether their story is plausible or fanciful.

Activity: What vitamins do you need to survive?

This activity is designed to help students understand why the human body needs vitamins. Students will fill out a chart that lists vitamins, their function, and the food sources which provide these vitamins. Parents and teachers can decide how much detail to go into based on student understanding and ability. It may be better for younger students to only research a few vitamins, whereas older students can go into greater depth. Students should do as much research on their own as possible.

Begin the activity by defining of a vitamin:

A vitamin is a nutrient that a living thing needs in order to function properly. Vitamins can almost never be made by the organism itself, so they must be obtained through its diet.

Next, provide students with a copy of this chart and instruct them to fill it out after performing research about which parts of the human body are affected by vitamins and which foods are rich in these vitamins. Answers will vary, as vitamins have many different functions in the body and they are found in many different food sources. After this activity students should be able to explain various sources of vitamins, how those vitamins support proper functioning of the body, and why it is important to eat a varied diet to obtain proper nutrition.

Advanced students can also write a research essay answering the following prompt:

In Hatchet, Brian spends fifty-four days eating only choke cherries, raspberries, hazelnuts, fish, grouse, and rabbit. What vitamins would he have been able to obtain from this diet? Which would have been missing? What would be the long-term effects of a diet with these vitamin deficiencies?