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Shakespeare's King Lear and Akira Kurosawa's Ran

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Shakespeare's King Lear and Akira Kurosawa's Ran

Rationale for Unit: In reading Shakespeare’s play King Lear, the historical context of the play and its setting gives it a particular atmosphere and mood. How would this atmosphere and mood differ if the historical context and setting was changed? Students will be able to explore this by comparing Shakespeare’s play with Akira Kurosawa’s movie Ran, which incorporates the plot line of King Lear.
Skill and Content Objectives: from California Department of Education English Language Development Standards for Grades 11–12
6. Reading closely literary and informational texts and viewing multimedia to determine how meaning is conveyed explicitly and implicitly through language
7. Evaluating how well writers and speakers use language to support ideas and arguments with details or evidence depending on modality, text type, purpose, audience, topic, and content area
8. Analyzing how writers and speakers use vocabulary and other language resources for specific purposes (to explain, persuade, entertain, etc.) depending on modality, text type, purpose, audience, topic, and content area
9. Expressing information and ideas in formal oral presentations on academic topic
10.Writing literary and informational texts to present, describe, and explain ideas and information, using appropriate technology
11. Justifying own arguments and evaluating others’ arguments in writing
12. Selecting and applying varied and precise vocabulary and language structures to effectively convey ideas
Lesson Plan: This unit will take place after students have finished reading King Lear and we have discussed its meaning and significance in class.
Day 1: Review how King Lear both reinforces and critques the morals and values that existed in Elizabethan England.
Topics to be discussed in class.
1. Loyalty to the King and the throne.
2. Maintenance of the social hierarchy
3. The relationship of the King to his subjects.
4. Filial loyalty to one’s parents

Homework: Find one scene from King Lear that illustrates one of the topics discussed in class. Describe what Shakespeare is conveying about the topic through the scene. Does the scene serve to reinforce the morals/values of the Elizabethan Period, or do they serve as a critique? Support/Defend your responses.
Day 2: Separate students into groups based on the topic they selected for their homework assignment. Students with the same topics will be placed in the same groups. In their groups, they will read and critique each others homework assignment. They will then selected ONE homework assignment that they think is superior than the others. Then, focusing on the homework assignment that they selected, they will discuss how the historical context of the play and its setting influenced their interpretation of the scene. They will also discuss the mood and atmosphere of the scene, using details and explanations to support their responses. Each group will then give a presentation to the rest of the class on homework assignment they selected and how they felt the historical context and setting affected their interpretation of the scene.
Day 3: Previous to the class meeting, the instructor selects scenes from the movie Ran that parallel the scenes from four of the homework assignments singled out by students as being superior. In class, students will be given copies of the homework assignments that were singled out by students the day before. Before showing each of the scenes from Ran, the class will review the scene and how its atmosphere and mood are affected by the context of the play and its setting. Then, the scene from Ran will be shown in class. During the viewing, the students will take notes on the following points:
1. How does the setting in the movie affect the atmosphere/mood of the scene? Specify how.
2. How does the clothing worn by the characters affect the atmosphere/mood of the scene? Specify how.
3. Is the impact of the scene from the movie more effective or less effective than the scene from the play? Specify why.
4. What is one main difference between the scene from Ran and the one you envisioned when you read the scene in King Lear?

Day 4: Student will be placed into the same groups they were in on Day 2. They will discuss their responses to the questions on the scenes from Ran. As a class, we will then review how King Lear was written to appeal to the sensibilities of the Elizabethan audience. Then, the students will be asked to speculate what the scenes they saw from Ran reveal about the sensibilities and values of the Japanese audience.
1. What values seem to be emphasized in the scene from Ran? How are they values presented?
2. What sensibilities of the Japanese audience are conveyed by the scene from Ran? What details from the scene make this clear?
3. What, if any, values in the scenes from Ran clash with those present in Elizabethan England? State what they are and explain why there would be a clash.
The students will be reminded that Ran was produced for a modern Japanese audience. They will then discuss the reasons why the director, Akira Kurosawa, used the context and setting that he did, and what he hoped to achieve by doing so. Students will then share their findings/discussions with the rest of the class.
Assessing Student Achievement: Student work will be assessed when they give their presentations. All student work will be collect and evaluated for the accuracy of their observations and the validity of the support used to defend their assertions.

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Message from dchoi

I think this is a great unit in which Western literature is compared to East Asian Literature. I plan to do Romeo and Juliet and it would be great to compare it with an East Asian short story to show that stories and themes are very universal. If anyone knows of any this would be greatly appreciated!