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Lesson Plan

Happily Ever After? Exploring Character, Conflict, and Plot in Dramatic Tragedy

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Happily Ever After? Exploring Character, Conflict, and Plot in Dramatic Tragedy

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Haley Fishburn Moore

Hopkinsville, Kentucky


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



How would the story have changed if Romeo had received the letter? This lesson encourages students to pick a turning point in a tragedy and show how the action of the play would have been significantly altered had a different decision been made or a different action taken. Students use a graphic organizer to analyze the plot of the play. They identify a turning point in the play, alter the decision that the characters make, and predict the characters' actions throughout the rest of the play. Students create a plot outline of their altered play and present their new stories to the class. Teachers can test students' content knowledge and understanding of conflicts within the play while also challenging their creativity and their understanding of plot. This lesson focuses on Shakespearean tragedy, but it can be used with any tragedy that students have read or as a book report alternative.

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Drama Map: Use this online tool to outline the characters, conflict, resolution, and setting of the story.

Plot Diagram: Students can use this online tool to outline the events of a story.

Ideas for "Happily Ever After" Presentations: This handout offers suggestions for presentations of students' alternative endings to a tragedy, but the ideas are adaptable for other literary presentations as well.

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As Mary Maloney Toepfer and Kara Haubert Haas explain, process drama give students the opportunity to engage directly with a piece of literature in ways that allow critical thinking and encourage exploration. Toepfer and Haas explain that "According to Jeffrey Wilhelm and Brian Edmiston, leading practitioners in the field, process drama is ‘creating meaning and visible mental models of our understanding together, in imaginative contexts and situations. It is not about performance, but exploration' (xx)." Through this exploration, process drama works as a "tool by which students assume the persona of characters in a literary text and improvise what the characters might say and how they might react in challenging situations" (30). In this activity, students not only must assume the role of the characters, but they must also think through the influence that the decisions that their characters make play on the overall plot of the drama.

Further Reading

Toepfer, Mary Maloney, and Kara Haubert Haas. "Imaginative Departures with Two Shakespearean Plays." English Journal 92.5 (May 2003): 30-34.

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