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Lesson Plan

Reading Shakespeare's The Tempest through a Postcolonial Lens

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Reading Shakespeare's The Tempest through a Postcolonial Lens

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Nine 50-minute class sessions
Lesson Author

Amy Williams

New Berlin, New York


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



Students begin this unit by closely analyzing an excerpt from Mary Rowlandson's The Captive: The True Story Of The Captivity Of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson Among The Indians. They then compare an excerpt of Shakespeare's The Tempest with Aimé Césaire's A Tempest in order to facilitate a postcolonial reading of Shakespeare. Students will arrive at an understanding of the other and will consider how canonical literature may position white characters in relation to those of different ethnicities. Students will question the perspective of writers like Shakespeare and will consider Césaire's A Tempest as a form of resistance to dominant narratives.

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Beth Wilson advocates for teaching theory to high school students because "teenagers have the potential to grow significantly by applying critical lenses to texts and the world" (69). When students are able to analyze texts through practice with literary theory in class, they are better able to make sense of and think critically about the media they consume on a daily basis. Kimberly Parker offers a compelling way to guide students to an understanding of postcolonial theory; through Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche's TED talk "The Danger of a Single Story," students are asked to think critically about singular and simplistic narratives about people and places that they may have taken for granted. In this unit, students similarly use Adiche to facilitate discussions are asked to locate the "incompleteness" of stories told by canonical authors like Shakespeare. Students are asked to examine the perspectives of Western authors and critically analyze representations of "the other."

Parker, K. N. (2014). Beyond single literacy stories. English Journal, 103(4), 16-17.


Wilson, B. (2014). Teach the how: Critical lenses and critical literacy. English Journal, 103(4), 68-75.

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