Students use an excerpt from Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor to consider varying definitions of “humor” in the author’s time. Students examine primary sources featured in the “And there’s the humor of it” Shakespeare and the four humors online exhibition to learn about the four humors and the humoral theory, as well as review dramatic structure.
- Humour” Excerpt: Merry Wives of Windsor Act 2, Scene 1 (PDF, Word);
- Teacher’s “Humour” Excerpt: Merry Wives of Windsor Act 2, Scene 1 (PDF, Word)
- Four Humors Primary Sources (PDF, Word)
- Four Humors Chart (PDF, Word);
- Teacher’s Four Humors Chart (PDF, Word)
- Four Humors in Hamlet (PDF, Word);
- Teacher’s Four Humors in Hamlet (PDF, Word)
- Dramatic Structure Review (PDF, Word);
- Teacher’s Dramatic Structure Review (PDF, Word)
Other materials and set-ups
- A display set-up for the class (e.g., front board for class notes, overhead projector and screen, smart or Promethean board, etc.)
- (Optional) Laptops or access to a computer lab for online research and word processing
1. Ask students to share their definitions of the word “humor” and summarize the shared definition(s). Tell students that they are going to examine how Shakespeare used the word “humour” (British spelling).
2. Distribute copies of “Humour” Excerpt: Merry Wives of Windsor Act 2, Scene 1. Review as a class the context and task paragraphs on the top of the handout.
3. Have students read the excerpt, complete the task on the bottom portion of the handout, and share their answers. See Teachers’ “Humour” Excerpt: Merry Wives of Windsor Act 2, Scene 1 for possible answers.
4. Project or print out the “Introduction” of “And there’s the humor of It” Shakespeare and the four humors and describe the four humors theory, as Shakespeare would have known it in his time—i.e., four bodily fluids whose balance and imbalance determined one’s health and personality/temperament.
5. Group 2 to 4 students together and give a copy of the Four Humors Chart to each student and a copy of Four Humors Primary Sources to each group. Task groups to complete the chart using the primary sources. [Optional: If groups have access to computers with the Internet connection, have them access the exhibition section “The World of Shakespeare’s Humors” for the group work.]
6. Project the Four Humors Chart and complete it as a class by having groups report their answers and discuss any discrepancies. See discussion notes in Teacher’s Four Humor Chart.
7. Use Four Humors in “Hamlet” for students to analyze how Shakespeare used the four humors (in bold type on the display) to describe his characters. See suggested discussion guides in Teacher’s Four Humors in “Hamlet”.
8. Hand out Dramatic Structure Review for students to complete and review as a class their answers. See Teacher’s Dramatic Structure Review for answers.
9. Lesson 1 Evaluation: In addition to the class discussions, collect the completed handouts for evaluation.