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Teaching Shakespearean drama through the Second Shepherds' Play: a guide to increased student motivation




Colgrove, Misty Michelle, author
Eskew, Doug, advisor
Frank, Katherine, committee member
Souder, Donna, committee member

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In this thesis, I discuss two types of theories currently used to direct literary curriculum in secondary English/Language Arts classroom. One group of theorists argues for the classics, while another argues for young adult literature. The traditionalists assert that the classics are rich enough to engage any student’s interest and to challenge the student to think critically. Advocates of young adult novels assert that teaching works above a student’s developmental level, like some classics may be, damages the student’s engagement with the text. Such damage, these theorists maintain, has in part caused the United States to largely be a non-reading society. They argue instead that young adult novels provide literature that is engaging and encourages enjoyment of reading. While there are instructional strengths to both sides of the argument, a middle ground between the two is needed in order for students to remain challenged and to enjoy reading. I argue for using companion pieces to aid in student motivation in the high school English/Language Arts classroom. A companion piece is a high-interest work that must have many of the same attributes as the classic work--the same plot, themes, symbols, allusions, settings, ideas, real world connections, humor, etc. Specifically, I argue that The Second Shepherds ’ Play should be used as a companion piece to Shakespearean drama because both share common themes, genre, literary techniques. settings, etc. The Second Shepherds’ Play is a fifteenth century mystery play that combines the nativity story with a farcical story of a sheep stealer, Mak, who deceives shepherds into believing that he has not stolen their sheep. However, the shepherds realize after visiting Mak and his wife. Gill, that their newborn child is actually the stolen sheep wrapped in cloth. The shepherds must then decide how to punish Mak. The play ends with a surprising shift to the announcement of Jesus’ birth and the nativity scene. While The Second Shepherds’ Play is not traditionally taught in secondary classrooms, it is a beneficial play for secondary teachers to incorporate into curriculum because it will help students to engage in the text itself through such research based strategies as humor, real life connections, and interdisciplinary connections. The critical thinking students engage in while studying The Second Shepherds ’ Play will also help prepare them to engage in a study of Shakespearean drama where critical thinking is also needed in order to interact with the text in a more meaningful manner than just knowing plot details. While I assert that The Second Shepherds’ Play should be used as a tool to prepare students for a study of Shakespearean drama, the focus of this thesis is on highlighting the benefits of The Second Shepherds’ Play through research based strategies. Shakespearean drama will not be discussed in great detail. However, introducing The Second Shepherds’ Play into the curriculum and facilitating student exploration of the text through research based strategies will help students to engage more deeply in Shakespearean drama and to be more motivated in the classroom.


Covers not scanned.
Print version deaccessioned 2022.

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English literature -- Study and teaching (Secondary)


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