Midsummer: Text in Performance KS3

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In these lessons, students will learn how to respond to the play not just as a piece of writing, but as a piece of drama. Tasks include: using the character of Peter Quince to explore the role of director; researching productions, using interviews and photos as a starting point; looking at previous set designs to inform students' own interpretation of the woods. 

In order to benefit fully from these lesson plans, we recommend you use them in the following order:

If students are new to the play, we suggest you start with these introductory KS3 Lesson Plans. If you would like to teach the play in greater detail, use the advanced KS4/5 Lesson Plans.

These lesson plans are available in the Downloads section at the bottom of this page. To download resources, you must be logged in. Sign up for free to access this and other exclusive featuresActivities mentioned in these resources are available in a separate downloadable 'Student Booklet', also at the bottom of this page. The 'Teachers' Guide' download explains how best to use Teach Shakespeare and also contains a bibliography and appendices referencing the resources used throughout.

Key Questions for Students:

Can I explain what a theatre director does?

Can I show an understanding of some factors to bear in mind when casting a play?

Key words: actor, casting, director, rehearsal, production


Prologue: Opening Discussion

Show students images of Peter Quince from three or four different productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. These are available in the Student Booklet. You could also show students the following short extract featuring this character:

Ask students to make notes on what Peter Quince is doing, his approach and whether he is being effective. Support students’ understanding that Peter is directing a group of amateur actors. Students could also read Act 1 Scene 2 in small groups, and reflect on Peter’s directing style. Groups could even interpret the role of Peter Quince in different ways. For example, in one group’s performance, Peter could be very hesitant and unassertive, in another slow and indecisive, in another bad-tempered and dictatorial, and in another assertive and encouraging. How do the actors respond to these different styles of direction? Which method seems to get the best out of the actors?



Now students could be asked to think more broadly about what the job of the director involves. The Globe blog (blog.shakespearesglobe.com/tagged/wonder-season) and Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank website (playingshakespeare.org) feature images of directors working with actors in rehearsal which might be used at this point, as well as interviews with directors. Ideas could be captured on one big brainstorm or list and can also then be recorded by students in the Student Booklet.


Enter the Players: Group Tasks

1) Becoming a director

Students could consult two sources in more depth to investigate the role of the director.

  • Listen to an excerpt from the Globe ‘Adopt a Director’ podcast at shakespearesglobe.com/discovery-space/adopt-an-actor/archive/tempest-directed-by-jeremy-herrin. Play this from 1 minute 10 seconds to 1 minute 53 seconds only. Students add key points to their brainstorms.
  • Read Rex Gibson’s ‘Guidelines for student directors’ (pp. 183-84) – featured in the Student Booklet – in pairs. Students could summarise each of the nine points Gibson makes in a single word and feedback some examples, before adding their new ideas to their brainstorms.

You could ask a few students to give their ‘top three’ words from their brainstorms that encapsulate the director’s role.


2) Headshots

This activity moves on to the job of casting the play. You could give each group one of the main characters from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and ask them to consider the attributes and qualities they would be looking for in an actor who plays that part. Distribute to students a page of actor headshots which can be found in the Student Booklet. Students could select the actors they would like to invite to audition for the parts and rank them. Some actors may get invited to audition for more than one part!


3) My Dream Cast

Having distributed copies of the Dramatis Personae for the play, you could mention some of the famous actors who have appeared in this play on stage and screen in various productions. Ask students to cast the play using any actors they choose from the worlds of TV, film and theatre. Students should give feedback on their casting decisions ensuring that they justify their choices.


Exeunt: Closing Questions for Students

How much does a director ‘direct’ what goes on in a production of a Shakespeare play?

What else does the director do and what skills do directors need?

To what extent and in what ways is a play a collaborative effort?


Suggested plenary activity…

Students write on sticky notes some ideas in the form of ‘director’s notes’ for the actors playing some of the key roles, e.g. Titania, Oberon, Puck, Bottom, Hermia, Lysander, Theseus. They could be single words, longer comments or key quotations. Collect these ‘director’s notes’ for use in future lessons.


Asides: Further Resources


  • If students are not at all familiar with the play at this stage, they can be supported in a variety of ways including: scene-by-scene plot synopsis, quiz, character profile pages, a chance to read or watch a short retelling of the plot. These can be found on the Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank website for A Midsummer Night's Dream2012.playingshakespeare.org.



Epilogue: Teacher's Note

Students could return to these points about the role of the director throughout their studies, particularly when students are stepping into the role of director in their group work and ensemble performances, etc. 

Key Questions for Students:

Can I investigate how A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been interpreted by different directors?

Can I think creatively about how I would stage A Midsummer Night’s Dream including where and when I would set it?

Can I design a theatre poster to convey my vision about my production of the play?

Key words: director, interpretation, music, poster, setting, vision


Prologue: Opening Discussion

Students could be shown the following quotation by Globe director Bill Buckhurst:

'It’s quite hard to read it that first time when you’ve been asked to direct it without taking on board all those images you’ve got of the productions you’ve seen. But you try and do that, and certainly I tried my best to sort of get them out of my brain the first time I read it through.'

With this in mind, you could ask students to close their eyes, as you talk them through a very generalised plot of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that doesn’t refer to people, places or times, perhaps not even to gender. For example, ‘This is a story about a powerful ruler who is about to be married. Some local tradespeople are rehearsing a play as part of the marriage celebrations. But set against this mood of celebration, two young courtiers are feeling frustrated in love… ’ Suggest to students that the action being described could be happening today in their neighbourhood or somewhere far away, perhaps in another time. Encourage students to think freely and creatively and to develop in their mind’s eye a setting that they think might work if they were staging their own production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Enter the Players: Group Tasks

1) ‘Give me some music’

Play to students various pieces of music from stage or screen productions, and ask students to write down what the music suggest to them. Draw out from the feedback that music can suggest a particular mood, a particular setting, or a particular type of activity that is going on.


2) A Midsummer Night’s Dream gallery

Provide a gallery of A Midsummer Night's Dream production posters and book covers which could be displayed around the classroom. Ask students to tour the images, making notes in the Student Booklet about what the images show. Students could first of all be asked to stand by their favourite one. They should then discuss in their groups:

  • What do the images tell you or suggest to you about the play’s storyline? (especially if they are new to the play)
  • What does each image emphasise in particular about the play? (alternative question if students have more prior knowledge)
  • Which ideas would I like to borrow or be inspired by if I were staging my own production?


3) Ideas about setting

Students could be shown the PowerPoint Setting the Scene (available in the Downloads section at the bottom of this page). It shows a variety of images from productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that help to create a sense of place and atmosphere. The settings pictured here include Athens and the magical world of the woods. To what extent do different productions develop a strong visual contrast between these two worlds? To what extent do different productions draw strong visual parallels between these two worlds? How else are such effects achieved, e.g. by music, lighting, etc.? Students could create a moodboard reflecting their own ideas about the settings for this play in a production of their own devising.



4) Creative brief: poster

To prepare for this task, students could watch this video of marketing designer Adrian (2013.playingshakespeare.org/week-by-week/73.html). He talks about how a director’s vision for a play is interpreted by the design team who work on a production. Assign students the task of producing a poster for their own production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The brief and template for this task can be downloaded at the bottom of this page. Here are some Top Tips:

  1. Make it bold so that it immediately grabs the attention of the viewer.
  2. Be as creative as possible so that it is unique from any competition.
  3. Make sure that all the information can be read clearly so that no important details about the show are lost.
  4. Think about who the poster is aimed for and target it for that particular market.
  5. Consider the subject matter for your poster. You need to research and understand the topic before you begin designing.


Exeunt: Closing Questions for Students

What have I learned about different ways that directors have interpreted A Midsummer Night’s Dream and different settings they have chosen?

What ideas do I have about staging the play and attracting a young audience to it?


Suggested plenary activity:

Students should share their ideas about staging the play with a partner and listen to their ideas. They should then use their feedback to further develop and refine these ideas; this will assist them with the moodboard task. Ideas should be creative and perhaps daring, but also coherent.


Aside: Further Resource

  • Pinterest or other similar websites could be useful to help students build a scrapbook of production ideas.


Epilogue: Teacher's Note

A poster (perhaps accompanied by a spoken or written commentary) could be the basis for a mid-unit assessment. See the next lesson for more activities linked to setting, set, mood, etc.

Key Questions for Students:

Can I identify some of the different opportunities and challenges that set designers face in different styles of theatres?

Can I find out about what the stage looked like in Shakespeare’s time in theatres like the Globe?

Can I imagine how I would create a sense of time and place in my production?

Key words: lighting, set design, set designer, setting, special effects


Prologue: Opening Discussion

Show the 'Setting the Scene' PowerPoint from the previous activity (available in the Downloads section at the bottom of this page), which shows the set designs from various productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Ask students to reflect on these images in the light of what they know about the Globe stage.

Questions to consider:

  1. What does a set designer at the Globe need to bear in mind? What is and isn’t possible?
  2. What do you think are some of the challenges and opportunities of working with the Globe space?


N.B. Comments might include the following, and this discussion will support you in ascertaining students’ prior knowledge and could govern your choice of subsequent activities. The activities in ‘Enter the Players’ and the linked factsheets will support students’ learning in all of the following areas:

  • set designs in Shakespeare’s times were not elaborate
  • however, various special effects and the areas above and below the stage were used in imaginative ways
  • benefits and limitations of apron stage vs. proscenium arch
  • the idea of hearing rather than watching a play
  • how much the stage should change throughout the performance and how much will stay the same
  • technical and financial implications of elaborate staging
  • the importance of lighting/the fact that the Globe is open air and many performances take place in the daytime
  • the clues about time and place provided within the language
  • stage extensions can be added at the Globe


Enter the Players: Group Tasks

1) Staging a play at the Globe

In this video: 2015.playingshakespeare.org/week-by-week/142, Globe director Bill Buckhurst speaks about the atmosphere at the Globe and the factors that contribute to this. Students could make notes in answer to the questions:

  • How does Bill Buckhurst describe the general atmosphere at the Globe?
  • What is it about the theatre space that creates this atmosphere?

The following quotation by Fiona Banks (which can be displayed using the 'Words, Words, Words' PowerPoint) focuses more specifically on setting the scene:

“In the original Globe theatre, there would have been little in terms of elaborate set design and props, although stage effects were often used. The back of the stage was painted, as were the heavens and the pillars, but there was no particular set that changed with each play. Shakespeare uses language to set the scene for his audience and to ensure they have all the information they need about what is taking place on stage.”

Students could read this quotation and then re-read the last sentence, speculating about exactly what she means, i.e. ‘How does Shakespeare use language to set the scene?’ and ‘How does Shakespeare use language to provide the audience with all the information they need?’ Establishing these two questions and beginning to speculate about possible answers will lead effectively into the next activity.

Finally, students could watch an interview with Globe Set Designer Isla Shaw here (2012.playingshakespeare.org/week-by-week/47.html), making notes about the process she follows to design a set.


2) Text detectives: setting the scene

Shakespeare often gives the audience explicit information about the precise place where a scene is set. For example, in Act 1 Scene 1 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus commands Philostrate to ‘Stir up the Athenian youth to merriments’ (line 12), Egeus begs ‘the ancient privilege of Athens’ (line 41), and  Helena says ‘Through Athens I am thought as fair as she’ (line 227). Students could scan this opening scene to see how many more references to the city they can find.

Shakespeare also includes within the dialogue more subtle details about a location to evoke a sense of place. Next, students could read the opening lines of Act 2 Scene 2 lines 249-258 in the Student Booklet and highlight:

  • where and when Shakespeare is setting the scene
  • the information Shakespeare gives us about that location
  • the atmosphere of the place that Shakespeare is describing

Students should annotate the text with their findings.


I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,

Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,          250

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,      

With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine.

There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,

Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;

And there the snake throws her enamell’d skin,   255

Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in;

And with the juice of this I’ll streak her eyes,

And make her full of hateful fantasies.


In the feedback, you could draw attention to:

  • the association of the woods with fairies and with magic
  • how Shakespeare uses dialogue rather than elaborate stage directions and set designs to convey place and mood
  • the ‘Englishness’ of the description of what is meant to be a forest outside Athens in Greece
  • the mythical and symbolic connotations of the woods
  • the references to night, sleep, dreams and visions in relation to the woods


3) A change of scene

Students could watch an extract from the 2012 Globe production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, focusing on how the Globe space can be transformed to give the impression of different locations using some simple but telling changes. These small changes include props, sound effects, music and special effects.



Now ask students to consider how they might plan the changes of scene needed in staging Act 1 Scene 2 and Act 2 Scene 1. They could continue to watch other clips from this production, in order to see how Bill Buckhurst and his team achieved these changes. Students could compare this with the use of scenery and changes of scene in film adaptations of Shakespeare. For example, in the film adaptation starring Anna Friel and Calista Flockhart as Hermia and Helena, the second half of the opening scene is filmed outdoors in a garden.



4) Creative brief: set design

Assign students the task of producing a set design for their own production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The brief and a template for this task can be downloaded at the bottom of this page. Here are Isla's Top Tips:

  1. Think about the scale. The scale we always work in is 1:25, so you have to think about the design you do being 25 times bigger in reality.
  2. Designing a set isn’t just about creating a world, it’s also important to consider how the set can support the telling of the story.
  3. Consider the use of space and how the actors move around that space, including where their entrances and exits are.
  4. Think about your audience and how your set will work for them. Think about what the audience’s relationship to the actors is and importantly what their sightlines are - you don't want to build something huge that half the audience can't see through!
  5. What are the practicalities of your design. You need to plan everything from materials to colour schemes etc. Also, because you are designing outside you need to consider the bad weather conditions.



Exeunt: Closing Questions for Students

What are the factors to bear in mind when staging a production at Shakespeare’s Globe?

What impact have these factors had on my set design? Which feature of my set design am I most proud of and why?


Suggested plenary activity…

Students should choose one detail from their planned set design of the play, and write 50 words about its importance.


Asides: Further Resources


  • The critic David Bevington draws a contrast between the Mechanicals, ‘who think they must literally bring in moonshine in some way’, and Shakespeare himself who ‘has shown his audience a forest near Athens without bringing on a single tree’.


Epilogue: Teacher's Note

Students could draw, photograph or find an image to accompany their 50 words (see ‘Suggested plenary activity’), and the resulting pieces of work could form a display. The ‘Creative brief – set design’ activity could be used as an assessment task. Students could be asked to write a detailed commentary to accompany their design.

Key Questions for Students:

Can I identify some of the connotations of a character’s costume and what it suggests to us about that character?

Can I think creatively about how I would dress one of the characters from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and why?

Key words: characters, connotations, cosmetics, costume, symbolism, wardrobe, wigs


Prologue: Opening Discussion

You could display artist and poet William Blake’s watercolour painting ‘Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing’ (1786).  Ask students to work in pairs, analysing the painting in detail.

In each pair, Partner A should focus on posture and facial expression. Partner B should focus on costume and objects in view. Students could annotate the image to show the connotations of the things they have picked out. You could then take feedback, gathering students’ opinions about what the figures in the painting are wearing and what they signify, encouraging students to expand on their ideas.


Enter the Players: Group Tasks

1) Wigs, hair and make-up

Students could be shown this interview with Isla Shaw who designed the costumes for the Globe’s 2012 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: 2012.playingshakespeare.org/week-by-week/51.html.

Students should answer the following questions:

  • What is the first thing Isla does when asked to design costumes for a production?
  • How did she become a costume designer?
  • What or who inspires her designs?
  • How does Isla describe how the process of costume design develops from her initial drawings?
  • How does she manage to be creative on a budget?


2) Dressing different characters

Display the Costumes PowerPoint to students (which is available in the Downloads section at the bottom of this page). Students are given cards with twelve images of characters from the play taken from two different productions. In pairs students could:

  • first of all, try to group the images by production
  • next, try to pair the images by character (Bottom, Puck, Titania, Oberon, Hermia, Lysander)
  • consider the importance of the characters’ costumes and general appearance in conveying particular ideas about them to the audience
  • think about which point in the play each image might show and identify a quotation as a suitable caption for each one



3) Fabric swatches

Provide groups of 3 or 4 with some different textile swatches (e.g. velvet, muslin, organza, silk, hessian) and/or swatches of different colours (e.g. red, black, white, blue, purple). Ask students to consider the connotations and symbolism of the fabrics and colours. Take feedback.


4) Creative brief: costumes

Students should make notes in pairs on the Dramatis Personae sheet about the costumes of the different characters: colours, style, fabrics, number of costume changes, details of hats, shoes, etc. Now set to work individually on producing annotated drawings for one of the character’s costumes. You can download a costume brief and male and female templates in the Downloads section at the bottom of this page. Students’ annotations should include details of the reasons behind their choices (i.e. connotations, symbolism, quotations that inspired them). Here are Isla's Top Tips:

  1. Consider how the actor will move in your costume and whether they can be active in it or not.
  2. You need to consider the character you are designing for and think about their age, gender, background, shape, height etc. This includes thinking about how characters relate to each other, so think of them in the context of the rest of the company.
  3. Remember the details of your character, as this will tell you how they might use their costume. For instance: is their hair up or down? What kind of shoes do they wear?
  4. Try to make sure your drawing is really clear so that someone could actually make it. To help with this you should include notes describing what materials you will use and any other details.
  5. You need to think about the time period you are setting the play in as this will also help you with the period of your costume. The audience will often get a better understanding of time period through costume than through set.


Exeunt: Closing Discussion

Why is costume so important?

How would I dress one or more of the characters and why?

When would there be costume changes as the play progresses, and why?


Suggested plenary activity…

Take pictures of some work in progress (Creative brief: costumes) and display them. One or two students share their designs with the class, and class members ask questions about the reasoning behind key decisions. 


Asides: Further Resources

  • Here is a quiz about clothing in Elizabethan times for students to try, which is available in the Student Booklet. The answers are included in the Teachers' Guide:
    • The quantity of material used in your clothing was a sign of your wealth. 
    • Natural pigments like berries and beetles were used to dye clothes and there was  always a risk that these colours would run in the rain. 
    • Only women wore frocks. 
    • Gaskins and slops were two different styles of loose-fitting trousers.
    • Clothes were rarely washed in Shakespeare’s time. 
    • Male actors often wore high heeled shoes when playing women on stage. 
    • Married women kept their heads covered. 
    • A rebato was another name for a codpiece. 
    • Doublet and hose was a popular fashion among the lower classes in Shakespeare's time.
    • At the official opening of Shakespeare's Globe, actress Jane Lapotaire arrived dressed as Queen Elizabeth I wearing a dress with 1,400 pearls sewn on to it. It took two people an hour and a half to dress her.


  • As an extension activity, students could research costumes worn by the character they chose in a range of different productions.



Epilogue: Teacher's Note

The ‘Creative brief – costume’ activity would work well as an assessment task. Students could be asked to write a detailed commentary to accompany their design. 

Key Questions for Students:

Can I identify the purpose and features of a theatre review?

Can I plan and draft my own theatre review, making effective use of these features?

Key words: adjective, adverb, audience, purpose, review, rhetorical question


Prologue: Opening Discussion

Collect a number of theatre reviews from newspapers and distribute them around the class. Students should highlight all the adjectives they find and share some examples. They should try to pick out if they can:

  • an adjective used to describe an actor’s appearance
  • an adjective used to describe an actor’s performance
  • an adjective used to describe another feature, e.g. music, costume
  • an adjective used to describe the production or the reviewer’s experience overall
  • a very positive adjective
  • an adjective that is more critical of the play or an aspect of it

There is space to record these findings in the Student Booklet. You could then say that adjectives are just one way that a reviewer can express their opinions. By way of an extension question, students could be asked to identify other techniques used.


Enter the Players: Group Tasks

1) What makes a good review? I

Students can watch clips of reviewer Matt Trueman talking about reviewing a play (2015.playingshakespeare.org/week-by-week/154), and about writing your review (2015.playingshakespeare.org/week-by-week). Ask students to draw out success criteria and any other helpful tips.


2) What makes a good review? II

Share a well-written theatre or film review of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with students, e.g. telegraph.co.uk/theatre/what-to-see/emma-rices-revolutionary-midsummer-nights-dream-had-me-transfixe/ or timeout.com/london/film/a-midsummer-nights-dream-1999. There are many activities you can do with such a text to support students in their own reading and review-writing skills, e.g.

  • Establish the audience and purpose for this text and evaluate the text’s effectiveness accordingly
  • Analyse the overall structure, identifying the topic of each paragraph and how the overall argument about the film’s quality is constructed
  • Model reading a sentence/paragraph together, guiding students through analysis of another paragraph and then give small groups a paragraph each to analyse
  • Highlight techniques - such as adjectives, alliteration, humour, lists of three, rhetorical questions and varied sentence structure - and annotate with comments about their effect on the reader


3) ​Creative brief – review

Students could write a review of a film version of the play (or a stage production if they have seen one). Encourage students to incorporate the advice and ideas they have learned about reviewing, and support students through the composition process from note-taking through drafting and redrafting to finally proofreading their reviews. A reviewing brief can be found in the Downloads section at the bottom of this page. Students could devise a set of success criteria for their reviews based on the brief, the top tips and what they learned from the newspaper reviews. Here are some Top Tips for students writing a review:

  1. As a guide, a newspaper review is generally about 300-500 words long.
  2. Read a theatre review. It doesn’t need to be of the same play, but see how other reviewers write.
  3. Try to avoid saying something was ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Explain what you saw and heard and explain the impact it had.
  4. Always give reasons to justify and explain your thoughts and opinions. E.g., avoid saying something was ‘effective’, instead explain what you saw and what the effect was on the scene, on the character, on the plot or on you.
  5. Shakespeare’s stories are generally so well known that the story itself is never really the topic of a review, it’s how the story is told that makes every performance different.


Exeunt: Closing Discussion

To what extent have I incorporated the features of a good review into my own writing?

Have I been observant, clear and honest in my reviewing?

What else could I do to improve my review writing?


Suggested plenary activity:

Self or peer assessment of draft reviews against the success criteria established with the class earlier.


Aside: Further Resource

  • Students could find reviews of a number of different productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or find more than one review of the same production to compare different critics’ views. Sample reviews could be displayed and annotated to highlight key features.


Epilogue: Teacher's Note

The ‘Creative brief – review’ activity would work well as an end-of-unit assessment task. Students could also collate all of their creative brief work (poster, set design, costume, review) into a portfolio for assessment. All assessment tasks can be collated in the ‘My Creative Folio’ section at the end of the Student Booklet.


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