Teachers' Outlines for Studies in English - Based on the Requirements for Admission to College
by Gilbert Sykes Blakely
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The following plans of study for the English texts commonly used in secondary schools are presented in the hope that they may be suggestive to teachers of English who are struggling with the various problems which confront them. Each teacher, of course, must work out his own plan in accordance with the needs of his pupils and the conditions under which he works; but, as it is helpful to observe the class-room work of other teachers, so it may be helpful to see a fellow teacher's plans of work. I wish to disclaim any desire to dogmatize about the methods or the details of teaching. If I have anywhere assumed a tone of authority, it has been merely for the sake of brevity in stating my opinions.

Three books on the teaching of English have recently appeared: The Teaching of English by Percival Chubb, The Teaching of English by Professors Carpenter, Baker, and Scott, and Talks on Teaching Literature by Arlo Bates. All of these are full of inspiration and suggestion for me as they doubtless are for hundreds of others; they ought to be within reach of every progressive teacher of English. The present volume is essentially different from these in purpose. It aims, not at a discussion of the principles of teaching, but at the application of certain principles to the teaching of some of the books required for admission to college.

References by page or line to the book under discussion are to the texts of the Gateway Series.

For suggestions concerning the plan of the book and certain of its details, I am under obligations to Dr. Henry van Dyke. I desire also to express my thanks for helpful criticism to several of my fellow teachers in the Morris High School, especially to Mr. Harold E. Foster who has kindly read most of the manuscript.





Outline for the Study of Ivanhoe 10

" " " " " The Vicar of Wakefield 16

" " " " " Cranford 20

" " " " " Silas Marner 24


Outline for the Study of The Lady of the Lake 33

" " " " " The Ancient Mariner 40

" " " " " The Idylls of the King 44


Outline for the Study of L'Allegro and Il Penseroso 55

" " " " " Lycidas 57

" " " " " The Deserted Village 60


Outline for the Study of The Merchant of Venice 67

" " " " " As You Like It 72

" " " " " Julius Caesar 75

" " " " " Macbeth 79

" " " " " Comus 83


Outline for the Study of the Sir Roger de Coverley Papers 88

" " " " " Irving's Sketch-Book 93

" " " " " Franklin's Autobiography 99

Outline for the Study of Carlyle's Essay on Burns 101

" " " " " Macaulay's Life of Johnson 104

" " " " " Burke's Speech on Conciliation 107

" " " " " Emerson's Essays 114

" " " " " Webster's First Bunker Hill Oration 123

" " " " " Washington's Farewell Address 127


College Entrance Examinations in English 131



All will agree that the novel is one of the most important forms of literature for high school study. The fact that almost every boy and girl who is at all interested in reading likes the novel, gives the teacher an excellent opportunity to stimulate the pupil's love for literature and to help him to discriminate between what is true and what is false; between what is cheap and what is worth while. Moreover, the study of the novel is the study of life and character. It is of great human interest, and it may be made an important factor in developing the pupil's ambition, judgment, ideals, and character. Good stories grow in meaning with the growth of mental power. The Iliad and The Odyssey are full of delightful stories for boys and girls, but these same stories, securely fixed in the youthful mind, gain a deeper meaning from experience as the child develops into the man or the woman. Furthermore, interest in a good story leads to other interests. It may encourage a love of nature, stimulating to closer observation. It may awaken a love of history, or of travel, or of some of the innumerable interests of human activity.

Unfortunately, young people's delight in the reading of the novel is a source of danger. The drama and the essay appear so full of difficulties that the student regards their study seriously, as a task, and finds it necessary to apply himself vigorously in order to master them. On the other hand, the novel is so delightful, so easy, that he looks upon it as a pastime. A superficial reading often gives him knowledge of many of the main facts, and a mistaken idea that he knows the story. It is the task of the teacher to get him to read with careful attention and with imagination keenly alive. When a fair mastery of the facts of the story has been gained, and clear mental images of the scenes portrayed and suggested have been formed, studies of plot, character, interpretation, etc., should follow. These studies, if they appeal to the class as reasonable, will stimulate thought and imagination and will help to form a basis for sound judgment and a habit of just criticism.

The practical plan here presented for the accomplishment of these ends involves three steps: first, preparation of the class for taking up the work; second, reading and study for the purpose of getting the facts; third, comprehensive study of the book as a whole, in addition to a comparison of it with other books. The purpose of the first step is to arouse an interest in approaching the story, and to prepare the pupil for an intelligent reading. In the case of some books it is of little importance, but in the case of others it is almost essential for success. Appreciation of the difficulties of the book and of the limitations of his pupils will enable the teacher to make the wisest choice of his material.

The second step is certainly the most important because it is fundamental. Students often read a book without any adequate conception of the facts of which it treats. Even after honest endeavor they frequently have gross misconceptions and fail to see much that was intended for their observation. To keep the class alert and interested, and at the same time to see that the work has been well done, requires patience, tact, and ingenuity. Sometimes difficulties and consequent discouragement are avoided by assigning with the lesson a few general questions to aid the pupil in getting a connected idea of essential details. Sometimes the same result is reached by requiring the class to write in their notebooks brief summaries of each chapter. The recitation period gives the teacher an opportunity to arouse in the class a thorough interest in the work in hand. This can be done in a variety of ways. Different parts of the story may be told by the students; questions may be asked to test the understanding of certain passages, to enable the pupil to read between the lines, and to awaken curiosity; supplementary facts may be given by the teacher, or by members of the class, to throw light on certain parts of the story.

For the third step,—the study of the book as a whole,—the following topics are suggested:

Setting and situation, plot, characters, interpretation, method of narration, style, life and character of the author, comparison with other books. Although some of these topics may have been taken up in connection with previous study, they will be found none the less valuable at this more advanced stage of the work. Certain ones are of course more important than others. The method of narration and the style, for example, should always be treated lightly, if at all, since their consideration is rather for the maturer student. To reach the best results every topic that is studied should send the pupil again and again to the book to find definite answers to the questions given and to establish the proof of his opinions.


I. Preparation

The class will probably be able to recall from their previous study of Scott some interesting facts about the author. They will understand the book better, too, if they are somewhat familiar with the following topics:

The Norman Conquest.

Ideals of Chivalry.

Conditions of the Church.

The Crusades.

Story of King Richard up to his return from the Crusades.

II. Reading and Study

There are advantages in a first rapid reading of the book before the more careful reading and class study, but for pupils unused to reading long books this is too much to ask in the case of Ivanhoe. The essential result to be attained in any event is familiarity with the details of the story.

III. Study of the Book as a Whole

SETTING AND SITUATION.—When did the events of the story take place?

Locate upon some map or, better, draw a map to indicate the position of Sheffield, Ashby, York, and the other places connected with the story. In the opening chapters there are various details of the situation that are more important than the actual time and place, for example, condition of the country, and the relations of the people. Make a list of them.

Compare Ivanhoe with some other novel in regard to the definiteness and importance of the setting.

What do we know from the story of the means of traveling? (pp. 14-16, 192-195, etc.); of the conditions of the clergy? (pp. 17-20, 468-474, etc.); of the relations of the Normans and Saxons? of the habits of the people? of the feudal system?

PLOT.—How long a time is involved from the beginning to the end of the story?

Are there frequent surprises, or do the events occur as we expect them? Illustrate.

How does Scott arouse our interest in the development of an action? Take the Tournament, for example, and show how he arouses our expectation before he relates the event.

When do you first suspect that the Palmer is a person disguised? How does the author keep us in suspense as to his identity? (pp. 60-62, 90, etc.).

Find other instances of this device for maintaining our interest in the story (see p. 134).

Point out several events that appear, upon second thought, to be improbable. How has Scott tried to make them seem probable, so that the reader's interest will not be lost?

Give an illustration of the way in which Scott links together the various groups of characters. If the author has succeeded in so combining the interests of each group that the outcome of the main action—the success or failure of the hero and heroine—means the success or failure of the other groups, then he has secured unity of plot. Is there unity of plot here?

After the opening scene in the forest, the next important one is in the dining-room at Rotherwood. Point out in detail the incidents that lead to this scene.

In the dining-room scene what suggestions are given for the further development of the plot?

What is the next scene of importance? What incidents lead up to it?

There are, in all, eight or nine important scenes. Make a list of them, note the train of incidents that leads up to each, and also the germs of future development that each contains.

Each of these scenes marks a climax of interest. Is any one so much more important than the others, that you can say it is the climax of the book? Are any of them merely episodes that might be omitted without making the action incomplete?

How far does Brian de Bois-Guilbert influence the course of events? How far does Isaac influence them? Richard? Rebecca?

CHARACTERS.—Who is the hero? Why?

Who is the heroine? Why?

Arrange the important characters (there are from fifteen to twenty) in three or four groups according to the way they seem to be associated in the development of the story. Which characters are historical? Which, if any, are intended to represent types or classes of men?

Are any of them to be contrasted with each other?

Are the characters of King Richard and Prince John represented here as they are shown in history?

Note the chief traits of Cedric, Athelstane, and Gurth. Remember that Scott was trying to portray Saxon character. What are the individual traits of each? What have they in common?

What, if anything, in Rowena compels your admiration of her? What, if anything, is lacking to make her truly a heroic figure?

How does Rebecca compare with Rowena in the latter particular?

Do the principal characters remain the same from beginning to end, or do they show development?

Do we become acquainted with these characters by what they say and do; by what the author says of them; or by what they say of one another?

INTERPRETATION.—It is fair to suppose in every novel that the author has had a more or less distinct purpose in writing it. It may be to present in life-like pictures some dramatic events in history; or to paint vivid scenes that illustrate the spirit of an age; or to hold up ideals of bravery, patriotism, patience, devotion, or some other virtue; or to show the working out of some great truth or principle of life.

What seems to you the purpose of the author in Ivanhoe? What ideals of character does he hold up? What service has he done for the reader of history?

METHOD OF NARRATION.—Who tells the story? Would it be difficult to rearrange the plan so that Ivanhoe or some other character should tell it? Why?

Does the narrator speak from the standpoint of one who somehow or other knows all that the characters do and think and feel, or of one who recounts merely his own feelings and what he sees and hears?

Compare Ivanhoe in this respect with The Vicar of Wakefield, or with some other novel.

STYLE.—Does Scott attempt to reproduce the language of a time other than his own? Does he introduce dialect? Do the characters talk naturally as we should expect persons of different birth and education to talk, or do they talk alike?

Note how Scott describes an outdoor scene (p. 6); a man (p. 7); a scene of action (pp. 300-306). Try to imitate his methods in descriptions of your own.

Note the parts of the story where the movement of events is very rapid (pp. 322-330), and others where the author introduces description or exposition (pp. 148-152) to retard the movement.

Do you find the sentences natural and easy, or formal and hard to read? Are there many unfamiliar words?

THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF THE AUTHOR.—What are the main facts of Scott's boyhood? his education? his professional career? his success as a poet? his change from poetry to prose? his success as a novelist? his financial distress? his struggle to meet the demands of the law and of his own honor?

Would you judge from Ivanhoe that the author was a man of learning? a lover of nature? fond of social life? fond of animals? fond of children?

Write what you think we have reason to believe of Scott's character from reading this book.


I. Preparation

It is well to suggest to pupils who have read Ivanhoe and now turn to the Vicar of Wakefield that the latter is not a romance, but a novel of life and manners; not an exciting story of heroic deeds and wonderful escapes, but a story that paints clear pictures of simple life, quiet humor, and true sentiment. A few facts of Goldsmith's boyhood and young manhood should be dwelt on in order to show his familiarity with the country, the church, and with other matters treated in the story. Other topics of interest are the circumstances that led to the publication of the book; the comparative newness of the novel in literature; eighteenth century essays, like the De Coverley Papers; similarity between such essays and this novel.

II. Reading and Study

To become familiar with the details of this story is simple, but students are likely to overlook little references to the customs and manners of the time, and to fail to use their imaginations in picturing the beautiful but simple scenes of country life.

III. Study of the Book as a Whole

SETTING AND SITUATION.—Find five or six references in the story that throw light on the time when the events are supposed to have taken place. (See customs of travel in Chapter III, of dress in IV and XII and of the punishment of criminals in XXX and XXXI.) Draw as definite a conclusion as you can from these references, and be prepared to defend it.

Where is Wakefield? Do we know whether the places described are English or French or Irish? Give reasons.

Could the scene have been laid in some other country or some other century without radically changing the story? What alterations would be necessary?

What do we learn from this book about customs in dress? means of travelling? education? other customs?

PLOT.—How long a time is involved from the beginning to the end of the story?

At what point did you discover the identity of Mr. Burchell? Could you have discovered it earlier if you had read more closely?

Are there frequent surprises, or do events occur as we expect them to?

Are all the events probable? Has the author succeeded in making them seem probable?

Is the plot simple or complex? How many chapters are used to introduce the story? What is the climax?

Is there, as in Ivanhoe, a series of scenes closely connected? Are there incidents that might have been omitted as superfluous? If so, would the story have been more, or less, interesting without them?

How far does Mr. Burchell influence events? How far does Mr. Jenkinson influence them? Squire Thornhill?

CHARACTERS.—Does the author make us acquainted with the various characters by what he says of them; or by what they say and do themselves; or by what they say of one another; or by all of these methods? Examine Chapters I, III, VII, and XI.

Is the Vicar a man of intelligence? of sincerity? of good judgment? Name his chief traits. Would he command our respect if he were our neighbor? Account for the fact that people have been charmed with his character ever since the book was written.

Do the characters seem true to life? Do they remain the same kind of persons from first to last, or do they show development?

Contrast the Vicar and his wife; Olivia and Sophia; Squire Thornhill and Sir William.

INTERPRETATION.—The writer of a historical novel aims to give a vivid picture of certain dramatic events in history. The writer of a novel of life and manners usually has some ideal of life or character, more or less clearly defined, that he endeavors to picture. Try to frame a statement of some truth the Vicar's life may fairly be said to illustrate which seems to you the central idea of the story.

METHOD OF NARRATION.—Who tells the story?

Would the effect have been essentially different if someone else had told it, perhaps Mrs. Primrose, or the author himself?

Does the narrator speak from the standpoint of one who somehow or other knows all that the characters do and think and feel, or of one who recounts merely what he himself feels and sees and hears? Compare with Ivanhoe in this respect.

To what extent does the author use dialogue?

STYLE.—Is there any attempt to use dialect?

Do the characters talk as we should expect them to talk, or do they all talk like the author?

Note a few passages that express humor; some that express pathos. Find a few descriptions that present vividly a scene of beauty. Are the sentences easy and natural, or formal and dignified?

THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF THE AUTHOR.—What do we know of Goldsmith's childhood? his family? his education? his professional training? his travels? his friends in London? his literary enterprises?

What can you find in the experiences and character of Dr. Primrose, of Mr. Burchell, or of George Primrose to suggest Goldsmith's own experiences and character, or those of his father?

What characteristics of Goldsmith do you think you have a right to infer from this story? Give reasons.

COMPARISON.—Does the charm of this novel lie in the setting? in the plot? in the characters? in the style? in the lesson it teaches? or in all of these factors together?

Compare this book, topic by topic, with Ivanhoe or with some other novel recently studied.


I. Preparation

It is important that a young student before he begins to study Cranford should have some idea of the kind of story that it is. Otherwise he is likely to be disappointed and to fail to appreciate its charm. Several ways are suggested for approaching the first reading. Let the teacher, or if possible one of the class, give an account of a small English village, using photographs, if they are available, to show some characteristic features. Let the class write an account of some country place that they know well with definite details of the houses, the people, and the customs. Have the best accounts read in class. Present to the class, or have them study from the introduction, the brief facts of the history of this story: who Mrs. Gaskell was; her connection with Knutsford; the original purpose of the Cranford sketches.

II. Reading and Study

Oral reading is more than usually important in a book like Cranford, for much of the enjoyment of the story comes from an appreciation of its wit and humor, and these qualities can best be brought out by oral reading. Some part of each day's recitation period might well be devoted to the reading of choice passages. Of special value in securing appreciation of the story is the preparation of compositions based on the students' own knowledge of country life. They may be descriptions, both real and imaginative, of some country village; accounts of small social gatherings or card parties; dialogues to show the characteristics of the people, etc.

In addition to these exercises there will, of course, be need for cross-questioning to make sure that the important facts relating to the scene, the characters, and the events are clearly understood. Some care will be necessary to see that students understand the virtues as well as the foibles of the characters.

III. Study of the Book as a Whole

SETTING AND SITUATION.—Does Cranford seem like a real place? Give reasons for your answer.

When are the events related supposed to have taken place?

Why does Mrs. Gaskell pay so little attention to the details of time and place?

Could the scene of this story be changed to some other place and time without difficulty? Give reasons. Compare Cranford with some place that you know in respect to the poverty, aristocracy, social etiquette, employments, and peculiar ways of the people.

PLOT.—What relation does Chapter I bear to the rest of the book? Are there suggestions in it that make you expectant of what is to come in the ensuing chapters?

What connection has Chapter II with the preceding chapter? with the following?

Are Chapters III and IV connected? Are they connected with what follows?

Group the remaining chapters to show which belong together.

How many separate stories do you find with no connection except for the presence of the same characters?

We are told that a good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. What seems to be lacking in Cranford?

If we were to consider as complete stories the incident of Miss Matty's love affair or of Poor Peter, should we find the same lack?

CHARACTERS.—What are the chief motives that prompted the Cranford ladies to do the things that they did, and to do them in the way they did?

How did Captain Brown differ from them in the motives that prompted his actions?

Show how the incident of Miss Jenkins's argument with Captain Brown on the relative merits of Mr. Boz and Dr. Johnson, illustrates one side of Miss Jenkins's character. What is her other side? Illustrate. Compare Miss Matty and her sister to show the strength and weakness of each. What was there in Miss Matty that made the other ladies help her so generously in her trouble?

What sort of woman was Mrs. Jamieson? Were her neighbors blind to her faults? Why did they treat her as they did? Do you think they were insincere?

What other characters in the story have a distinct personality?

INTERPRETATION.—What purpose do you think the author had in writing this book?

From this story, what would you judge were her ideas on sincerity? on the treatment of one's neighbors? on conformity to custom? on social rank? and on other matters of everyday life?

METHOD OF NARRATION.—Who tells the story?

Does the narrator tell us only of the things that she sees and hears, or of other things as well? How is it in Ivanhoe? Would the story have to be changed essentially if it were told by Miss Matty, Miss Pole, or some other of the characters? Give your reasons.

Has Mrs. Gaskell succeeded in avoiding the awkwardness in the use of "I" so common in stories told in the first person? If so, how? Compare it in this respect with one of your own narratives in the first person.

Point out, if you can, some ways in which the author has made her dialogues smooth and natural. Compare with one of your own.

STYLE.—Note a few of the most humorous passages; of the most pathetic. In the humorous passages is the author laughing at her characters, or laughing with them? Compare in this respect her treatment of Mrs. Jamieson, Miss Barker, and Miss Pole with Scott's treatment of Prior Aymer, Friar Tuck, and Athelstane.

THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF THE AUTHOR.—What facts do we know of Mrs. Gaskell's girlhood? her education? her married life? her great sorrow? her first literary success? her acquaintance with the literary men of her day? the regard of her neighbors for her?

COMPARISON.—Does the value of this book lie in its setting? in its plot? in its characters? in its style? in its teaching? or in all of these factors?

Compare Cranford in respect to each of the above topics with the other novels that you have studied.


I. Preparation

A few facts about George Eliot's early life will help to show how she could write as she did about country people—their ideas, habits, and manner of life.

II. Reading and Study

A rapid reading, followed by a second and more careful one, is quite practicable with so short and interesting a story as Silas Marner. It is especially to be recommended for this book, since the chapters are so full of suggestions of character, of customs of a by-gone time, and of hints for the further development of the story, that it is difficult for a young reader, urged on by his interest in the plot, to stop long enough to grasp all the essential features. So many important lessons for the beginner may be drawn from the structure of this book, from its teaching, and from its representation of life, that it especially repays thorough study.

III. Study of the Book as a Whole

SETTING AND SITUATION.—What means does the author take in Chapters I and III to acquaint us with the time of the story? How definitely can you fix it? (See p. 47, l. 22.)

What sort of place was Lantern Yard? Describe the people who worshiped there. What was their social life? Why was their church called a chapel?

Compare this place, where Silas first lived, with Raveloe in respect to location, people, religious beliefs, wealth, social life, etc.

Although Raveloe is not on the map, in what part of England is it supposed to be?

Do the descriptions, for example, of the company at the Rainbow or of the party at the Red House, seem like caricatures or like pictures from real life? Give reasons.

Has the author been true to the life of a certain place and time? (See Introduction, p. 34.) Is the setting closely interwoven with the story, or could the scene have been changed without loss of interest to New England, or to some other place, fifty or a hundred years later? Give reasons.

PLOT.—Make a list of the most important scenes (seven or eight in all), note the train of incidents that leads to each, and the suggestions in each that prepare us for the further development of the story. Show that there are two distinct stories separately introduced, but finally woven together.

Note in what places these distinct stories touch each other and how they are knitted together. In the arrangement of the scenes is there any attempt at contrast? (See Introduction, p. 40.) Are any of them merely episodes that might be omitted without loss to the story? Most of the scenes mark a climax. Is there any one scene so interesting and important by reason of the characters brought together and the facts unfolded that we may call it the climax of the story?

Is there unity in the plot?

What use is made of Marner's cataleptic fits in the development of the plot?

How are we prepared for the explanation of the mystery of the lost gold? (See p. 94, ll. 24-29; p. 97, ll. 17-20; p. 241, l. 29; p. 242, l. 3; p. 268, ll. 3-21.)

Why does the author cause Marner to go back to Lantern Yard and fail to learn anything of his former friends and the results of their injustice?

How many of the principal characters are brought into the last chapter?

Is what is said of them, and what they say themselves, characteristic?

Has the scene any beauty in itself?

Sum up the features that make it a fitting conclusion.

CHARACTERS.—From what classes of society does the author take her characters? Is she equally successful in dealing with the different classes?

Contrast Nancy and Priscilla. Which is the more interesting? Why?

Trace the changes that take place in the characters of Silas Marner and Godfrey Cass.

Do the other characters change too, or are they essentially the same throughout the story?

Do you think Marner's sudden loss of faith seems probable in view of his religious devotion?

What is the significance of the Sally Oates incident (p. 65) in Marner's life?

What effect did the gold have upon him? Contrast this with the influence of Eppie.

In the development of Marner's character, what is the significance of the scene at the Rainbow when Marner tells his neighbors of the loss of his gold?

What sort of man was Godfrey at the beginning of the story? Was there any excuse for him in his lack of manliness? State the struggle going on within him the night before he told his father about taking Fowler's money. What was the effect on him of telling only a little of his secret? Why did he at last tell Nancy all? What was his punishment?

INTERPRETATION.—What idea does the development of Silas Marner's character illustrate?

Does the author's devotion to this idea mar at all your interest in the book as a story?

What truth does Godfrey Cass's life illustrate?

What satire do you find on people or customs?

METHOD OF NARRATION.—Who tells the story?

Could the author have made one of the characters tell the story just as well? Give reasons.

Does the narrator write as though in some mysterious way she knew all about the characters, or does she write only what she might have seen and heard?

To what extent does she use dialogue?

How do we become acquainted with the characters?

Find several passages where the author interrupts the flow of her story to make explanations for our benefit (for example, pp. 100-101).

STYLE.—Does the author use the language of her own time?

To what extent does she make use of dialect?

Is the language of the characters consistent with the author's description of them? Note the difference in choice of words and grace of expression when the author speaks in her own person, and when she speaks through the mouth of one of her characters.

Find passages that express humor (pp. 201-203), pathos (pp. 67-69), satire (pp. 184-185).

THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF THE AUTHOR.—What do we know of George Eliot's early home? education? religious experiences? life while manager of the house at Griff? life at Coventry? early literary work? first attempt at novel writing? success as a novelist?

Would you judge from this book that she was fond of social life? simple country life? animals? children? books? Give your reasons.

How do you suppose she knew how to describe the horse sale? the evening at the Rainbow?

COMPARISON.—Is our interest in this book chiefly in the setting? in the plot? in the characters? in the idea? in the style? or in all of these factors equally?

Compare Silas Marner in these five particulars with Ivanhoe and with The Vicar of Wakefield.


Much has been said, and said with force, about the impossibility of teaching literature. But while many believe that certain kinds of literature can be taught with marked success, they are apt to feel the force of the above contention when they attempt to teach poetry.

It is, of course, comparatively easy to make clear the main idea of a poem, the facts of the plot, the details of the setting, and the characteristics of the actors; but the score of artistic touches that make the poem great cannot be taught, any more than can the beauty of a flower. To be sure, some pupils may appreciate these touches, and appreciate them because of the instruction they receive, but, on the other hand, others never will in spite of all aid and encouragement. It should not for a moment be forgotten, however, that the matters that can be taught are by no means inconsiderable. The language must often be explained; the thought, buried in involved sentences, must be simplified; and the unfamiliar or abstract ideas must be illuminated by illustration. There are doubtless some ideas in poetry that cannot be explained in words, but most of the obstacles that pupils meet with may be smoothed away, if only the difficulty is perceived.

The task of the teacher is, first, to put himself and his class into the atmosphere of the poem. Then the events of the narrative, the idea of the lyric, the characteristics of the setting, and the individualities of the various actors must be clearly brought out. Studies must be suggested that will make the pupil read over and think over, again and again, the words of the poet. Lastly, by reading aloud and by devices which may defy analysis, but which will suggest themselves to teachers who, enthusiastic themselves, desire to inspire others, the class must be made to feel the truth and beauty of the poem.


A narrative in verse is not essentially different from a narrative in prose. The content is still the important feature, but form demands far more attention than it does in prose. More care must be given to the first and second readings of a poem than of a novel, since certain difficulties of form and language cannot so readily be left to the student himself to master.

The comprehensive study will follow the same lines as in the prose narrative;—setting, plot, characters, central idea, and form. Before beginning certain poems, the teacher should bring up briefly some preliminary topics for the purpose of interesting the class in what they are about to study. A half-hour's talk at this point may be of the greatest value, if it is strictly a preparation for the work in hand. It is a mistaken kindness to tell pupils, in advance, the story of a poem, but whatever will give them more interest in beginning the work, or a better understanding as they proceed, is legitimate and desirable.


I. Preparation

Such facts must be presented as will make the first reading intelligible, and put the class into the atmosphere of the poem.

II. A Rapid Reading

This reading of the poem must be accompanied by general suggestive questions and explanations. A part of the first reading should probably be assigned for home work, but the more important passages, at least, should be read in class by the teacher, or by some good reader among the pupils.

III. A Careful Reading

The main purpose of this reading is to gain an understanding of the poem. It will include a thorough but not exhaustive study of its details; the best passages may be read aloud, and choice selections committed to memory. Then should follow a brief practical study of meter, with class discussions to interpret the thought of the author.

IV. Study of the Poem as a Whole

A. Content

1. Setting

2. Plot

3. Characters

4. Central idea

5. Method of narration

B. Form

1. Structure

2. Meter

3. Style

C. The Life and Character of the Author


I. Preparation

The introductory work that the teacher is required to do for his class depends upon the conditions: the age of the pupils, their previous reading, etc. The following topics are suggested as suitable for the double purpose that we have in mind: arousing the interest of the class, and supplying necessary information.

1. A brief account of Scott's ancestry to show his connection with the Highland clans.

2. Some facts of Scott's boyhood to show his enthusiasm for outdoor life, for deeds of daring, for old Scotch legends.

3. The story that Lockhart tells in his life of Scott[1] (p. 266), of how tired soldiers were aroused by a recital of The Battle of Beal an Duine.

4. A short account of the Scottish lake region, with map.

5. A very few facts concerning James V and the Douglas family.

II. A Rapid Reading

This is for the purpose of getting the main facts of the story. It may be done partly by the teacher[2] and partly by the class out of school. A short time in every recitation period should be taken for a running fire of questions to make sure that the class understand the plot. The questions ought to be simple matters of fact which a first reading should reveal.

III. A Careful Reading

The class should now be ready to enjoy a second reading with whatever study of words, figures of speech, meter, etc., is necessary together with the memorizing of a considerable amount. The following questions are intended to suggest the kind of work that ought to be done with young pupils:

1. Canto I, line 47. Explain "tainted gale."

2. " " " 54-63. To which of the senses does Scott appeal?

3. " " " 54-63. Point out the words that are most effective.

4. " " " 69. What is the hurricane?

5. " " " 114-130. To what sense does Scott appeal?

6. " " " 114-130. How does he appeal here to our sympathy?

7. " " " 131-151. How does he make the escape of the stag a surprise?

It is easy to select many good narrative and descriptive topics for oral and written composition, and here, as always, frequent writing is an aid to the understanding of the work of literature under discussion, as well as to the enlargement of the power of expression.

The study of meter ought to offer little difficulty if only a simple, practical knowledge is required, and yet a large number of pupils find it confusing. It may never have occurred to some of them that the great difference in form between prose and poetry is that in the one case the arrangement of accented and unaccented syllables is irregular, and in the other regular. If they are directed to mark a few passages after some definite form, as they will easily learn the normal line. They will learn, too, that there are a few common variations. Having learned these, and the names of different feet and meters, the whole subject will seem, as it is, a very simple matter.

~ - ~ - ~ - ~ - The stag at eve had drunk his fill

IV. Study of the Poem as a Whole

SETTING.—When and where did the events of this story take place?

Are we interested in the descriptions because they are beautiful, or because of historical associations?

What caused the trouble between the Highlanders and the Lowlanders?

What do you learn from the poem about Highland hospitality? (See Canto I, lines 576-601; II, 585-604, etc.) Customs of dress? (I, 362-372; II, 534-539; III, 478-499, etc.) Devotion to leaders? (III, 410-451; IV, 397-400, etc.) Superstition of the people? (III, 123-178; IV, 79-99.)

What foundation in fact was there for James's treatment of Douglas (V, 609-631), and for Ellen's visit to court? (VI.) (See Introduction to The Lady of the Lake, pp. 27-31.)

PLOT.—How is the story introduced?

At the end of Canto I what do we think the story is to be?

What is brought into Canto II to complicate the plot or to make it less simple?

How is the main action of Canto III foreshadowed in Canto II?

What is the purpose of Canto III? Would the story be complete without it?

How does the prophecy related in the early part of Canto IV affect our interest in what follows?

What is the purpose of the Blanche of Devan incident?

What is the purpose of Canto IV in the development of the story?

What is the purpose of the dialogue in the early part of Canto V? of the games in the latter part? Show how Canto VI is a fitting conclusion.

Note in how many of the cantos the main action is told in a single scene vividly described.

How does the author retard the movement, keep the story from going too fast, in the most exciting parts?

What is the purpose of the Minstrel in the development of the story?

In what cases does Scott keep the identity of characters unknown to the reader for a time? for what purpose?

Are we more interested in the fortunes of Roderick or in those of Ellen?

CHARACTERS.—What characters are historical?

Are the others true to life? Are they too good, or too bad, too brave, or too foolish?

Is there a hero? a heroine?

Compare Malcolm and Roderick. Which makes the stronger appeal to your interest? Why?

How did the clansmen regard Roderick? Why? Name some of his virtues.

In the struggle between James and Roderick, which one do you wish to be successful? Why?

What qualities do you admire in Ellen?

INTERPRETATION.—Was Scott's purpose merely to tell an interesting story, or to present a period of history, or to teach some ethical truth, or to present high ideals of character, or all of these combined? Give your reasons carefully.

METHOD OF NARRATION.—Who tells the story?

Suggest some of the changes that would have been necessary if the author had made Ellen or Douglas tell it.

By what device does Scott tell us the story of the battle?

How does he acquaint us with the characters: by what he says, by what they say, or by what others say of them?

FORM.—What is a canto? Is it merely a form division, or is it also a thought division?

Can you discover any plan in the division of the canto into stanzas?

Mark the scansion of stanza 34, Canto II.

What is the meter of the normal line?

What variations are there in the kind of feet?

Mark the scansion of stanzas 2 and 3 of the ballad in Canto IV.

What is the meter of lines 1 and 3? of lines 2 and 4? what variations are there in the kind of feet?

Find the meter of one or two of the songs.

Does the author use language of a time other than his own?

Does he use dialect? Compare in this respect with some of his Scotch stories in prose.

Do the characters all talk alike, or as we should expect of persons differing in birth and education?

Does Scott use simple or unfamiliar language?

Find a vivid picture (for example, Canto I, stanzas 11, 12), and examine the language to see what kind of words are most effective: specific or general, concrete or abstract, figurative or literal.

Do the same with some passage that presents an impression of sounds (as in Canto I, stanza 3).

Can you see any difference between this poem and a prose story in language, thought, beauty of description, or any other respect except metrical form?

THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF THE AUTHOR.—Was Scott a Highlander or a Lowlander?

What do we know of his father and mother? of his earlier ancestors? of his childhood? of his boyhood interests? of his education and training? What profession did he enter? How successful was he in it? What was his reputation? What was his first literary venture? Name his great poems in the order in which they appeared. Give some idea of their success. Why did he stop writing poetry? Compare his success as a novelist with his success as a poet.

How did he change his manner of living as he became increasingly successful?

What misfortune overtook him? How did he meet it?

Give a picture of his home life.

What are the chief traits of his character?


I. Preparation

This is a wonderful poem, which makes a profound impression on an imaginative mind; but it is most difficult to teach. This is because of its very simplicity. The teacher must try to put himself into the attitude of a child and read the poem several times until the vividness of the pictures and the beauty of the language have captivated his imagination. Then he must attempt to put his pupils into the same frame of mind. At this point it is helpful to discuss the differences between prose and poetry, the beauty or horror of a vivid dream, and the real truth that often underlies a fairy story or a dream story. Next, the translation of the Latin quotation that is prefixed to the poem may be read and discussed simply, especially the first sentence. The teacher must try to secure from his class, if possible, what Coleridge calls "that willing suspension of disbelief which constitutes poetic faith."

II. Reading and Study

After this very important preparation and a rapid reading of the poem, as in the case of The Lady of the Lake, the teacher will find it profitable to read the poem again rather slowly with the class in order to bring out the meaning of words, the clearness of the pictures, the simple train of incidents, the rapidity of the narrative, the remarkable development of the Mariner's character, and the simple beauty of his faith and love.

III. Study of the Poem as a Whole

SETTING.—To whom and under what circumstances was the story told?

How do music, and feasting, and ceremony serve to set off the story?

Trace the course of the Mariner's voyage.

Can you form any idea of the time when he lived, or of the length of time that he was absent on his voyage?

Why was not Coleridge more definite in regard to time and place?

"The poem is a story told by pictures." Name the most important ones. Note the details that make them clear. In what respects are they unusual?

PLOT.—Name the incidents that lead to the killing of the albatross; those that lead from the killing of the albatross to the blessing of the water snakes; and those that lead from this point to the end.

Show how one incident leads to another by the law of cause and effect.

Show how the killing of the albatross and the blessing of the water snakes are the most important events of all.

How does the author impress us with the importance of the Mariner's crime?

Which events in the story are caused by the Mariner? which by the supernatural beings?

Show how the author makes improbable events, like the coming of the spectre-bark, seem probable.

CHARACTERS.—Show why the Mariner is the only important human character.

In what respect are the supernatural characters important?

How are they like mortals? how unlike?

Describe the Mariner's appearance. Trace carefully the changes in the development of his character.

What do we know of his companions? Why were they punished?

INTERPRETATION.—What idea or truth does the author bring out in the poem?

Show how the Mariner in his development illustrates it.

METHOD OF NARRATION.—Who begins the narrative? Who else soon takes it up? What part does each tell? Does the Mariner tell anything beyond what he himself saw or heard?

Compare this narrative with some other with respect to the rapidity with which the story moves.

Note some places where the movement is most rapid, and try to discover how the poet makes it so.

FORM.—Why do you suppose this poem is divided into seven parts?

Do the stanzas correspond to thought divisions as they do in The Lady of the Lake?

What is a ballad? Select three stanzas in different parts of the poem and mark the scansion. Compare these to see whether they are alike, and, if not, what variations there are.

Compare this poem with some other ballad, for example, "Alice Brand" (The Lady of the Lake, Canto IV), to find what is the normal ballad stanza.

STYLE.—Did Coleridge use language of a time other than his own? Select several words that he would not have used in writing a letter. Do they seem appropriate here? Why? Are the sentences simple or involved?

Are the words common or unusual? Are the most effective words concrete or abstract? figurative or literal? Find examples of alliteration, of onomatopoeia, of all the figures of speech that you can find here.

Do the figures of speech make the idea clearer? more beautiful? more impressive? Make a list of five or six of the most effective scenes and decide whether they are effective because of their beauty, their pathos, their horror, or for some other reason.

THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF THE AUTHOR.—What do we know of Coleridge's childhood? his school days? his college experiences? his struggles to get on in the world? his radical opinions? his acquaintance with Wordsworth? with Southey? his success as a poet? his other literary work? his domestic life? his decline?

Tell how this poem came to be written. What was Wordsworth's part? In what volume was it first published? What epoch in the history of poetry does this volume mark?

What were the strong features in Coleridge's character?

What was lacking? What characteristics of the man may you infer from this poem?


I. Preparation

The following topics are more or less important for the pupil to understand before he begins his study of the poems: the meaning of idyll as Tennyson uses it; the facts about King Arthur (what we actually know and what we have reason to believe); the period of history in general covered by his reign; condition of Britain at this time; her enemies within and without; the sources of the large number of legends about Arthur; beginning of Tennyson's work on this subject; the growth of his plan.

II. A Rapid Reading

It is desirable that the class be familiar with all of the Idylls. Such familiarity will give the student not only a greater interest in the ones especially assigned for study, but also a larger grasp of their meaning. If the conditions make it impracticable for the teacher to assign all of the poems to the entire class, the best alternative will be to assign each of the poems to some members of the class for special study. Time enough should be taken in the recitation periods for these students to report somewhat fully on the special Idylls they have been studying, so that the essential facts of the entire series may be in possession of the class.

Questions like the following will test a general knowledge of these facts:

Who was King Arthur?

What struggles did he have to make before he became undisputed king?

What were his ideals? Who were his chief knights? What were their characters? What were their tasks? (Specify several.) What great danger to the success of the Round Table soon arose? (See Marriage of Geraint, ll. 24-28.) What second danger arose later? (The Holy Grail, ll. 203-327.)

Trace briefly the effect of each. Did Guinevere truly repent? What were her feelings toward Arthur at the last?

Who were opponents in the last great battle? What was the result?

III. The Meaning of the Idylls

What explanation does the poet give in the Dedication to the Queen at the end of the Idylls? (ll. 36-44).

In the struggle of "Sense at war with Soul" what part does Arthur play? What is the position of Guinevere? of Lancelot? Who represent the forces altogether evil?

What is the result of the war in respect to the Round Table? to Guinevere and Lancelot? to the king? Was Arthur victor or vanquished?

How is each separate Idyll related to the general development of the story?

What is the allegorical significance of Arthur's miraculous birth? of his training by Merlin? of the Lady of the Lake? of the three Queens? of Excalibur?

What tasks of the soul are symbolized in Arthur's wars against the Heathen? against the lords and barons of his own realm?

How does the search for the Holy Grail symbolize a danger to the soul?

IV. General Questions

Do these Idylls form a grand epic?

Are the places of these poems, Camelot, Caerleon, Glastonbury, etc., to be identified with known places?

Are the descriptions of scenery such that we think of the places as real, or as places in fairyland? Do the characters seem like real people?

Is there unity in the story as a whole?

Are the episodes closely connected with the main action?

Each of the three Idylls especially chosen for reading should be studied as a story complete in itself, and as part of the series taken as a whole.

Gareth and Lynette

SETTING.—Where is the scene of the story? In what season of the year do the events take place? How does the season fit the story? In what condition is the court represented? (ll. 305-309).

How do the cases brought before Arthur, and his disposition of them, show the character of his rule?

How clear an idea do you get of the country between Camelot and Castle Perilous? of Castle Perilous? Of what importance are these descriptions?

PLOT.—How does Tennyson introduce the story?

How is Gareth prepared for his work as a knight?

Give the chain of incidents that lead from Gareth's leaving home to his victory at Castle Perilous. How do the several contests compare with one another in difficulty?

Is there unity in the plot? Is it more consistent with the story as Tennyson tells it to have Gareth marry Lyonors, as Malory says? Why?

CHARACTERS.—How is the character of Gareth made clear to us at the outset? How, if at all, is his character developed by his service as a scullion?

In what respects does he show himself different from the other scullions?

Would you have respected him any more if he had resented the taunts of Kay and the insults of Lynette? Why?

What impression of Lynette do you form from her interview with the king?

In her language is she coarse and rude, or only petulant and thoughtless?

After she is won by Gareth does she show any fineness of nature?

Describe the characters of Lot, Bellicent, Gawain, and Modred.

INTERPRETATION.—What period of a man's life may Gareth be intended to typify?

What is the allegorical meaning of the gateway to the city of Camelot and of Merlin's description of the building of the city?

In Gareth's contests with the four knights for the possession of Lyonors' castle, what does each in turn typify? What does the poet mean by making the first three contests increasingly difficult? by the terror which the fourth knight inspires? by the easy victory over him? What does Lynette represent in her impulsive and persistent opposition to Gareth?

What does Gareth represent in his constant devotion to high ideals? What truth is illustrated by Gareth's overcoming the petulant opposition of Lynette?

Connect the teaching of this poem with the thought of the whole series.

FORM.—What is the meter of the poem? What are the principal variations from the normal line in the number of syllables and the position of accents or stresses? Explain and illustrate caesura, end-stopt line, run-on line. What variations do you find in the position of the pauses? What is the effect of the variations on the music of the verse?

Base your study of meter on several passages (for example, ll. 100-150, 520-550, 1350-1394).

Compare the language used by Bellicent and Gareth in their dialogue (ll. 34-168), with descriptive passages (like 184-193, 209-226, 376-427, 650-685, and 883-900).

What differences do you note in the poet's choice of words?

Find passages that present a vivid picture, a vigorous action, simple narrative, true sentiment.

Lancelot and Elaine

SETTING.—Where did the King keep court at the time of this story?

Where did Elaine live?

Where was the tournament held? What do we know of the relative positions of these places?

At what season of the year do the events of the story take place? How does the season fit the story? Do the places seem real?

PLOT.—How is the story introduced? Compare with the introduction of the previous Idyll.

What was the occasion for the tournament?

What led Lancelot to Astolat? What caused Elaine's passion for him? Why did he wear her favor? What were the consequences of his wearing it?

Elaine's love for Lancelot led her to what different acts? What did Lancelot's devotion to Guinevere lead him to do?

At what dramatic moment did Elaine's body reach Camelot? How did the event affect the King? Guinevere? Lancelot?

CHARACTERS.—From what Arthur says and does, do you find any change in him since his appearance in Gareth and Lynette?

Do Lancelot and Guinevere, as they talk of him, reveal any real weakness in his character?

What personal characteristics does Guinevere show in the opening interview? What at the conclusion of the story?

How is Lancelot pictured in the opening interview? in the night that he spends at Astolat? How does he appear when he defends himself after Elaine's letter has been read? What, on the whole, is our feeling for him? Show how his life was a tragedy.

Describe Elaine as we first see her. Does it seem consistent with her retiring, almost timid, nature to press Lancelot to wear her favor and later to confess her love to him? How do you account for her doing it? What is the charm of her character?

Contrast Elaine and Guinevere.

INTERPRETATION.—Compare the picture of the court that we get here with the one that is drawn in Gareth and Lynette.

What stage in the history of the Round Table does this story mark? What is the central idea of the poem?

FORM.—Compare this Idyll with Gareth and Lynette with reference to meter, and to choice of language.

The Passing of Arthur

SETTING.—Where is the scene of the story laid? At what season of the year? How does the season fit the story? Do the descriptive passages help you to imagine the places? Illustrate. Do they help you to feel the situations? Illustrate. Of what importance are place and time here?

PLOT.—Make a simple outline to show the chain of incidents that form the plot. Compare this Idyll, in respect to reality, with the other two you have studied.

CHARACTERS.—Is Arthur's character essentially the same as it appears in the other Idylls we have studied?

What is his mood at the beginning? Does he talk like a vanquished man?

INTERPRETATION.—Do we think of Arthur here as King of Britain, or as a figure in an allegory? Why?

What is indicated by the fact that Arthur did not die, but was taken away by the three Queens?

What is indicated by the uncertainty of Bedivere and even of Arthur himself as to where he was going and whether he would ever return?

Show how the "war between Sense and Soul" is manifest in the war between the King and his enemies; in the struggle of Bedivere between obedience and disobedience; and in the conversation of Arthur and Bedivere as the barge is coming.

FORM.—Compare the meter of the part of the poem published in 1842 (ll. 170-440), with that of Gareth and Lynette published in 1872, to note the difference in the poet's variations from the normal line, and, in general, the difference in effect.

Compare this Idyll with the other two in respect to language, beauty of description, etc. Study especially such passages as ll. 95-117, 129-135, 349-360. Find others worthy to be learned for their sentiment or beauty of description.

THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF THE AUTHOR.—What do we know of Tennyson's parentage? his boyhood? his early love of poetry? his favorite poets? his college life? his employment after leaving college? his early volumes of poems? the importance of his 1842 volume? the significance to him of the death of Arthur Henry Hallam? the three principal events of his life in 1850? his great and continued popularity? the honors conferred upon him? his two estates? his peaceful death?

Did Tennyson ever pursue any profession other than that of a poet? Did he write prose literature? Did he hold public office? Compare him with other famous poets in each of these three particulars.

Point out, by reference to his best known poems, Tennyson's three successive impulses: aesthetic, personal and religious, social and patriotic. (See Introduction to Idylls of the King pp. 11-15.) Show how all these are blended together in the Idylls of the King. Was he equally successful in all the kinds of poetry that he undertook? Discriminate.

What were some of his favorite pursuits?

What three successive attempts did Tennyson make with the Arthurian legends? in what periods of his poetic development?


The lyric is a poem which voices the personal feeling, sentiment, or passion of the poet. The poet's feelings are the feelings of human nature, but purified and intensified by his genius. So they are as varied as human nature, but nobler and more beautiful. Lyric poetry, then, appeals to our various moods and often expresses that of which we have been vaguely conscious in ourselves. Sometimes, too, it inspires us to nobler and purer feeling and to higher conceptions of life.

The wise teacher seeks to awaken the interest and arouse the imagination of his pupils. He tries to bring them into the right mood, but avoids putting himself between them and the poet. He must see that they understand the poet's thought, but the appeal to the feelings he will best leave to the poet himself.

Repeated readings and the memorizing of important passages are nowhere so important as in the study of lyric poetry. To make repeated readings useful, however, the teacher must convince the class by questions, or the introduction of discussion, that they have overlooked some message of the poet's. A general plan of study might include, first, wise preparatory work on the part of the teacher to bring the class into the atmosphere of the poem; second, a mastery of the details of the poem; third, a study of the content of the poem as a whole and in parts; fourth, a study of form and structure; fifth, a study of the poem as an interpretation of the poet.


I. Preparation

A brief discussion of the meaning of lyric poetry will be helpful, with discriminations between it and other forms of verse.

The class will be put in the right attitude for study by an interesting account of Milton's life up to 1632; his home influences; his education; his Puritan ideas; the difference between Puritanism in Milton's youth and Puritanism in the days of the Commonwealth; and, especially, by a vivid picture of the surroundings of the poet at Horton.

II. Reading and Study

The first reading may be utilized to get a general idea of the poem, and to mark the thought divisions. Other readings will make the student familiar with the details of description, the allusions, the difficult words and constructions, the varieties of meter and rhyme. A comparison, point by point, between the two poems will be helpful. Such a one might be written in the notebooks after the plan suggested by Mr. Chubb in The Teaching of English, p. 298.

====+========================+====+=================== Lines L'Allegro Lines Il Penseroso + + + - 1-10 Dismissal of Melancholy 1-10 of deluding joys 11-46 Invitation to Mirth 11-54 to Melancholy 47-150 Progress of day of social 55-174 of night of solitary delights joys 42 (a) Lark's Reveille 56 (a) Evening 44 (b) "Dappled Dawn," 67 (b) Nightingales cock, hounds, etc. even-song 60 (c) Sunrise 74 (c) Moonrise (d) Sounds of labor (d) Curfew =====+======================+==+====================

III. Study of the Poem as a Whole

A comprehensive study will naturally follow the detailed study and may, to a certain extent, be a summary of the work already done.

CONTENT.—Contrast the two speakers in respect to their choice of companions; descriptions of morning and evening; their attitude toward country life; their recreations and employments in the daytime and in the evening; and their tastes in music, worship, and the theater.

Must we suppose that these poems express conflicting views of different men, or may they represent views of the same man in different moods?

State in a single sentence the main idea of each poem.

FORM.—Indicate the meter of the normal line, or rather of the two types of lines most frequently used. What is the difference in effect between these two types?

What are the principal variations in the position of accented syllables? in the number of syllables? in the kind of rhyme?

Do you like these poems because of their beauty of sentiment? beauty of figurative expression? beauty of description? some other form of beauty? or because of all of these? Quote what seems to you most beautiful.

Is there anything notable in the choice of words? in their arrangement?

Do you find any passages where words have been chosen because their sound corresponds to the sense?

THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF THE AUTHOR.—(See outline for the study of Lycidas, p. 59.)


I. Preparation

This poem is made somewhat difficult by reason of the formal and conventional terms of pastoral poetry. Therefore, in the preparatory work, the teacher should explain these terms; and should dwell on the circumstances that called forth the poem. The history of the times should be touched upon sufficiently to make clear the meaning of the two digressions in the poem.

II. Reading and Study

The first reading should enable the student to trace the line of thought; to mark the digressions; and to understand the general plan of the poem.

Other readings will include a careful study of the language, the meaning of the allusions, and, in detail, the poet's thought.

III. Study of the Poem as a Whole

A comprehensive study of the poem as a whole should be profitable after the work indicated in II.

CONTENT.—What is the substance of the poet's lament for his friend? As we read the poem do we think more of him or of Milton? How do you account for this?

What were Milton's relations to King? Were they intimate, personal friends?

Put into a sentence the substance of each digression.

In what part of the poem do we find that the allusions to the supernatural are classic and pagan? in what part, Christian? What corresponding difference is there in the tone of the poem?

FORM.—What relation do the first two paragraphs bear to the rest?

Where is the pastoral element first introduced?

At what places does Milton drop the pastoral form?

What is the effect of a change of person in the last eight lines?

Has the poem unity? Give reasons. How would the poet have justified his digressions?

How many syllables do you find as a rule in each line? How are the lines rhymed? Find several blank verse lines. What variations from the normal line do you note in the number of syllables and in the position of accented syllables?

Does the poet show deeper feeling in his lament for King or in the digressions?

In what way does the language differ from that of L'Allegro and Il Penseroso? Account for the difference.

THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF THE AUTHOR.—Find out what you can of Milton's childhood home; his tastes and habits when a boy; his education; his perplexity about the choice of a career; his six years at Horton; his travels; his return home; his removal to London; his marriage; his prose writings; his spirit in controversy; his domestic life; his public life; his situation in 1660; his employment during the years of his retirement; the effect on his character, of controversy and the failure of his cherished ideals of government.

Into what three periods does his life naturally fall?

How does the character of his writings conform to these three periods?

What do L'Allegro and Il Penseroso reflect of his life at Horton? of his tastes? of his accomplishments? Do you find anything indicative of his Puritan sympathies? anything inconsistent with the Puritanism of his time?

Do you note any change of spirit from the earlier poems to Lycidas?

What spirit of Puritanism is reflected in Lycidas?

GENERAL HISTORICAL QUESTIONS.—Answers to the following are valuable because of their bearing on Milton's life and work.

How did James I differ from Elizabeth in matters of religious toleration?

What controversy was carried on during James's reign within the established church?

Distinguish from one another the terms Separatist, Puritan, Prelatist.

How were the Puritans gradually forced to take extreme positions in matters of theology as well as in matters of government?

Compare the Puritan of Milton's boyhood with the Puritan of the Civil War.


I. Preparation

On account of the simplicity of this poem and the familiarity that many of the students already have with it, little preparation is necessary to introduce the class to the first reading. Original compositions on country scenes and country life will help them to get into the spirit of the poem, and a few facts about Goldsmith's early home in the country, and his perplexed life in the city, will show the poet's point of view.

II. Reading and Study

A first reading should enable the student to understand the plan of the poem and to enjoy the descriptive passages. A simple outline, if required at this point, will aid him in fixing the main divisions in mind and will be useful for detailed study when he comes to the second reading. This second reading should enable the student to understand the poet's thought in every particular. He should ponder over the thoughtful passages, memorize the most beautiful ones, and examine the language and meter.

III. Study of the Poem as a Whole

CONTENT.—Contrast the village of Auburn when the author saw it in youth, with the Auburn of his later years, in regard to its appearance and the condition of the people.

Give character sketches of "The Preacher" and "The Schoolmaster." Explain what the poet considers has caused the changes he laments in the village.

Contrast the simple natural pleasures with those of luxury and wealth.

What effect on the poor has greed for wealth? on the country? What is Goldsmith's idea of the lot of the emigrant?

FORM.—What is the prevailing meter? How do the lines rhyme? Compare this poem with The Idylls of the King or with The Merchant of Venice in respect to meter and rhyme.

Examine what you think are the most beautiful passages in order to find out, if you can, why they are beautiful. Are they so because of beauty of sentiment? simplicity of language? choice of words? figurative language? smoothness of rhythm?

THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF THE AUTHOR.—What do we know of Goldsmith's childhood? his family? his education? his professional training? his travels? his friends in London? his loneliness? his disappointments? his literary successes? his eccentricities? his kindness?

How can we judge of his character from his references to the village of his childhood? from what he says of wealth, greed, etc.?


If a teacher were to attempt to investigate the methods employed in classes formed to study Shakespeare, he would doubtless be impressed first by their variety. One teacher lays great stress on reading the play with little or no comment; another, with painful slowness, works line by line to bring out the details of the thought; while a third lays the greatest stress on the structure of the play, following minutely the steps from exposition to climax and from climax to conclusion. Each plan has its advantages, and in the hands of an enthusiastic and sensible teacher ought to achieve admirable results.

The fundamental reason for these wide differences in method is the greatness of Shakespeare's genius. We are captivated, perhaps, by one phase of his work and fail to see, or to see in due proportion, other phases equally, or even more, important. As a rule, the limitations of time make it impossible thoroughly to investigate many lines of study, and the teacher naturally follows his own taste in making selections.

Now the average high school student has limitations which we are bound to recognize. Accustomed as he is to reading fiction where description and explanation are frequently used to aid the imagination and the understanding, he fails to appreciate the situations in a drama and the motives for the actions. Again, there are considerable difficulties of language which must be overcome by persistent work. The over-editing of some of our text-books is often a real difficulty. A conscientious pupil often feels that his lesson is not quite learned unless he has carefully read all the notes. In one school edition of a play there are nearly twice as many pages of introduction and unclassified notes as of the text. Such an edition adds to the difficulties of the work by confusing essential and unessential matters.

It is evident that there is in the study of the drama unusual necessity for a plan, flexible enough for the varying needs of classes, but definite enough to keep classes from discouraging confusion of details. Just what the plan shall be for any particular class the teacher must decide from the condition and acquirements of the class, the limitations of time, and the object in view.

Few will deny that Julius Caesar can be read with profit in the first year. It will be read, however, at that time, chiefly for the interest of the plot, the dramatic situations, and the contrasts of character. The study of meter will be slight, and of language and grammar only enough for an understanding of the thought; while the study of structure, textual changes, development of Shakespeare's art, date of publication, etc., will be left out entirely. On the other hand, the needs of a fourth year class would require a considerably different treatment of this same play. It may seem trite to say that the wisest plan is that which keeps the pupil interested in reading and re-reading the text. The more he reads the more he understands, and the more he understands the more he delights to read. This lies at the bottom of all the plans for Shakespeare reading.

Almost any student will read through a play with interest and enthusiasm, if he understands enough to keep the thread of the story. If much textual study is required with the first reading, the interest is weakened; but if the delight of a first reading leads to a second, a study of the text brings new delight, especially if the study is directed to the interpretation of the thought.

After the second reading, the study of the play as a whole, of the development of characters, of the structure and style, and of the various problems of human interest, should send the pupil to the play again and again to find evidence to support his opinions. This study, together with memory work, will help to give that familiarity with the play which is one of the tests of satisfactory Shakespeare study.

The following is suggested merely as one plan suitable for high school classes:

I. Preparation

The presentation of a few matters to arouse interest and to anticipate some of the difficulties of a first reading.

II. First Reading

The aim of the first reading is to familiarize the pupil with the main facts of the play. General questions may be asked to guide the student, or directions given to note the progress of each scene in the development of the play. He should not be hindered, however, from as rapid a reading as he can make intelligently.

III. Second Reading

This careful reading will have for its purpose the interpretation of the author's thought. Other matters, however interesting to a Shakespearean scholar, should, for the most part, be avoided. In this thorough study many of the matters treated under the next topic will naturally come up for discussion.

IV. Study of the Play as a Whole

Here it will be possible to sum up the work already done and to correlate it with new work in some such order as the following:

A. Content 1. Setting 2. Plot 3. Characters

B. Form 1. Meter 2. Style

C. The Life and Character of the Author


I. Preparation

This will probably be one of the first plays that the class will attempt. Hence there will be little or nothing to say about the drama, Shakespeare, or the development of his art. A short account of the theater in Shakespeare's day may be made interesting. Pictures of Venice, with an account of its wealth and magnificence in the sixteenth century; some facts about the condition of the Jew in England in Shakespeare's time; and a statement of the strange ideas concerning interest may prevent difficulties in the first reading.

II. First Reading

A good plan is to assign an act for a lesson; to use as much of the hour as necessary to test the class on what they have read; to have some passages read aloud; and to discuss the purpose of the act and its relation to the rest of the play.

III. Second Reading

This should be slow enough to give time for study and explanation of the difficulties of language, and for the study of important passages as they throw light on plot and character.

IV. Study of the Play as a Whole

SETTING.—When and where are the events supposed to have taken place?

What, in the dress of the people and the customs of the time, shows that Shakespeare had England in mind?

How long a time is probably covered from the beginning to the end of the play? Where do the scenes follow one another without loss of time and where do they not?

PLOT.—What are the two main stories in this play? What three minor stories are also part of the play?

How has Shakespeare made it seem probable that Antonio would ask a loan of an enemy like Shylock? that so strange a bond should be offered? that a sensible man like Antonio should sign it? that all his ships should be wrecked within three months? that the court should really consider taking the life of a noble citizen on such a pretext? and that a quibble like the failure to mention a drop of blood should be admitted?

Are there other improbabilities in the plot? If so, how has Shakespeare treated them? Is there any hint in the first act that the bond will be forfeited? Give the suggestions that prepare us for Antonio's plight in Act III. (I, 3, 47-48, 155-160; II, 8, 25-32, etc.)

Was it reasoning from the inscriptions, or was it simply chance, or was it the characters of the suitors, that led them to choose as they did? Discuss the questions.

Draw five parallel columns and place at the head the names of the five stories and episodes that are woven together in this play. Take each scene in turn and write under its proper head the main idea to show the progress of each story and its interrelation with the others.

-+ -+ -+ + + - The The The The Bond The Launcelot- Lorenzo- Rings Story Casket Gobbo Jessica Episode Antonio, Story Episode Story Portia, Bassanio, Portia, Launcelot, Lorenzo, Nerissa, Shylock Bassanio Shylock, Shylock, Bassanio, Jessica Jessica Gratiano -+ -+ -+ + + - Act I, sc. 1 Bassanio tells Antonio of his love for Portia sc. 2 Conditions under which Portia may wed are sc. 3 To help are related Bassanio, Antonio binds himself to Shylock Act II, sc. 1 Morocco chooses and fails sc. 2 Launcelot leaves Shylock for Bassanio sc. 3 Jessica shows her intention to marry Lorenzo -+ -+ -+ + + -

How is the plot introduced? or what is the exposition? (The Merchant of Venice, p. 148.)

As there are two main stories, so there are two climaxes. What are they? Which of these we regard as the climax of the play will depend on which story we consider the more important in the development of the plot.

How does the Launcelot-Gobbo episode help to bring out the character of Bassanio? of Shylock? Do you think it serves any other purpose?

How does the Lorenzo-Jessica story help to weave together the two main stories? to arouse us against Shylock? to make us sympathize with him? Does it serve to bring out any other characters?

How does the rings episode aid in interweaving the two main plots? in developing main characters?

Why did not Shakespeare end the play with Act IV?

What is the purpose of Act V?

CHARACTERS.—In making Shylock the cruel man that the story requires, Shakespeare was in danger of making him too inhuman to be of interest to an audience. Show in detail how he avoided this danger.

What kind of master was Shylock? What kind of father? What good traits had he?

By what traits do you distinguish Salanio, Salarino, and Salerio, or do you think that they lack individuality? Do Gratiano and Lorenzo have distinctive traits?

What evidence have we that Jessica was an attractive girl? What were her surroundings, her companions, her employments, so far as we can judge? What effect would such conditions naturally have upon a girl?

Compare Shylock with Isaac of York; Jessica with Rebecca.

How was Antonio regarded by Bassanio and his friends? by Shylock? by the Duke? What traits of character does he show in what he says and does?

What anxiety have we reason to believe Antonio had for Bassanio? What hints do we get of Bassanio's previous actions and employments? What idea do we get of Bassanio's ideals from his words and acts? What impression of his character do we get from the devotion of Portia and Antonio to him?

What successive impressions do we get of Portia from what Bassanio says of her in I, 1? from her conversation with Nerissa in I, 2? from her manner and language toward the unsuccessful suitors? from her bearing toward Bassanio? from her planning to relieve Antonio and the successful carrying out of her plans? and lastly from her part in the ring episode?

FORM.—What is the meter of the play? Name several variations from the normal line, in number of syllables, position of the accented syllables, and in the position of the pauses.

Find several passages that are worth memorizing because of their thought (for example, III, 2, 73-107), others like V, 1, 54-65, because of poetic fancy.

Distinguish between tragedy and comedy and tell how this play should be classified. How is this play like Shakespeare's latest plays, the Romances? (See Merchant of Venice, p. 14.)

THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF THE AUTHOR.—What few facts about Shakespeare's life have been established beyond doubt? What others have we good reason to infer?

Give a brief account of the theater as Shakespeare knew it.

Into what four periods may we divide Shakespeare's work? (See Dowden's A Primer of Shakespeare, or Stopford Brooke's Primer of English Literature.)

Under which period does The Merchant of Venice fall?


I. Preparation

As You Like It differs greatly from The Merchant of Venice and Macbeth in its appeal to the mind. To the lover of literature it is one of the most delightful of all Shakespeare's plays; but its interest is primarily aesthetic, not intellectual. For this reason it is extremely difficult to devise any satisfactory plan of study. The enthusiastic teacher will find ways of imparting enthusiasm to his pupils, but he cannot tell how he does it.

If this is not the first of Shakespeare's plays for the class to study, a review of what they have previously learned about the author and his work will make a good beginning; otherwise the best introduction is the reading of the play.

II. First Reading

As You Like It is one of the plays that best repays oral reading, therefore the finest passages, at least, should be read aloud. But the chief purpose of the first reading is to get a clear idea of the development of the story. To this end the student should understand the purpose of each act and the relation of the scenes to one another.

III. Second Reading and Study

Attention should now be given to the explanation of unusual words and constructions, to the interpretation of important passages, to the study of plot and character, and to memorizing the best passages.

IV. Study of the Play as a Whole

SETTING AND SITUATION.—What sort of place is the Forest of Arden? Does it seem attractive? Why? Describe the life that the natives lead.

Contrast the life of the Duke, Rosalind, Celia, and their friends in the forest with the life at court.

What chances had Shakespeare had to observe the different kinds of life portrayed here?

PLOT.—Show the steps of the plot from its beginning in I, 2 to its climax in III, 2, and from the climax to the conclusion.

Compare this play with The Merchant of Venice in respect to tragic features and to simplicity.

Why are the minor love stories introduced?

CHARACTERS.—Contrast Orlando and Oliver as they are first presented.

What is there to give us a good impression of Orlando before he does anything to earn it? Show how our good opinion of him is strengthened by his actions in I, 2; II, 6; IV, 3, etc.

What first prejudices us in favor of Rosalind? How does the author use Celia to make us like Rosalind the more? What characteristics are brought out to give us further admiration for Rosalind in II, 4; III, 2; III, 4; IV, 3; V, 2, etc.?

What is the chief characteristic of Jacques that distinguishes him from his companions? How is his view of life made to add to our appreciation of the life in the forest? Note how many of the fine passages of the play Shakespeare has put in the mouth of Jacques. Why do you suppose he did this?

Contrast the two dukes. Are they conventional characters, or do they have distinct personalities? Compare Touchstone with Wamba in Ivanhoe.

FORM.—What is the normal meter?

Show how Shakespeare varies the normal line by changing the number of the syllables; the relative position of the accented and the unaccented syllables; and the position of the pauses.

What characters always speak in prose? There is no accepted theory to account for Shakespeare's use of prose, but can you see any difference in the importance of the thought or in the depth of feeling between scenes altogether in prose and those altogether in verse?

THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF THE AUTHOR.—See outline for the study of The Merchant of Venice, p. 72.


I. Preparation

Little is required to arouse the interest of any class in the play of Julius Caesar. A brief account of the salient facts of Roman history that center about Caesar's life, and an interesting account of the man himself will help the student to an appreciative study.

II. Reading and Study

The purpose of the first and second readings will be the same as that stated in the previous two outlines.

III. Study of the Play as a Whole

SETTING.—When does the play open? What two events of history has Shakespeare combined in Act I? Why?

How many days are required for the action of the play?

Show where the scenes follow one another without loss of time, and where they do not.

How are the descriptions of nature used to make the action more effective? Compare Shakespeare's use of storm and prodigy in this play with that in Macbeth.

PLOT.—Where did Shakespeare get his material for this play? How has he modified it? Select two or three important modifications and show why he made them. In this story of the rise and fall of the conspiracy show by what successive steps it reaches the highest point in the first scene of Act III. At this point is our feeling one of sympathy with the conspirators or of opposition to them? Why? Where does the fall begin?

Trace the successive steps of the fall to the end in the last scene of Act V.

Does our feeling toward the conspirators change? Why? Compare the opening scene of this play with the corresponding ones in The Merchant of Venice, and Macbeth. Which seems to you the most interesting and the best, regarded as an introduction?

What gave rise to the quarrel in Act IV?

What are the steps in the reconciliation?

For what purpose is Caesar's ghost introduced in Act IV? What other instances of the use of the supernatural are there in this play? What purpose do they serve?

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