Improvisation and Dramatic Literature by Cristiana Faur, George Cosbuc National Bilingual College Key words: improvisation, drama

, Macbeth, tension, negative feelings, performance Improvisation can also be used to enhance one’s understanding of a dramatic text. I do not consider it to be a sacriledge, but a means to help the student get closer to a literary text, which otherwise would have been difficult, if not inaccessible. If we can identify at least one emotion or situation in the text that can be extracted and related to real experience, this can be used as an entry point into the fictional world of the text. These are some activities that were inspired by a well-known literary text, Shakespeare’s Macbeth. They are intended to familiarize students with the play, to link literature to every day personal experience and to facilitate better understanding of self and others. Of course, we should not forget all the others benefits of drama activities, of improvisation in particular………… increased self-confidence, better commnunication skills, fun! Activity 1: There are killers in the room!! All the participants in this game stand up, eyes closed and backing the leader of the group. The leader will choose 2-4 “murderers” by tapping on their shoulders gently. The chosen ones do not have to move until allowed to, because the rest of the group must not know their identity. Then everybody will walk through the room, watching the others. These murderers will “kill” the victims by simply winking at them. The one(s) who is/are winked at will “die”. If someone sees the “murderer, then the murderer is sent to jail. But if someone mistakes the “murderer” then s/he will also go to jail. It is very important to look people in the eyes, and try to gues who the murderer is. Otherwise the game is no fun. The aim is to create tension, but in a pleasant way. Activity 2: Get angry! a. In pairs create a short improvisation whereby one of you is angry with the other. You are annoyed at their foolish behaviour and are worried about the consequences. Run these scene using language that you are familiar with. b. Repeat the scene above, this time concentrating only on movement; leave out the words, and focus on the gestures which you feel are appropiate to the words, illustrating the tension within the scene. c. Choose one sentence which contain tension and shout it as angrily as possible. This can be shouted by several people, in turns, trying to enhance the anger. The aim is to concentrate on body expression and voice. Activity 3: Macbeth scene Read the excerpt and identify the reason for the tension in this particular scene.(At the end of the article you can also find the summary of the play Macbeth.)

With most admired disorder. Without our special wonder? You make me strange Even to the disposition that I owe. . protest me The baby of a girl. Pray you. thy blood is cold. and better health Attend his majesty! Lady M: A kind good night to all! [ Exeunt all but Macbeth and Lady Macbeth Macb: It will have blood. Thou hast no speculation in those eyes Which thou dost glare with! Lady M: Think of this. or the Hyrcan tiger. Ross: What sights . Lady M: You have displaced the mirth. speak not. sit still. blood will have blood: Stones have been known to move and trees to speak. Only it spoils the pleasure of the time. His very presence as the king of Scotland has angered the other nobles and further incites Macbeth’s misgivings and paranoia. When now I think you can behold such sights. Question enrages him. Banquo’s ghost appears to Macbeth and sends him into hysteria. When mine in blanche’d with fear. Take any shape but that. And keep the natural ruby of your cheeks. broke the good meeting. during a dinner given by Macbeth at the castle. Macb: What man dare. Why so: being alone. Re-enter Ghost Macb: Avaunt! And quit my sight! Let the earth hide thee! Thy bones are marrowless. Macb: Can such things be. I am a man again. The arm’d rhinoceros.The dialogue takes place the very night of Banquo’s murder. scaring his guests and angering his wife. and my firm nerves Shall never tremble: or be alive again. my lord? Lady M: I pray you. If trembling I inhabit then. good night: Stand not upon the order of your going. Lennox: Good night. hence! [ Ghost vanishes. they say. Hence. he grows worse and worse. And overcome us like a summer’s cloud. horrible shadow! Unreal mockery. And dare me to the desert with thy sword. At once. I dare: Approach thou like the rugged Russian Bear. But go at once. good peers. But as a thing of custom: ‘tis no other.

The witches tell Macbeth of how he will become the Thane of Cawdor and then the King of Scotland. Prepare an improvisation. starting from the text that you have just read and using common language. In pairs – one person remains still whilst the other walks around them. two of the Scottish King Duncan’s generals returning from battle when they encounter three witches in the woods. Choose one of the following situations: • challenging status (i. Activity 4: Interrogation scene a.wikisummaries. what is your name. they prophesize that he will beget the line of Scottish Kings. You need the following characters: Macbeth.e. The two are sufficiently skeptical and continue their journey home. b. The aim is to become aware of the universality of human feelings and the link between literature and everyday life. Summary of Macbeth (taken from http://www. Use common language and emphasise the tension by gestures and mimick. what are you doing. sometimes at a distance but always watching. b. d. etc. for example. Discuss the feelings you experienced. Improvise the situation when mother or father is trying to convince the child that there is no reason to be afraid. Lady Macbeth. sometimes moving close.e.a. For Banquo. Ask question by raising your voice and be as menacing as possible. For example: one of you is a small child afraid of the Boogie Man. some of the guests who are very scared of Macbeth’s behaviour. the Ghost. Use words and body language to make it as clear as possible. Discuss feelings. teacher. though he will never become king himself. Work in pairs on a situation when somebody is trying to help somebody else solve a fear. Activity 5: Negative feelings Improvise a situation in which one person experiences some sort of strong negative feeling. c. being agressive. The aim is to explore the tension within a particular The play opens with Macbeth and Banquo. Perform it in front of the group. In pairs – commence an improvisation between parent and child/ police officer and arrested person/ etc in which one is exercising his power over the other one. . as well as the tension between himself and his wife.student/policeman – arrested person) • different energy levels (i. Ross. dentist waiting-room) The aim is to allow freer experimentation of negative feelings. In pairs – repeat the above only this time the person moving around can begin to question the other. who are you. Present the dialogue in front of the others. Focus on the tension created by Macbeth’s fear and the special circumstances in which he is.

He invites Duncan to dine at his castle that evening and goes ahead to tell his wife of the day’s events. His very presence as the king of Scotland has angered the other nobles and further incites Macbeth’s misgivings and paranoia. the murderers fail to kill Fleance. When the body of Duncan is discovered in the morning. To ease his fears. Macduff announces that he was “ripped from his mother’s womb” not born and ultimately defeats and beheads Macbeth. All the while. Macduff’s forces arrive under the cover of boughs cut from Birnam wood. However. When Macbeth is finally confronted by Macduff after his forces have been overwhelmed. In fear. afraid that his heirs will seize the throne. The night of his murder. Macbeth’s misgivings and trust in the prophecies force his hand in the murder of Banquo and his son Fleance as well. he visits the witches again and they offer to him more prophecies. Unlike Macbeth. He must beware of Macduff. Lady Macbeth is very sure of her husband’s future. He awaits confidently as the prophecy foretold his invulnerability. He cannot be harmed by any man born of woman and he is safe until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Castle. Immediately. making Macbeth wonder how he might become king. a chief opponent to Macbeth taking the throne. Immediately upon returning to his castle. afraid for their own lives. . unable to wash the blood from her hands. The news of her suicide reaches Macbeth directly before the arrival of the English forces and sends him into an even deeper despair. the rightful heir. Successfully killing Banquo.However. Lady Macbeth is able to convince her husband to take initiative and murder Duncan that very night. Macbeth quickly kills the “culprits” and assumes the kingship. scaring his guests and angering his wife. Macbeth seizes Macduff’s castle and orders the murder of his wife and children. Duncan’s sons flee the country. Lady Macbeth is in the process of going mad. He returns home and finds that Macduff has fled to England to join Malcom. While Macbeth awaits his opponents. when the two come closer to the encampment. desiring the throne and telling him that they must murder Duncan to ensure his ascension. immediately putting the prophecy into perspective. they are presented with a messenger from King Duncan who announces that Macbeth has been made the Thane of Cawdor. handing the crown back to Malcolm. inciting Macduff to further rage. the two raise an army and ride to Scotland to take on Macbeth with the support of the Scottish nobles who fear Macbeth’s tyranny and murderous ways. Banquo’s ghost appears to Macbeth and sends him into hysteria. With Malcom. The two plan to get Duncan’s chamberlains drunk enough that they will not remember the evening and blame them for the murder.

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