Title: Play Writing: Islamic Fables to Medieval and Renaissance
Name: Cathy James
School: Century High School
Grades taught: 9-12
Discipline(s): Drama, Creative Writing, English, Foreign
Languages, History and Humanities.
Duration: It would take approximately five days. The
class period is 90 minutes in length. It meets every day. It is a one
quarter or 45 day class.
Big idea: Morals and the Treatment of Others
The student will demonstrate the ability to recognize and describe the
development of a variety of dramatic forms over time and the aesthetic
qualities they reflect.
The student will demonstrate an understanding of the history, traditions,
and conventions of dramatic texts and other literature and ways
that diverse theories and forms of theatre satisfy cultural needs, past
The student will demonstrate the ability to explore the creative process
through theatrical activities and to apply theatrical knowledge, principles
and practices to collaborative theatre presentations.
The student will demonstrate the ability to identify, analyze and apply
criteria for individual and group contributions to the collaborative theatre
process, dramatic texts and other literature of the theatre and theatrical
Objectives: Using the Morality play during the Middle
Ages and the Renaissance, the students will learn about the Islamic culture
as it relates to religion, the use of fables in teaching lessons, and
the use of teaching morals. The students will:
- understand background information on Islamic fables and Medieval/Renaissance
- read several Islamic fables.
- write a sketch/one act play based on a particular fable as a morality
- cast, rehearse and perform the original morality play, which is based
on their Islamic fable.
- critique their performances and the plays they wrote.
Abstract: This lesson encompasses the ability of the
students to take an Islamic Fable, read it, understand its moral, and
transfer it into a morality play as seen by the Medieval/Renaissance community
to teach a lesson, especially to the illiterate of the time.
Motivation/Warm up: Read the fable, “The Persian Cinderella”,
to the class. Do not give the class the name of the story and see if
during discussion they can identify similarities to other fables they
know. Have the class discuss the moral of the story.
Transition: I will explain the lesson to the class and tell them that
in order to write a morality play from an Islamic fable, they need to
understand some background information on the Islamic religion and culture
and also the use of the morality play in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Historical Background: Through handouts, vocabulary, and pictures,
the class will understand several points of the Islamic culture and
religion, as well as the use of fables to teach lessons. They will also
understand the culture of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and the
use of morality plays to teach lessons. (still to be inserted).
Guided Practice: In groups, the class will read several short morality
plays and discuss them as they relate to the fables from the Islamic
culture. Then the class will separate into groups of four. They will
select several fables to be read in their groups. They will choose one
of the fables to write as a morality play. They must transfer the written
fable into a dialogue using the fable lesson as their morality lesson.
The students must make sure that all of them have a character to act
out in the play. Several of the characters may be animals depending
upon what fable they chose. They must have a copy of the morality play
for each of the actors. They should also have one copy for the teacher.
Plays will be between five and ten minutes in length.
Independent Practice: The groups will cast the parts, memorize the
lines and rehearse the play in order for it to be performed for elementary
students or other high school classes. As homework, each student must
be ready the following day with his or her part fully memorized. They
will then rehearse the memorized script using costumes and props.
Assessment: The class will be assessed on the final written play and
their performance of it. There will be two separate assessments, one
for the written element and one for the performance. There will also
be an informal assessment as they read, write and rehearse their play
that will help them they stay on task and make sure they have each element
of the assignment due when expected.
Closure: The class will have a written critique of all of the plays
performed so that the writers and actors can learn what worked and what
did not work for future assignments.
Extensions/Modifications: The time frame can be adjusted. Also, the
length of the play can be changed according to either the length of
the fable or time constraints in the class. If there is a major problem
with the memorization of the script, it can be retold as a morality
play, improvised, or a script can be used, as in reader’s theatre.
Teacher Text Sources
Arts of the Islamic World. Washington: Freer Gallery of art
Atil, Esin. Kalila Wa Dimna: Fables from a Fourteenth-Century Arabic
Manuscript. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1981.
Burton, Sir Richard. Pilpay’s Fables. Thailand: Orchid
Climos, Shirley. The Persian Cinderella. U.S.A.: Harper Collins
Conover, Sarah and Freda Crane. Ayat Jamilah: Beatiful Signs, A
Treasury of Islamic Wisdom for Children and Parents. Spokane, Wash.:
Eastern Washington University Press, 2004.
Dolman J. and R. Nunn. Mankind. Vancouver Press, 1977.
Goodman, Lenn Evan, Ed. The Case of the Animals versus Man Before
the King of the Jinn. Boston: Twayne, 1978.
Hartnoll, Phyllis and Peter Found, Ed. The Concise Oxford Companion
To the Theatre. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Knappert, Jan. Islamic Legends. Netherlands: E.J.Brill, 1985.
Volumes I and II.
Lesker, G.A. Three Late Morality Plays. W.W. Norton &
Mahfuz, Naguib. Arabian Nights and Days. New York: Doubleday,
Mernisi, Fatima. Scheherzade Goes West: Different Cultures, Different
Harems. New York: Washington Square Press, 2001.
Shah, Idries. Caravan of Dreams. Baltimore: Penguin Press,
_________. World Tales. London: Harcourt Brace, Jovanovich,
Siddiqi, Muhammad Zubayr. Hadith Literature, Its Origin, Development
and Special Features. Cambridge, Eng.: The Islamic Text Society,
Walker, Greg. Medieval Drama, An Anthology. Blackwell, 2001.
Wood, Ramsey. Kalila and Dimna: Selected Fables of Bidpai.
New York: Knopf, 1980.
Various Fables and Morality Plays
Keywords: Fable, Legend, Morality Play, Islamic storytelling,