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Lesson Plan: Fortune's Fool

Artemisia Gentileschi (Italian, 1593–1651/53)
Esther before Ahasuerus
Oil on canvas; 82 x 107 3/4 in. (208.3 x 273.7 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Elinor Dorrance Ingersoll, 1969 (69.281)

Collection Area: European Art, European Art, Seventeenth-Century, Italian Art
Subject Areas: English Language Arts, Visual Arts
Grades: Middle School, High School
Topics/Themes: Art and Writing (Note: this lesson would complement a study of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet)


Students will be able to:
  • advance a claim about whether the work of art more strongly conveys a message about the power of fate or free will; and
  • support their claim with descriptive details from the work of art.

National Core Arts Standards

Visual Arts
Responding: Anchor Standard 7: Perceive and analyze artistic work.
Responding: Anchor Standard 8: Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.

Common Core State Standards

English Language Arts
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.*
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.*
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

*Art as text

Activity before Viewing (optional)

Activity Setting: Classroom
Materials: William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
Subject Areas: English Language Arts
Duration: Several class periods

Read William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. As you read, consider whether the events and outcomes in the play are more a product of fate or of choices the characters make. Create a written argument that supports your interpretation, using details from the text. Debate with classmates who hold a different view. After considering both sides, has your perspective changed? Keep these ideas in mind as you explore the works of art in this lesson.

Questions for Viewing

  • Take a moment to observe this painting.
  • What is happening in this painting? What do you see that makes you say that?
  • Choose a figure in the painting and recreate their pose and facial expression. What might they be thinking?
  • What do you believe may have happened right before and after the moment depicted in the painting? What details from the painting support your story?
  • Based on the story you've created, do you believe this painting more effectively supports the power of fate or of free will? Why?

Activity after Viewing

Activity Setting: Classroom
Materials: Pencils and paper
Subject Areas: English Language Arts
Duration: 80 minutes

Write a short story using details from Esther before Ahasuerus that illustrate either the power of fate or free will. Your story should be based on the painting and follow the five parts of plot (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution). The moment captured in the painting should be reflected in one of the five parts of plot.


"Artemisia Gentileschi: Esther before Ahasuerus" (69.281) In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2006)

Perkins, Elizabeth. Looking to Connect with European Paintings: Visual Approaches to Teaching in the Galleries. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013. Download the resource (PDF)

Family Guide: Six Women, Six Stories, 2011. Download the guide (PDF)

Shakespeare, William, and Alan Durband. Romeo and Juliet. Woodbury, NY: Barron's, 1985.

Objects in the Museum's Collection Related to this Lesson

Titian (Tiziano Vecellio) (Italian, ca. 1485/90?–1576)
Venus and Adonis
Oil on canvas; 42 x 52 1/2 in. (106.7 x 133.4 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Jules Bache Collection, 1949 (49.7.16)

William Hogarth (British, 1697–1764)
The Wedding of Stephen Beckingham and Mary Cox
Oil on canvas; 50 1/2 x 40 1/2 in. (128.3 x 102.9 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Marquand Fund, 1936 (36.111)

Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1917)
The Hand of God
Modeled about 1896–1902, commissioned 1906, carved about 1907
Marble; overall: 29 x 23 x 25 1/4 in.; weight on pallet: 574 lb. (73.7 x 58.4 x 64.1 cm, 260364.692g)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Edward D. Adams, 1908 (08.210)

Author: Laura Smith
Affiliation: Frank Sansivieri Intermediate School (I.S. 73 Q)
Date: 2015

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