Drawing the Line: Werther, Love, and Respect
Students will enjoy starting the class with an open discussion of the Met performance. What did they like? What didn’t they? Did anything surprise them? What would they like to see or hear again? What would they have done differently? This discussion will offer students an opportunity to review the notes on their My Highs & Lows sheet, as well as their thoughts about this Met production—in short, to see themselves as Werther experts.
Over the course of the discussion, probe students’ assessment of Werther as a realistic story. Can they imagine such events in real life? Do people really persist in pursuing unavailable partners? Charlotte was engaged to marry, but what else might make a partner unavailable to a suitor, male or female? What should someone do when they learn their partner is unavailable?
- What should Werther have done when he learned Charlotte was engaged? Why might he have acted as he did?
- Could he have moved on, as Charlotte proposed in Act II? Why or why
- Did Werther truly love Charlotte? Did he respect her? Are the two ever
in conflict? What behaviors in the opera support this viewpoint?
Invite students to imagine Charlotte’s reflections a week, a month, a year after Werther’s suicide. Does she have any regrets? Is she proud? Does Charlotte believe Werther really knew her at all? Is she angry at him? Angry at herself? Why? How might she have drawn a line to protect herself, Werther, and Albert?
To organize and articulate their views, students will take on Charlotte’s persona (as some may have done in the Classroom Activity, but with a different purpose). Invite them to imagine that the Wetzlar Department of Public Health wants to help young people caught up in complicated relationships. The citizens of Wetzlar want to ensure that this sort of incident doesn’t happen again. They ask Charlotte, the celebrity “survivor” of misbegotten love, to advise them. The public health department wants Charlotte to design a program that will
- catch teens’ attention,
- help them understand their romantic feelings,
- propose behaviors that show respect for the people they love, and
- help teens take care of themselves and their partners.
In the form of a poster, a handout, a website, a blog, or a proposal for a new TV show, students can present “Charlotte’s” advice on love, respect, and relationships. They may choose to create a list of dos and don’ts, a “tell-all” narrative, or any other form they believe would be effective with members of their own generation. Encourage them to provide serious advice, in light of the hard lessons Charlotte has learned. Students can work in small groups to discuss their advice, plan and create their media. If possible, post or distribute their creations, so other young people can benefit from their The Met: Live in HD experience.