AP English IV Students Participate in Scarlet Letter Trial

Navigate Left
Navigate Right
  • Ashlyn Carroll ’18 plays the part of Pearl and answers questions.

  • Sam Caro ’18 is sworn in by magistrate Delaney Brown ’18.

  • Magistrates Delaney Brown ’18 and John Mcguire ’18 pose together.

  • Andy Maughan ’18 listens to his witness answer his question.

  • Xin Yao ’18 speaks on behalf of her team.

Navigate Left
Navigate Right

The crack of a gavel against a wooden table.  The click-clack of a lawyer’s heels on the tile floor.  The hushed whispers of prosecuting and defendant teams.  Beads of sweat forming on a flustered witness’s hairline.  These descriptions probably don’t align with your expectations about what happens in a typical English classroom, but Thursday, Feb. 15 was the exception.  Students in Ms. Bramlett’s first block AP English IV headed to class that day in a variety of costumes that would help them get into character for their Scarlet Letter Trial.   

Students had been preparing for weeks for this highly anticipated day.  Right after finishing their unit on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, they chose teams aligning to the various characters in the book: Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth.  The assignment of roles within teams would be decided by team members.  Roles included characters, witnesses, and lawyers.  Each team’s objective was to prove that their character was the least guiltiest sinner. 

“I thought it was such a creative way to immerse ourselves into the book and really put ourselves into the thought processes of the characters and the people around them,” Audrey Lu ‘18 said.

Each team prepared a set of documents that guided them through the courtroom procedure.  There were tips on how to write an opening statement and closing statement, along with instructions for crafting clever questions that would succeed in implicating other characters.  Teams congregated around tables and even in halls, typing on laptops and scribbling in notebooks to plan their attacks.  Students who weren’t part of a specific character’s team served as magistrates, taking notes on the actual day of the trial and then huddling together with fellow magistrates to decide the final verdict and come up with a “punishment” for the losing team.

“I was initially worried about being on Chillingworth’s team, since he was described as an allegory for the devil in our class presentations,” Lu said. “But as I started thinking about it more, I realized he had a decent case for being the least guiltiest sinner.”

Although there was a large amount of preparation leading up to the trial, students couldn’t perfectly anticipate the opposing teams’ cleverly crafted questions.

“Most of it was planned, but some of it was spontaneous, so it was interesting to see how people responded to it,” Molly Stansbury ‘18 said.   

On Friday, Feb. 23, the final verdict was announced.  The magistrates stood at the front of the room with somber faces and claimed that Arthur Dimmesdale was the most guiltiest sinner.  

“I definitely feel like Team Dimmesdale had a strong case, but ultimately I recognize that there were some cracks in the cross-examination of our client,” Sanjana Nagaraja ‘18 said.  “So I’m not too torn up about it.  I think the magistrates definitely made the right choices and delivered the correct verdict.”

Team Dimmesdale’s “punishment” will be getting pelted by grapes next week, as decided by the class magistrates.