University of Wisconsin–Madison

Political Humor and Satire

Lesson 1 – Peter Prejudice: The New Breeches, Philadelphia Federal – Gazette, 15 April 1788

The Lesson Format: Reader’s Theater

The 6 Characters:

  • Peter Prejudice
  • The Taylor [Tailor]
  • Mrs. Prejudice
  • Three Children of Peter Prejudice

Link to the Script – Peter Prejudice: A Reader’s Theater (pdf)

The Lesson: This lesson would probably be best if done after a lesson on the Federalist/Antifederalist debates over the Constitution.

  • Select six students and assign each of them a character. You may want to select six
    students prior to using this lesson and have them look over the script so they are not
    reading it in class for the first time.
  • Have the six students present the reader’s theater for the entire class.
  • As the class listens to the presentation, you can have them use the graphic organizer to
    organize their thoughts for the discussion portion of the lesson.
  • At the conclusion of the reading, you may want to have a discussion using some of the
    questions provided below.
  • An extension activity could be to have students select another metaphor and have them
    rewrite the script using the new metaphor.

Graphic Organizer:

Item in Script                              Item Symbolizes?

The Taylor

Peter Prejudice

The Prejudice Family

The New Breeches

The Old Breeches

Discussion Questions:

Checking for Understanding Questions

  • In this piece, what do the following items symbolize:
  • The New Breeches?
  • The Old Breeches?
  • Peter Prejudice?
  • Mrs. Prejudice?
  • The Children?
  • The Taylor?
  • What are the main arguments proposed by the family in favor of accepting the new breeches?
  • In this piece, who are the Federalists? The Antifederalists?

Analytical Discussion Questions

  • Would you consider ridicule an appropriate in the ratification debates? Is it
    effective in this case?
  • How effective is the breeches metaphor in describing the Constitution? Would another metaphor be better? If so, what might be a better alternative?

Lesson 2 – John Humble, Address of the Lowborn, Philadelphia – Independent Gazetteer, 29 October 1787 (Edited)

The Lesson Format: Readers Theater

The 5 Characters:

  • John Humble
  • Voice 1
  • Voice 2
  • Voice 3
  • Voice 4

The Link to the Script John Humble: A Reader’s Theater (pdf)

The Lesson:

  • Select 5 students to read a part in the reader’s theater script.
  • Have the cast read John Humble.
  • After the class has listened to the reading, you may want to lead a discussion.

Discussion Questions:

  • Is this item written from Federalist or an Antifederalist perspective? (This item is has an Antifederalist perspective. By using satire, the author attempts to mobilize opposition to the Constitution by convincing the “lowborn” (Antifederalists) there is a Federalist conspiracy to rob them of the liberties.
  • Who might the “lowborn” represent in the piece? The “wellborn?”
  • How is the idea of class addressed in this piece?
  • What does the satire in this piece suggest about the nature of social standing in Early American politics?

Lesson 3 – Honestus, New York Journal, 26 April 1788 (Edited)

The Lesson Format: Reader’s Theater

The 25 Characters:

  • A Narrator
  • 24 Additional Voices

A Lesson Note: This lesson would probably be best if done after a lesson on the Federalist/Antifederalist debates over the Constitution.

Link to the ScriptHonestus: A Reader’s Theater (pdf)

The Lesson:

  • Select 25 students to read a part in the reader’s theater script. If you have smaller classes
    you may want to assign multiple parts to each reader.
  • Have the cast read Honestus.
  • After the class has listened to the reading, you may want to lead a discussion.

Discussion Questions:

  • Is this item written by a Federalist or an Antifederalist? What would you reference in the script that would lead you to your conclusion? (Honestus is Antifederalist attempting to rile opposition to the Constitution among the tradesmen. By creating these “conversations” he hopes the insults to their intelligence which he hopes will unite them in their opposition to the Constitution.)
  • What similarities do you see among the occupations highlighted in the piece?
  • Why would the author select occupations in the skilled trades to express an opinion
    about the Constitution?

Lesson 4 – The Federalist’s Political Creed, Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer, 10 May 1788

The Lesson Format: Readers Theater

The 9 Characters:

  • Narrator 1
  • Narrator 2
  • Voice 1
  • Voice 2
  • Voice 3
  • Voice 4
  • Voice 5
  • Voice 6
  • Voice 7

The Link to the ScriptThe New Federalist Political Creed: A Reader’s Theater (pdf)

The Lesson:

  • Select 9 students to read a part in the reader’s theater script.
  • Have the cast read The Federalist Political Creed.
  • After the class has listened to the reading, you may want to lead a discussion.

Discussion Questions:

  • Is this item written by a Federalist or an Antifederalist? (The Federalist Political Creed has an Antifederalist perspective. By making outlandish claims about what Federalists believe; seeking to rob people of their liberties, the hope is that opposition to the Constitution would grow and prevent its ratification.)
  • How are the issues of social standing and class addressed in this piece?
  • What does the satire in this piece suggest about the nature of social standing in the Ratification Debates? In Early American politics? To what extent are these still relevant today?