Hobbes' Leviathan Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

What was the underlying message of Thomas Hobbes' 'Leviathan'? This lesson plan uses a text lesson to summarize key points from the treatise for the class. A small group activity assesses comprehension.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to do the following:

  • summarize each book of Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
  • identify specific textual references from Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan to support analysis
  • discuss the objective of Leviathan


  • This lesson plan is designed for students who have read Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan


1.5 to 2 hours

Curriculum Standards


Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.


Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).



  • Begin by asking the students to come up with one sentence to summarize Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan. In other words, what was his overall message?
  • Have the students share their summary sentences with the class.
    • Is there consensus among the class in regard to the summarization of Leviathan?


  • Divide the class into four groups. Group One will be responsible for Book 1: Of Man from Leviathan. Group Two will cover Book 2: Of Commonwealth, Group Three, Book 3: Of a Christian Commonwealth, and Group Four, Book 4: Of the Kingdom of Darkness.
  • Instruct each group to gather together using their copies of Leviathan to draft a one-paragraph summary of their assigned section. They must also include five specific textual references from the book that help to support their analysis.
  • When all groups have finished their paragraphs, collect them and ask the students to return to their seats.

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