Romeo and Juliet

Use a teaching guide that includes a synopsis and commentary of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, teaching activities, discussion questions, and essay topics. The famous tragedy of star-crossed lovers will fascinate your students; it is a good choice as an introduction to Shakespeare's plays.
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Updated on: December 4, 2000
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Since Shakespeare wrote for the stage, the more you can make his stagecraft part of your reading, the more your students will enjoy the play.

(1) Try some informal classroom drama techniques:
Choral Reading* - Prior to reading a scene with each character represented by a chorus of students. Present the scene chorally with every member of the class involved.

Readers' Theater#~-Assign a scene to a small group of students; each group should have one student per character; the scenes are rehearsed by the groups; each scene is read in order with the entire class participating.

Story Theater#~-Students are assigned to groups to rehearse scenes; two students are assigned each part. One reads the part, while the other acts it.

(2) Read major scenes orally to the class. Ask students who read aloud well to do the same.*

(3) Intersperse the oral reading with recordings of professional actors portraying the roles.

Writing and discussion activities can reinforce the students' understanding of the play. Have students participate in one or more of these activities:

(1) Keep a journal to record the chronological sequence of events. Each day add to a class timeline of events.+*

(2) Keep a diary of one of the major characters in the play, recording in diary form what s/he is doing and how s/he is feeling.+* Ask different students to read their entries at the beginning of each class.

(3) Select a major character and keep a journal of his/her development, noting: scenes that illustrate character traits, how Shakespeare's use of language develops the character, how the character interacts with other characters, how the character relates to the themes of the play~ (#6, p. 6). Use the character relationship chart to plot and discuss each character's development (#3, pp. 6-7).

(4) Select one of the themes of the play (#6, p. 6): current theme important to teenagers+#, literary theme#~, or theme of classical tragedy~. As you read, write about how Shakespeare addresses the theme. Keep track of how the characters and plot relate to the theme. Discuss this in small groups and with the class.

(5) Keep a list of unfamiliar vocabulary.* Discuss the meaning and use of words each day. Begin a class list, including definitions and sentences.

(6) Select one of the ways Shakespeare uses language.* As you read the play write down the act, scene, and lines. Discuss with the class.


(1) Using the diary you created for a character (#2, p. 12), write an essay about how the character changed throughout the play.+# Or, write an essay about what techniques Shakespeare used to reveal the character's traits.~ Discuss your essay with other students who worked on the same character, make a chart to show what you have discovered, post your chart, and discuss the character with the class.

(2) Write an essay about the theme you select* (#6, p. 6). Discuss why this theme is important today.+ Discuss how Shakespeare developed the theme.# Discuss how the theme relates to the tragedy of the play.~

(3) Develop one + or more #~ scenes into a classroom drama, building on some of the informal techniques used earlier. You can read the parts as you act them +# or you can memorize the lines~. Divide into small groups with each group practicing the same scene+, two groups practicing each scene#, or each group practicing a different scene~. Discuss with your group: who will portray each character, how the character will act in the scene, how the character will deliver the lines, where the character will stand, how the character will move.* You also might want to discuss: how the character interacts with the other characters, how this scene leads to the next.~ Present the scenes to the class, video tape them, view them, and critique them.* In your critique you might want to discuss how faithful your staging of the scene was to Shakespeare's characterization, plot, theme and staging.#~

(4) View a film or stage version of the play. Compare the version seen to the one read.* What are the differences?* Why did the director make these changes?* Were the changes faithful to Shakespeare's intent?#~