Romeo and Juliet Lesson Plan - Lesson Plan

eNotes Lesson Plan

Introductory Lecture and Objectives

Romeo and Juliet eNotes Lesson Plan content

One of Shakespeare’s best known tragedies, even to those who have never read his works, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet continues to ignite the imagination and the heart in its exploration of the passionate nexus of love and death and the ironies of fate. Of all the Bard’s plays, none has proved to be so accessible and inspiring to so many different audiences. One famous contemporary adaptation of Romeo and Juliet is West Side Story, both a Broadway hit and a popular film; in this modern version of Shakespeare’s story, the Montagues and the Capulets of Verona are represented by the Jets and the Sharks, rival gangs pitted against each other in New York City. Also, music stars, such as Taylor Swift, have alluded to the play in song. In our vernacular, to be a “Romeo” is to be both a true romantic and a passionate lover. The definition reflects Shakespeare’s very clear message in the drama: Romantic love and passion are essentially intertwined.

Although Romeo and Juliet has become synonymous with tragic romance and “star-crossed” lovers, the play is, in fact, very bawdy; clever and risqué double entendres appear throughout. While modern readers may fix on the chaste “balcony scene” in which the lovers adore each other from a distance, it is to this same window that a rope ladder is affixed, so that Romeo can reach Juliet’s bed chamber and consummate their marriage. Characters such as the nurse and Mercutio, especially the latter, serve to gently lampoon the Petrarchan model of courtly love that held up a saintly and untouchable lady as the idealized object of pure devotion. For Romeo and Juliet, love is not metaphorical; it is spiritual and carnal, passionate and all-consuming.

Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, which is based on an Italian novella, around 1593, following a hiatus when the London theaters were closed because of plague. During the time he was not writing for the stage, Shakespeare explored the subject of erotic desire through his poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, each based on work by the Roman poet, Ovid. Shortly after the theaters reopened, he wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream and then Romeo and Juliet. Some scholars feel these two plays—a comedy darkened by serious themes and a tragedy marked by flashes of deliberate comic relief—portray two sides of the same coin: the complexities and sometimes disastrous consequences of falling in love.

Set in Verona, Italy, Romeo and Juliet opens with an argument between the servants of two prominent and long-feuding families, the Montagues and the Capulets. Romeo, a Montague, and two friends decide to attend a ball hosted by Lord Capulet. Wearing masks to disguise themselves, Romeo, Mercutio, and Benvolio attend the ball, where Romeo meets the beautiful Juliet and falls instantly in love. Later that night Romeo goes to Juliet’s window, and they exchange vows of devotion. Romeo enlists the help of Friar Laurence, who agrees to marry the young lovers in hopes of ending the long-standing feud between their two families. Passion abounds in Verona, however, fueling the impetuous desires of the young lovers and spilling blood in the streets; a series of fated events results, culminating in Romeo’s and Juliet’s suicides. As love dies, so too does hatred; the warring families promise to end their hostilities, which have cost them their only children.

As in other Shakespearean plays, the language and the cultural conventions in Romeo and Juliet may seem foreign or dated, but the themes remain as true and as relevant to modern readers as they were to Shakespeare’s Elizabethan audiences. While modern teens might question the hastily arranged wedding between Juliet and Paris, they find believable the pure and passionate love-at first-sight experienced by Juliet and Romeo. Rebellious teens seeking advice and assistance from adults other than their parents, just as Romeo and Juliet turn to Friar Laurence and the nurse, are found in everyday life as frequently as in literature. The teens in this tragedy are not singled out as the only characters making bad decisions; in fact, Romeo and Juliet might be excused from their impulsive actions, considering the overarching power assigned to destiny in the play. When their ill-fated romance ends in the tomb, Romeo and Juliet leave their parents, as well as the prince who dismissed the tragedy inherent in their rancor, to come to terms with the duality found in human existence: light and darkness, violence and desire, and love and death.

By the end of the unit the student will be able to:

1. Identify the primary themes in Romeo and Juliet.

2. Explain the common roots of love and hate and of sex and violence, and discuss how these are developed thematically in the play.

3. Determine and define those elements that make Romeo and Juliet one of the most classic love stories of all time.

4. Explain examples of fate and destiny in the play.

5. Identify examples of the motifs of light and darkness, and discuss their significance.

6. Explain through which characters and in what way comic relief is employed in the tragedy.

7. Discuss the literary devices and language techniques employed by Shakespeare.

Instructional Focus: Teaching With an eNotes Lesson Plan

This eNotes lesson plan is designed so that it may be used in numerous ways to accommodate ESL students and to differentiate instruction in the classroom.

Student Study Guide

  • The Study Guide is organized for an act-by-act study of the play. Study Guide pages may be assigned individually and completed at a student’s own pace.
  • Study Guide pages may be used as pre-reading activities to preview for students the vocabulary words they will encounter in each act and to acquaint them generally with its content.
  • Before Study Guide pages are assigned, questions may be selected from them to use as short quizzes to assess reading comprehension.
  • Study Guide vocabulary lists include...

(The entire section is 966 words.)

Essay and Discussion Questions

1. Romeo and Juliet’s rash decisions and tragic actions are placed in contrast to the decisions of the adults in the play, most of whom are guided by reason, logic, and social conventions. Which adult characters prove to be exceptions? Who among the adults is hypocritical, and in what way?

2. As he dies, Mercutio repeats three times a variation of “a plague o’both your houses.” In what ways are both families to blame for his death? How are Romeo and Tybalt specifically responsible?

3. Friar Laurence generally provides the voice of reason in the drama. In what circumstances and to whom does he give good advice? In what circumstances does he err?

...

(The entire section is 451 words.)

Prologue

Vocabulary 

ancient: archaic long-standing 

dignity: archaic social status 

mutiny: archaic conflict 

piteous: pathetic 

star-crossed: cursed by fate 

toil: work 

Study Questions

1. What form does the Prologue take, and who is the speaker? 

It takes the form of a Shakespearian sonnet, spoken by the Chorus. 

2. How does the Prologue introduce the play? 

We learn that two important families of Verona erupt again in discord stemming from a long-standing grudge between them. Then the deaths of a pair of lovers, children born of each family, end the feud...

(The entire section is 169 words.)

Act One, Scene One

Vocabulary 

assailing: assaulting, arresting 

augmenting: adding to 

cankered: archaic rusted 

chaste: pure, non-sexual 

choler: archaic anger, ire 

colliers: archaic coal peddlers 

covert: a hideaway 

coz: a cousin 

foe: an enemy 

forfeit: a loss 

forsworn: archaic renounced, repudiated 

gall: archaic poison 

lascivious: sexual, lewd 

maidenheads: virginities 

moved: archaic angry 

portentous: ominous 

profaners: those who defame or defile 

propagate: to spread 

shrift: confession 

...

(The entire section is 749 words.)

Act One, Scene Two

Vocabulary 

behold: observe 

crush a cup: to drink a glass (of wine) 

e’en: archaic evening 

fennel: an edible plant with herbaceous seeds and feathery fronds 

heretics: people with unorthodox beliefs 

holp: archaic helped 

languish: to pine, to suffer 

marred: ruined 

plantain: a low-growing green plant used medicinally 

reckoning: archaic reputation 

sirrah: archaic sir, used to address a social inferior 

suit: archaic a request 

thither: archaic there 

well-appareled: well-dressed, well-appointed 

whither: archaic...

(The entire section is 437 words.)

Act One, Scene Three

Vocabulary 

bade: archaic told, ordered 

disposition: inclination 

dug: archaic breast 

fortnight: archaic two weeks’ time 

lineament: a facial feature 

margent: archaic a margin 

quoth: archaic said 

stint: archaic to stop 

stone: slang testicle 

trudge: to march, to plod 

wit: understanding, intelligence 

Study Questions

1. Describe the portrayal of the nurse. What role does she play in the scene with Juliet and her mother? Give some examples of the nurse’s behavior. 

Compared with the...

(The entire section is 389 words.)

Act One, Scene Four

Vocabulary 

alderman: councilman 

antic: archaic grotesque 

begot: made 

boist’rous: (boisterous) noisily turbulent 

constable: a peace officer 

courtiers: noblemen 

deformities: disfigurements 

dun: brown-gray 

fleer: archaic to mock 

hither: archaic here 

lath: (lathe) a thin strip of wood 

marchpane: (marzipan) almond paste 

masquers: archaic masked performers 

move: to entreat 

nimble: graceful 

plaits: braids 

prick: archaic to wound, to penetrate 

prodigious: abnormal; extraordinary 

prolixity:...

(The entire section is 1316 words.)

Act Two, Scene One

Vocabulary 

bescreened: archaic concealed 

conjure: to summon, to invoke 

counsel: advice 

demesnes: estates, possession of land 

descry: archaic to discern 

entreat: to implore 

envious: jealous 

fain: archaic willingly 

gapes: archaic eagerly awaits 

gyves: archaic manacles 

impute: to assign, to attribute 

livery: clothing 

medlar: a small, apple-shaped fruit 

nyas: (eyas) a young hawk 

orb: a sphere 

peril: danger 

perjuries: lies 

prorogued: archaic postponed 

truckle-bed: (trundle bed) a...

(The entire section is 857 words.)

Act Two, Scene Two

Vocabulary 

aught: archaic anything 

baleful: malignant, deadly 

chid’st: (chides) admonishes 

couch: archaic to lay 

fleckled: dappled 

intercession: an entreaty in favor of another 

mickle: archaic great 

physic: archaic medicine 

predominant: chief, major 

rancour: ire, hatred 

reels: unwinds 

sallow: pale 

Titan: a reference to Helios, second-generation Titan and Roman god of the sun 

vile: evil, morally despicable 

Study Questions

1. Discuss the soliloquy given by Friar Laurence as the scene opens. What does he say,...

(The entire section is 430 words.)

Act Two, Scenes Three, Four, and Five

Vocabulary 

bandy: to toss back and forth 

bauble: archaic a staff with ball tip carried by a fool 

bawdy: lewd 

blazon: to proclaim 

cheverel: a soft, elastic leather made of kidskin 

cleft: struck in two 

clout: a sail 

coil: archaic a fuss 

conceit: an idea, an understanding 

constrains: limits 

the counterfeit: archaic the slip 

countervail: to counterbalance 

exposition: a clarification 

feign: to pretend 

hay: a penetrating thrust in fencing 

louring: archaic darkening 

passado: a foreword thrust in fencing 

...

(The entire section is 565 words.)

Act Three, Scene One

Vocabulary 

addle: to confuse, to mix up 

agile: nimble 

alla stoccado: a fencing term meaning “at the thrust” 

amerce: to punish with a fine (broadly, to punish) 

appertaining: relevant 

effeminate: a derogatory term for womanish, not manly in appearance or manner 

fee-simple: absolute ownership of property in English law 

forbear: to stop 

minstrel: a musician 

peppered: archaic done for 

pilcher: a scabbard 

quarrel: to argue 

retorts: sharp, angry, or witty replies 

spleen: ill temper 

Study Questions

1. What is the intended effect of opening this...

(The entire section is 483 words.)

Act Three, Scene Two

Vocabulary 

aqua vitae: a strong distilled liquor 

bating: fluttering 

bedaubed: archaic smeared with 

beguiled: deceived 

bier: a frame used for carrying a coffin 

cockatrice: archaic basilisk, or a legendary serpent said to kill with a look or a breath 

garish: overly bright, glaring 

lamentation: sorrow 

tedious: slow moving 

undone: ruined 

weal: well-being; a sound, healthy, or prosperous state of being 

Study Questions

1. To what is Juliet alluding when she says, “Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds / Toward Phoebus’ lodging”? What is the topic and content of...

(The entire section is 494 words.)

Act Three, Scenes Three and Four

Vocabulary 

adversity: misfortune 

calamity: misfortune 

chamber: a bedroom 

denote: to designate 

digressing: leaving the main point of discussion 

enamoured of: in love with 

mangle: to destroy 

mewed up: archaic confined 

predicament: a perplexing, difficult situation 

purgatory: a place where souls are expiated of sin before ascending to heaven 

sullen: brooding 

usurer: one who loans money for exorbitant interest 

Study Questions

1. Is Romeo grateful that the prince has banished him rather than sentencing him to death? 

“For exile hath more terror in his look,...

(The entire section is 489 words.)

Act Three, Scene Five

Vocabulary 

abhors: detests 

affray: archaic to frighten 

asunder: into pieces 

beseech: to beg 

beshrew: archaic to curse 

carrion: dead and putrefying flesh 

conduit: archaic a fountain 

discords: displeasing or harsh sounds 

discourses: conversations 

dishclout: archaic a dishcloth 

dram: a measure 

fettle: to prepare 

fickle: likely to change one’s mind 

herald: an announcer or messenger 

hilding: archaic an offensive term for a woman of base character 

puling: whining, whimpering 

runagate: archaic a...

(The entire section is 527 words.)

Act Four, Scenes One, Two and Three

Vocabulary 

abate: to stem, to lessen 

arbitrating: mediating 

behests: commands 

charnel-house: a vault where corpses are stored 

chide: to reproach 

cunning: skilled 

inundation: a flood, an overflowing 

mandrakes: plants with forked roots thought to resemble human bodies 

orisons: prayers 

pensive: brooding, contemplative 

reeky: stinking 

surcease: to desist from action 

wayward: disobedient 

Study Questions

1. Whom does Juliet encounter when she seeks out the friar, and what is her reaction? 

Juliet finds Paris talking to Friar Laurence. She manages to evade his...

(The entire section is 581 words.)

Act Four, Scene Four

Vocabulary 

alack: archaic an expression used to express regret 

cotquean: archaic a man who meddles in affairs of the house 

deflowered: deprived of virginity 

dirges: funeral hymns 

dump: archaic a melody 

logger-head: blockhead 

pate: the top of the head 

pestilent: virulent; annoying 

quinces: pear-shaped fruits that must be cooked before being eaten 

whit: an infinitely small amount 

whoreson: bastard 

Study Questions

1. What is Lord Capulet doing as the scene opens? 

Anxious about the wedding, Capulet is hovering over the serving staff,...

(The entire section is 480 words.)

Act Five, Scenes One, Two, and Three

Vocabulary 

aloof: apart, at an emotional distance 

apothecary: one who prepares and dispenses medicines and drugs 

caitiff: miserable 

churl: a villain 

commiseration: sympathy 

cordial: a drink taken to strengthen the heart 

discern: to distinguish 

ducats: gold coins 

engrossing: monopolizing 

ensign: a banner 

haughty: prideful, arrogant 

inauspicious: unlucky 

inexorable: unstoppable 

jointure: money contributed to a marriage by the groom’s family 

liege: a lord 

mattock: a pickax 

maw: the mouth and throat 

obsequies: archaic funeral rites 

paramour: an...

(The entire section is 987 words.)

Multiple-Choice Test and Answer Key

1. Who opens the play with a summary of the events to come, told in sonnet form? 

A. Prince Escalus 

B. Sampson 

C. Old Montague 

D. the Chorus 

E. the nurse 

2. Whom does Prince Escalus call “rebellious subjects, enemies to peace”? 

A. the members of the feuding houses 

B. Sampson and Gregory 

C. Romeo and Tybalt 

D. Mercutio and Tybalt 

E. the friar and the nurse 

3. Which of the following is true? 

A. Mercutio is the only character who uses punning. 

B....

(The entire section is 1372 words.)

Essay Exam Questions With Answers

1. Explain how the theme of fate is developed in Romeo and Juliet as it tells the story of “a pair of star-crossed lovers.” What events can be ascribed to fate or chance? Support your discussion with specific examples. 

It is in the sixth line of Romeo and Juliet, during a sonnet spoken by the Chorus to introduce the play, that the idea of fate is introduced; Romeo and Juliet are described as “star-crossed lovers” suggesting that their lives have been determined and tragedy awaits them. Throughout the play, the stars and the heavens are used symbolically to denote fate at work in guiding the events in their lives. Beyond the control of Romeo and Juliet, they are born into families that despise each...

(The entire section is 3195 words.)

Michael Foster, Ed. Scott Locklear