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The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Teacher Guide by Rebecca Ray

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our High School ELA Category!

Student Activities for Romeo and Juliet Include:

Are you looking to inspire and engage your students during a unit on The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare? Check out this teacher guide with valuable Romeo and Juliet activities and create visual storyboards that incorporate all four ELA Common Core Standards!

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet Summary

The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is about two star­-crossed lovers from feuding families, who take their own lives. Through a series of unfortunate events, fate and chance turn against the lovers. Romeo, a Montague, and Juliet, a Capulet, meet at a party thrown by Juliet’s family. Romeo only attends because his friend says it will help Romeo get over a girl, Rosaline. Romeo had loved Rosaline, but she rejected him. When Romeo lays eyes on Juliet, he forgets he ever had other devotions. Later that evening, he sneaks to Juliet’s balcony and professes his love. Juliet, who has also fallen in love with Romeo, asks him to make a serious gesture, to prove his love. He asks her to marry him, and she agrees.

Using Friar Lawrence and Juliet’s Nurse as intermediaries, wedding plans commence. However, Tybalt, a Capulet, goes out in search for the Montagues who crashed the party. A duel ensues, and Romeo’s best friend, Mercutio, is killed, causing Romeo to slay Tybalt. The Prince of Verona had previously warned the quarrelers that if one more disturbance was made, those involved would be put to death. However, because Mercutio was the Prince’s kinsman, Romeo is exiled instead of killed.

Juliet finds out that Romeo has killed her cousin and is devastated, not by the loss of life, but over the banishment of her lover. They again devise a plan to be together, but an obstacle presents itself: Juliet’s father has arranged for her to marry Count Paris in two days time. Friar Lawrence convinces Juliet to take a sleeping potion in order to appear dead, and promises to send word to Romeo.

The plan is for Romeo to wake her in her tomb, and take her away with him. The plan begins as discussed, however, a dramatic irony unfolds: Romeo does not receive the letter intended for him about the Friar’s plan. Instead, he hears Juliet is dead and decides to enter her grave and take his own life. He goes to an apothecary and purchases poison. When he reaches the tomb, he encounters Paris, who is also there to mourn Juliet. Upset, Romeo kills Paris and enters the tomb, drinking the poison.

Moments later, Juliet awakes and finds Romeo dead. Distraught, she takes the dagger from his belt and stabs herself. In the end, Friar Lawrence confesses the story to the Capulets and Montagues. Knowing that their enmity was the reason for the senseless loss of lives, the two men agree to end their longstanding feud.


Essential Questions For Romeo and Juliet

  1. What is love?
  2. Would you go against all your friends and family to follow your heart?
  3. Are our actions determined by fate, by chance, or by our free will?

This is one of Shakespeare's is most famous plays, and for good reason! A dramatic tale of star-crossed lovers, divided by their feuding families! What's not to love?

  • Personal Favorite - The emotions that go through the characters are essential to the play. They really carry the story and the characters' struggles. Not to mention Shakespearean outfits are fun!
  • Pro Tip - Did you know the Romeo and Juliet characters are poseable? Make sure to utilize this feature to communicate the characters' feelings and how they react to situations. Body language can be just as crucial as text, especially in plays.
  • Many of the characters in the medieval section are great for any of the characters in Shakespearean plays. We also knew it was important to have scenes like the "Balcony", "Apothecary", and "Crypt", so that you can bring those key scenes to life.

Make sure to search for extra images with the term, "Shakespeare"

Romeo and Juliet Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Five Act Structure Diagram Storyboard


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Students can create and show a storyboard that captures the concept of a Five Act Structure by making a six cell storyboard, like the one below. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the acts in order: Prologue, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement.



Example Romeo and Juliet Five Act Structure

Prologue (Exposition)

Like a modern day movie trailer, the prologue for The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet gives the audience a preview of events to come, and give us insight into the characters, setting, and background.

Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life; Whose misadventured piteous overthrows Do with their death bury their parents' strife. The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love, And the continuance of their parents' rage, Which, but their children's end, nought could remove, Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage; The which if you with patient ears attend, What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

William Shakespeare The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet

Act 2: Rising Action

The two lovers meet but cannot be together because of their families' long feud.


Act 3: Climax

After crashing the Capulet party, Tybalt goes after the Montague crew and kills Mercutio. To avenge his friend, Romeo duels with and kills Tybalt - Juliet's cousin. ​ Romeo is banished, but before he goes he gives Juliet a proper wedding night!​


Act 4: Falling Action

Juliet's father requests that she marries Count Paris. However, to escape a second wedding she and Friar Lawrence concoct a plan to make it appear as if she dies. By taking a sleeping potion!


Denouement

The conclusion of The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet culminates with the Friar's version of the lovers' story. Friar Lawrence and the Nurse expound the truth to the Prince, the Capulets, and to the Montagues. In the resolution, the sad tone and moral of the story is evident as the two families agree to reconcile and erect monuments in the lovers' honor.


Five Act Structure - Romeo and Juliet

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of Romeo and Juliet.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Separate the play into the Prologue/Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement.
  3. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the acts.
  4. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



Five Act Structure Template

Example

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The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet Characters


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As students read, a storyboard can serves as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. When reading a play, small attributes and details frequently become important as the plot progresses. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties which make reading more enjoyable!

Using a character map for Shakespeare is often even more beneficial. It also allows students to record the nuances of characteristics which create "foil" characters. The information that they record will help them to return and review personalities that contrast. The ability to visually see this helps students create connections and makes understanding concepts easier.

You can click on this map and create a copy on your teacher account. Feel free to use it as is, or to edit it for the level of your class. Printing it as worksheets, for your students to complete while reading, is a fast and easy way to incorporate this character map into your classroom.

A quick note: The spelling of Friar Lawrence varies in different resources. If your version uses the spelling 'Laurence', feel free to make a copy of the character map and make the spelling change or any other changes!

Romeo and Juliet Character Map

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify the major characters in Romeo and Juliet and type their names into the different title boxes.
  3. Choose a character from the "Medieval" tab to represent each of the literary characters.
    • Select colors and a pose appropriate to story and character traits.
  4. Choose a scene or background that makes sense for the character.
  5. Fill in the Textables for Physical Characteristics, Traits, Relatives (Capulet/Montague/Other), and Friends.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


Character Map Template

Example

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Romeo as a Tragic Hero


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The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies. It is beneficial for students to understand why is considered so important. One reasons is that it contains a tragic hero. This is a protagonist, typically of noble birth, destined for doom. In this play, Romeo clearly fits this description. The famous Greek philosopher, Aristotle, was the first to record the principle attributes of a tragic hero.


ATTRIBUTEDESCRIPTIONExample from Romeo and Juliet
HamartiaFlaw in the Character Romeo's flaw is his impulsive nature. He quickly falls in love and gets in fights.
HubrisExcessive Pride In his pride, Romeo forces Friar Lawrence to marry him and Juliet.
PeripeteiaReversal of Fortune Romeo kills Tybalt, and is banished from Verona.
AnagnorisisA Moment of Critical Discovery "Romeo, I just heard that Juliet of Verona is dead!"
NemesisFate that Cannot be Avoided The false poison that causes Juliet to appear dead, and the real poison that Romeo drinks to kill himself.
CatharsisAudience's Feeling of Pity or Fear After the Hero's Fall The lovers' deaths end the fighting. The families reconcile to the loss of those they love.

In the storyboard below, students used a template to help them storyboard the qualities that make Romeo a tragic hero. The finished product outlines each of Aristotle's principles with a detailed explanation of the specific attributes.

Romeo and Juliet Tragic Hero

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows how Romeo can be considered a tragic hero.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify events of the play or characteristics of Romeo that fit into Aristotelian attributes of a tragic hero.
  3. Illustrate examples for Hamartia, Hubris, Peripeteia, Anagnorisis, Nemesis, and Catharsis.
  4. Write a short description below each cell that specifically relates Romeo as a tragic hero.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



Tragic Hero Template Blank

Example

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Shakespearean Vocabulary


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Another great way to engage your students by creating a storyboard that uses Shakespearean vocabulary. Many students struggle with common Shakespearean words. Getting students to use them in context before reading is an excellent way to cultivate vocabulary comprehension. In the example below, students created storyboards using standard Shakespearean terms.

In a Shakespearean vocabulary board, students can use the words in a sentence they create, or they can pick a phrase from the play. In the example storyboard, the student has chosen to create their sentences for their words:

  • Marry - Indeed:

    "Then they asked me if that was the word of the Prince, and I replied, 'It was marry!'"

  • Pray - To hope:

    "I pray the nurse comes quickly with good news!"

  • Sauce - Sassy:

    "The saucy porter wouldn't let me in without a password."

  • Thou - You (used for one person who is the subject of a sentence):

    "If thou hast a cold come see me... the friendly apothecary!"

Shakespearean Vocabulary

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a spider map storyboard for Shakespearean vocabulary words and phrases.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify unfamiliar words or phrases that Shakespeare uses.
  3. Type each into the title boxes.
  4. Briefly describe the meaning of the word in the description box.
  5. Create a standalone comic in each cell that has the word in a sentence in a speech or thought bubble.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



Shakespearean Vocab Template

Example

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Depicting Conflict Using The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet


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Literary conflicts are another major element often taught during ELA units. Building on prior knowledge to achieve mastery level with our students is important. An excellent way to focus on the various types of literary conflict is through storyboarding. Having students choose an example of each Literary conflict and depict it using the storyboard creator is a great way to reinforce your lesson!

In Romeo and Juliet, conflict is not only present, but also an important recurring element. Much of the conflict arises from the haste of love-struck Romeo and his rash decisions. Other conflicts arise from hidden secrets, most notably the Friar's concealment of Romeo and Juliet's marriage. Notice the examples from the storyboard below:


Examples of Conflict from Romeo and Juliet

MAN vs. SELF

Romeo is at war within himself over rejected feelings of deep love. His words, "Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health, Still-waking sleep, that not what it is!" shows his conflicted state.


MAN vs. SOCIETY

Mercutio is a contrast to Romeo. Unlike his friend, he laughs at society's notion of love. In his "Queen Mab" speech, he constructs a satire of Romeo's love and dreams. The quote, "O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you... she gallops night by night... Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love!” exemplifies Mercutio's sarcastic nature. It is aimed at the love-struck Romeo, who is acting naive, rash, and impatient.


MAN vs. MAN

Romeo kills Tybalt out of revenge. The quote, "Curse you Romeo!" has multiple interpretations. It primarily illustrates this Man vs. Man conflict; however, it also foreshadows Romeo’s cursed fate solidifies Romeo as a tragic hero.


Romeo and Juliet Conflicts

Example

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows three forms of literary conflict in Romeo and Juliet.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify conflicts in Romeo and Juliet.
  3. Categorize each conflict as Character vs. Character, Character vs. Self, Character vs. Society, Character vs. Nature, or Character vs. Technology.
  4. Illustrate conflicts in the cells, using characters from the play.
  5. Write a short description of the conflict below the cell.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



    1. Literary Conflict Template

      Example

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Depicting Key Themes, Symbols, and Motifs in The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet


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Valuable aspects of any literary work are its themes, symbols, and motifs. Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to anatomize without assistance. Using a storyboard, students can visually demonstrate their understanding of these concepts, and master analysis of literary elements. For best practices, see our article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities to teach themes, symbols, and motifs.

As a classroom activity, students could track the rich symbolism William Shakespeare uses throughout Romeo and Juliet. In the example storyboard below, the creator has focused on the particular use of light and dark imagery in the play. Although, generally, light is seen as good, and dark is seen as evil, the roles are reversed for Romeo and Juliet. This may be because their love must remain hidden, and darkness conceals their secret, making the darkness good.


Romeo and Juliet Themes and Ideas to Discuss

Love Causing Violence

Throughout the play, the actions of the impetuous and rash lovers cause misfortune, often leading to the death of other characters, and eventually, themselves.


Individuals vs. Society

In much of the play, Romeo and Juliet struggle to be together against external forces. They have an ‘us against the world’ mentality, defying their families and the Prince of Verona.


Fate

The idea that our lives are not controlled by chance, but rather by a predetermined fate, keeps the audience in suspense. In the end, a series of coincidences leads to the tragic death of the star-crossed lovers.


Motifs and Imagery to Look For

Light/Darkness

Darkness concealing the lovers' relationship adds to the play's urgency and drama. Romeo and Juliet are the only light in the each other's life.


Dreams

In the play, the idea that dreams are only fantasies is most notable in Mercutio’s "Queen Mab" speech. Romeo, the dreamer, quickly falls hopelessly in love. Mercutio can’t help but create a satire around this idea.


Poison

Early in the play, Friar Lawrence remarks that everything has its purpose and that certain things are only made evil by human hands. Specifically, he means the poison that will make Juliet appear dead although she is merely asleep. However, Romeo visits an apothecary, and buys a lethal poison that ends his life.


Romeo and Juliet Symbols, Imagery, & Motifs

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes, symbols, and motifs in Romeo and Juliet. Illustrate instances of each and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Identify the theme(s) from Romeo and Juliet you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for an example that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Add cells as needed.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.



Template: Theme

Example

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Other Lesson Plan Ideas

  1. Who should be punished for Romeo and Juliet's deaths?
  2. Imagine an alternate ending to the play and create a storyboard that tells the story from a different perspective.
  3. Show steps or mistakes that lead to the eventual death of the star-crossed lovers.
  4. Visually depict a major soliloquy or monologue from the play.
  5. Make a storyboard that describes Queen Mab and what she does to people.
  6. Add a presentation to any storyboard project.

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•   (English) Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet   •   (Español) La Tragedia de Romeo y Julieta   •   (Français) Tragédie de Roméo et Juliette   •   (Deutsch) Tragödie von Romeo und Julia   •   (Italiana) La Tragedia di Romeo e Giulietta   •   (Nederlands) Tragedie van Romeo en Julia   •   (Português) Tragédia de Romeu e Julieta   •   (עברית) הטרגדיה של רומיאו ויוליה   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) مأساة روميو وجولييت   •   (हिन्दी) रोमियो और जूलियट की त्रासदी   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Трагедия Ромео и Джульетта   •   (Dansk) Tragedie af Romeo og Julie   •   (Svenska) Tragedin av Romeo och Julia   •   (Suomi) Tragedia Romeo ja Julia   •   (Norsk) Tragedie Romeo og Julie   •   (Türkçe) Romeo ve Juliet'in Trajedi   •   (Polski) Tragedia Rzymu i Julii   •   (Româna) Tragedia din Romeo și Julieta   •   (Ceština) Tragédie Romeo a Julie   •   (Slovenský) Tragédia Romea a Júlie   •   (Magyar) Tragédia a Rómeó és Júlia   •   (Hrvatski) Tragedija Romeo i Julije   •   (български) Трагедията на Ромео и Жулиета   •   (Lietuvos) Tragedija "Romeo ir Džuljeta"   •   (Slovenščina) Tragedija Romeo in Julija   •   (Latvijas) Traģēdija Romeo un Džuljeta   •   (eesti) Tragöödia Romeo ja Julia