Will in the World: Intro Presentation to Romeo and Juliet

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SWBAT initiate and participate effectively in a collaborative discussion about the life of author William Shakespeare by taking notes on his biography.

Big Idea

You think Shakespeare is just a boring guy only teachers like? I think I can change your mind.

Getting Started

2 minutes

Today is the second day all year that I have lectured. It's not my favorite format, but learning about Shakespeare and his life in London gives context to Romeo and Juliet (RL.9-10.10) and should bring more meaning. The presentation takes just under an hour, so at the beginning of class, I ask students to pull themselves together quickly. They need their notebooks open to the notes section.

Powerpoint Intro: Shakespeare is not a Prude

50 minutes

First things first: Who likes Shakespeare and is psyched to read Romeo and Juliet?




Most students have decided that they hate Shakespeare before I even hand the books out. Some read A Midsummer Night's Dream in middle school and they don't usually have good memories of the experience. Others claim that it's pointless to read a play such as Romeo and Juliet when you already know the ending. We will briefly discuss these preconceived notions before we talk about the play and the man behind the play (SL.9-10.1).


This presentation on William Shakespeare is my first chance to challenge their naive ideas. I take this responsibility very seriously. I will change their minds-- maybe not today, but it starts today. I want them to see Shakespeare as a person, a self-made man who liked the ladies. (I don't usually mention the possibility of someone else writing the plays until the end of our reading because the unanswerable question is too distracting.)


The presentation also explains important elements of life in London at the time, including the connections between religion and politics. This correlation is important to discuss because it is so foreign for American students, who are often proud of our separation of church and state. I also spend time discussing the social life and intellectual beliefs of the time.


A few notes on the presentation:

  • I want students to improve their note-taking ability; therefore, I don't wait when students say they haven't finished copying the slide because I don't want them to copy everything. I explain more here. The only thing I wait for them to copy is the slide of questions about the text and what Shakespeare wants us to question about life and responsibilities. I will come back to these questions throughout our reading.
  • Some slide titles are followed by a star. The star reminds me that I have a print image that corresponds with the text. I use images from Shakespeare to reinforce some of the concepts we are discussing. This image, for instance, shows London when Shakespeare lived there. I walk around and point out the theater along the river and Shakespeare's large home right near the theater. I also show this spread from a "Great Courses" advertisement, which lists all of Shakespeare's play in chronological order and by genre; I have also highlighted the titles of the plays they will definitely read before they graduate.
  • I use the same presentation before Macbeth, albeit I change the focus somewhat (less emphasis on puns and more on language and rhetoric). Therefore, there are some slide toward the end that correspond to that text. I just skip over those slides during this hour.

Wrapping Up

5 minutes

I have to ask again: Who likes Shakespeare and is psyched to read Romeo and Juliet?

Maybe, just maybe, a few more hands will go up and we can have a short discussion about what we learned (SL.9-10.1).

No matter what, we will have a short quiz tomorrow on today's presentation. The homework is to review their notes.