Analyzing How Humor and Hatred Coexist in Act 1 Scene 1

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SWBAT analyze how an author's choices concerning how to order events within a text creates tension by reading and responding to Act 1, scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet.

Big Idea

The opening scene of a story about love centers around hate. Why?

Note to the Teacher

Last week, in preparation for today, I encouraged students to get Sticky Notes for Romeo and Juliet. They will need to take a significant amount of notes as we read-- on language, character, juxtaposition-- so they might find it helpful to leave notes in the book (the left side of the page, which doesn't have text, is the perfect spot for them). But they don't have to. They can maintain notes in their binder/notebook, if they are more comfortable with that format.

Getting Started

15 minutes

We will start today by reviewing yesterday. We spent class yesterday working with the prologue, in order to familiarize ourselves with Shakespeare's language and the story of Romeo and Juliet. Before we move on to Act 1, scene i, I want to spend a little more time on the prologue. We have summarized the prologue and asked why it's included, but today, we will look more closely. We will analyze the motif of "two" throughout the prologue (RL.9-10.2).

I originally saw this section of today's lesson in Folger Library's Shakespeare Set Free. This is a great resource for many Shakespearean plays. The point is for students to find all the references and allusions to "two." They should consider:

  • the word itself
  • pairs (parents, lovers)
  • words repeated twice (civil)
  • echoing concepts (grudge to mutiny)
  • alliteration (fatal loins of these two foes)


I like to direct them, so that they find one element at a time. I find that it is less overwhelming to say, "Find all the pairs," and then ask them to circle repeated words only after they have found the pairs. Plus this format illustrates the layers of meaning, even within 14 lines. This is essentially why I begin class with this exercise. I want to highlight the fact that so much of this play is layered in meaning.

Reading Act 1, scene i and an Introduction to Characters

30 minutes

Let me tell you how we will start.

I will write two columns on the board, one for the Montagues and one for the Capulets. As we meet new characters, I will add their name to the appropriate column. The only character who cannot be listed on one side or the other is the Prince, who hates the division and the subsequent rivalry (RL.9-10.3). Throughout the reading, we will focus on these elements:


  • Sampson acts like a touch guy, but cowers when facing trouble
  • Puns: Gregory twists all of Sampson's threats into jokes (L.9-10.5b), and it's hard to tell if he even notices (but we do!)



  • Benvolio is "a good man," which is why he breaks up the fight
  • Tybalt is the Prince of Cats, a meaning which will be joked about later in our reading



  • The opening scene, in what we think of as a love story, is a fight scene.
  • The Prince threatens lives if another fight breaks out.


I will encourage students to take quick notes on their sticky notes or in their notebooks about these elements of the first scene. This information will be useful as we continue reading and learning more about the characters and the essential conflict of the play. 

Wrapping Up

10 minutes

For homework, students will continue reading their choice book