Characterizing Romeo in Act 2 through Analyzing Language and Tension

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SWBAT analyze how complex characters develop over the course of a text by tracing the imagery in Romeo's language. SWBAT write an informational essay response by analyzing the tension as they read.

Big Idea

Is Romeo dramatic or in love?

Getting Started

10 minutes

This week's vocab words are sophomoric, judicious, and odious. The commonly confused words are stationery and stationary (L.9-10.4). 

I explain our protocol for acquiring vocabulary words in this lesson.

Reading Act 2, Scene 1 and Characterizing the Main Players

20 minutes

We are going to being today by reading Act 2, scene 1 aloud. Student volunteers will read for each of the characters in this scene. Ultimately we are working towards understanding how Shakespeare creates tension in the balcony scene, but this scene, which is just prior, sets us up for the next. We see how desperate Romeo is to get back to Juliet, and how little Mercutio understands about what Romeo is experiencing. Their language is most important. While reading, we will focus on:

Puns and Humor (L.9-10.5b)

  • Most of Mercutio lines in this scene are double entendre. I will introduce the word "bawdy" to students, since it is the best way to describe Mercutio's humor. While I won't go into detail about everything he says, I will explain that there is a double meaning. 
  • It is helpful to remind students that this group of guys is like any group of guy friends, and thus treat each other similarly to the way that the teenage boys of today treat each other: teasing and banter. No matter the time and place, people are people. 


Characterization (RL.9-10.3)

  • Mercutio teases Romeo mercilessly in this scene. What do his words and actions reveal about him?
  • Romeo may not speak much in this scene, but his actions are telling. Is Romeo brave or stupid for climbing the wall? Impetuous or driven and goal-oriented?


We will pause in our reading to ask and answer these questions. Once we have finished the scene, I will ask students to select a few adjectives to describe both Romeo and Mercutio. We will share them aloud before reading the next scene (SL.9-10.1).


10 minutes

Before we continue reading, we going to pause very briefly to write. I want students to really connect with the balcony scene, which we will start today. So often, they respond judgmentally to this scene, arguing that Romeo and Juliet are moving too fast (a valid argument, but also one that I think is too easy to make). Therefore, before we read this scene, I will try to help students connect emotionally with the characters through journal writing, so that they are less likely to make harsh judgments. They will answer this question:


When you see that one person you love, what goes through your brain? Describe that thought process. (W.9-10.10)


I will instruct them that it's not about writing a lot, but about using their time well. I will tell them that they only have to write for 5 minutes and to just try to focus on the task. They won't be asked to read specifically what they wrote, but we will discuss main ideas, which will give us reference points once we read Romeo's speech about Juliet.

Introduce Analysis Essay

5 minutes

We are going to start Act 2, scene 2 today, but we are going to read with purpose. Before we begin Romeo's soliloquy, we will review the instructions for an open response on the scene and how we will approach the reading. We will fill in the chart on the worksheet as we read because it will help students answer the question (W.9-10.5).


At this time, I will also return their open responses from last week. Reviewing their most recent work should help students focus on areas where they can improve their writing.


We are writing an open response after the balcony scene for two reasons. First, it's arguably the most famous and most important scene in the text. Second, the nature of the question will help us read the scene on multiple levels. It is not just a love scene, but a scene that establishes the dramatic tension that drives the rest of the play.

Romeo's Soliloquy

15 minutes

During the last section of class today, we will read Romeo's soliloquy in Act 2, scene 2. I know that we will not read much of the scene today, but I want to focus the reading on tension now because we have just reviewed the expectations for the open response (RL.9-10.5). We will read and start working on the chart that will help them write the open response. Plus, starting now allows more time for the scene; I don't want to feel rushed during the next hour. Here's a look at how I approach this first soliloquy.