Discussing and Writing about Romeo, a "Solely Singular" Jokester

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SWBAT cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of the text by arguing whether Mercutio or Romeo is better at word play.

Big Idea

Who's better at word play: Mercutio or Romeo? How do you know?

Getting Started

5 minutes

In the scene we are reading today, Romeo jokes around with his friends. It's the first time we witness him having fun with them. We, the audience, know why Romeo is in a good mood, but his friends don't know. Before we start reading, we will discuss this element of dramatic irony and what we can expect from Mercutio's conversation with Romeo (RL.11-12.6).


It's important to remind students that Mercutio and Benvolio think they were ditched the night before because Romeo is depressed about Rosaline, not because he loves again. Otherwise, it can very confusing for students, who may forget that they know more than the characters on stage.

Reading: Romeo and Mercutio Joke

15 minutes

Before we begin reading, I will forewarn students that the next page and half is comprised almost entirely of puns; Romeo and Mercutio verbally spar each other, all in fun. It is not necessary to laugh at (or even completely understand) every joke; Shakespeare probably wouldn't laugh at our slag, either. Instead, I will ask students to try to get a sense of the better linguist/ pun-ner from the conversation. We will stop at line 90 to discuss our thoughts.


It may seem strange that I'm telling students they don't need to understand what we read today... but they don't. This interaction between Romeo and Mercutio is more about witnessing their friendship than it is about deciphering jokes (RL.9-10.3). To ask students to translate the lines would be frustrating and fruitless. To ask them to focus on character development and interaction is doable and rewarding. There will be plenty of opportunities for thorough translation throughout our reading.

Writing: Who's the Better Jokester?

20 minutes

At line 90, we will pause in the reading to think and write about the question: who's the better jokester? Which character one-ups the other and is better at word play? (W.9-10.2)


Again, students don't need to understand every joke to answer this question (but the footnotes in this text certainly help); they can figure it out by focusing on particular words, such as "solely" which is reused to mean different things, and small sections of text. For instance, Mercutio says, "Come between us, Benvolio. My wits faints." This line is easy to understand and can be cited when answering the question (W.9-10.2b).


Students will write and hand in their answer because I want everyone to try. This is the type of question where some students just sit back and wait for someone else to give the answer. Not an option. The art of deciphering is a necessary skill-- the key, really, to standardized testing. They can't give up when they think the assignment is too hard, but instead they need to work through what they can do and use their brain to make connections.

Take a look at what they said.

Finishing the Scene

15 minutes

During the second half of class, we will finish Act 2 scene 4, wherein Juliet's Nurse comes to get news from Romeo. It is the only time the two notoriously bawdy characters-- Mercutio and the Nurse-- appear together, which lends for a few laughs. As we read, we will focus on:

Language (L.9-10.5b)

  • Puns overwhelm this scene. We won't discuss all of them, but there a few worth laughing at, especially those directed at the Nurse.
  • Malapropism: The Nurse is trying to look more important and educated than she is and therefore tries to use more sophisticated language, but more often than not, she fails to use the right word, which in turn makes her look foolish. I like to tell students that they sometimes do the same thing on essays, when they are trying to "sound smart."

Character (RL.9-10.3)

  • Romeo is happy and funny. He isn't just a love poet, but a genius at word play, who takes down Mercutio, who is also quite apt.


Wrapping Up

5 minutes

For homework, students will complete worksheet: Book Review Sheet. It's a simple, but clear, way for me to see how they are doing with their outside read book.