Evaluating Juliet's Personality Shift and its Effect on Friar Lawrence's Plan in Act 4, Scene 1

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SWBAT analyze how complex characters develop over the course of a text and influence other characters by using textual evidence to identify how Juliet's personality changes and evalating how Juliet's actions impact Friar Lawerence's plan.

Big Idea

Has Juliet matured? Or is she blinded by love?

Getting Started

5 minutes

Today is a half day, so classes are 45 minutes long. I want to make the best use of the shortened time and make sure that we finish 4.1. During the last class, which was also shortened, we acted out the beginning of the scene. This class, we will pick up where we left, which is just after Paris leaves, but first we will review. Last class, we acted out lines and showed each other how Juliet could be polite, honest, yet dishonest and rude all at the same time. In what we will read today, she will be more open with Friar Lawrence.

Juliet's Emotions

15 minutes

The conversation between Juliet and Friar Lawrence both echoes the past and foreshadows the future (RL.9-10.5). We will pause in our reading to discuss actions and language.When Paris leaves, Juliet sounds just like Romeo did when Friar announced his banishment; she even threatens suicide, just like her husband did. Specifically, she says, "Bid me go into a new-made grave/ And hide me with a dead man in his shroud," which of course is what happens.


As we read, we will focus on the parallels of the scene. We have spent several of the last few classes discussing character development, so students are prepared to evaluate Juliet's emotional state and her growth (RL.9-10.3). Juliet's presentation in this scene is in stark contrast to the quiet, obedient daughter of Act 1: she is more emotional, independent, and demanding; she is more like Romeo. After each of her speeches, I will ask students to use adjectives to describe how she is feeling (RL.9-10.1). These conversations might help students better understand why Friar Lawrence introduces such an extreme fix-it plan: he senses that she is desperate enough to try anything. 

One extension for this activity that you might like to use would be to write comparisons or create a T chart comparing how Juliet acted before this conversation and how she is acting after the conversation, by using specific textual evidence (RL.9-10.1)

The Plan

15 minutes

Friar's plan to reunite Romeo and Juliet before Juliet marries Paris is extreme, and the explanation he gives is lengthy, so I like to split it into six sections. I explain here. I simply ask the student reading for Friar Lawrence to stop at the end of each sentence, so that we can decipher and discuss (RL.9-10.1).


Understanding the plan is paramount to understanding the next few scenes. They need to know that Juliet will truly seem dead, yet won't be. This is the part of the play where students have a hard time suspending reality, probably because the potion isn't real. I tell students that it might be like being under anesthesia, which seems to help a bit. I also remind them we have so many medical advances and understand much more about the human body than the original audience (and author) of the play. If they felt for a pulse and found none, the person was assumed dead. No tests, no lengthy examination. I also explain that, unlike today, burials happened very quickly following a death. Therefore, it was quite plausible that Juliet would be buried the day they find her dead. Of course, even the term "buried" needs explaining, as well. Juliet, because she is of a wealthy family, won't be put in the ground, as we often visualize when we think of burials. I try to explain the concept of the tomb, which they will understand better when we watch the Zeffirelli film.

Wrapping Up

5 minutes

In the last few minutes of class, I will assign the homework: they will read Act 4, scene 2. Then they will focus on a literary device within the scene (RL.9-10.4) and explain its effectiveness in a paragraph (W.9-10.10). This assignment helps students practice an important skill: moving beyond the plot into more abstract concepts.