Analyzing the Events and Nuances in Act 5, Scene 3 to Understand Why We Still Read Shakespeare

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SWBAT analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure a text create tension by reading and responding to Act 5, scene 3 of Romeo and Juliet.

Big Idea

We've reached the end of the quintessential love story. Was it even a love story?

Getting Started

5 minutes

We don't have too much time to settle in today. We are finishing Romeo and Juliet and we need most of the hour to read Act 5, scene 3. As students get their books and notebooks out, I will assign character roles. There are 13 speaking parts in this scene, so almost everyone will get to read today. I will start by asking students haven't read lately to select their roles and work from there. Since it's the last time we get to read in this way, I want to give everyone a fair chance to participate. 

Reading and Discussing the Final Scene

45 minutes

It will take most of the hour to read and discuss the final scene of the play. This last scene beautifully captures the essence of the whole play: it is simple, yet complex, and we will study it all. I think of this scene in terms of three sections, pausing after each to discuss key questions:


Before: Paris and Romeo

  • Does Paris love Juliet? How do you know? (RL.9-10.1)
  • Compare Paris' motives for visiting the tomb with Romeo's. What does the comparison reveal about love? desperation?
  • We analyze Romeo's analogy of the tomb to a mouth and discuss its effectiveness. The over-gorging of the tomb corresponds to the lack of balance in his decision (RL.9-10.4)


During: Romeo enters the tomb and both commit suicide (RL.9-10.4)

  • Light and Dark Imagery: Juliet is the light in the dark tomb. 
  • Life and Death Imagery: Juliet is coming back to life just as Romeo is ending his.
  • Peace and Violence: the tomb should be a symbol of peace and rest, yet Friar Lawrence's first words when he arrives remark upon the signs of violence and hatred, showing the inversion of good created when one lacks balance. 


After: Everyone arrives and reacts

  • Lady Montague dies: this choice may have been to maintain balance. The Capulets lost two people, as did the Prince. The Montagues needed to lose a second life. 
  • Who's to blame? The Friar accepts some of the blame. The Prince blames everyone, including himself Who do we blame? This question will become an essay.
  • The deaths bring peace. The families finally see the error of their ways and seem to forgive. 


The at the end of the scene, we will discuss it as a whole: How does the structure create tension and reveal mood and purpose? (RL.9-10.5).

Wrapping Up

5 minutes

Before we end for the hour, I want to give students a chance to rate this play. I will ask that they simply rate the play on a scale from 1-5, using one hand to show their rating. It is a quick and effective way for me to get a sense of their thoughts. Take a look at some of their scores.