Close Reading and ʺDeep Diveʺ Analyzing of Romeo and Juliet Act 1, scenes 1-5

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SWBAT cite specific evidence from text (Act 1, Scene 1-5) of Romeo and Juliet and demonstrate understanding of character development and theme by writing and discussing evidence based answers.

Big Idea

Romeo and Juliet meet and the seeds of a tragic drama are planted.


15 minutes

To bring their minds into what we covered during Scene 1 of the previous lesson I pass out a short quiz 1 for today's activating activity RL.9-10.3.  I developed this quiz to assess my students analysis of the  complex characters being introduced and their initial interactions with other characters which will advance the plot. I give students the choice to work with a partner or complete the formative assessment by themselves.

Building Knowledge

20 minutes

We first discuss the answers to the quiz for scene 1.  Question 5 asks students to infer what the main reason why Romeo is in love with Rosaline.  I'm interested in hearing their responses and will use Accountable Talk Stems to discuss their responses.

I check for understanding of dramatic foil and who that might be in the characters introduced so far, e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations RL.9-10.3.  Even though it may be challenging for some of my students, my goal is to have them talking about the characters in an analytical manner while using academic vocabulary to describe the characters.  

As an example of dramatic foil, I next ask students to use the Venn Romeo Tybalt  Diagram on the opposite side of their quiz as we compare and contrast Tybalt and Romeo from what they know of them. They now understand that a foil is a character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight different features of that other character's personality, therefore throwing these characteristics into sharper focus. I chose Romeo and Tybalt to start with because the contrast is clear in the beginning chapters  where Romeo is more even tempered Tybalt is hot-blooded.

I next project my Venn with a docucamera on a screen as I write down student responses.  I then ask them to add to their descriptions as we read more of the play.

Student Learning Activity

30 minutes

Before beginning the reading I facilitate a short discussion of setting (Verona), and character development and more specifically how how the language evokes a sense of time and place RL.9-10.4.  Next, I assign character roles to my students (who want to read) and put name tents on their desks asking them to record their role on their template with today's date.

Scene 2 is important to see because this scene introduces Paris as Capulet’s pick for Juliet’s husband and also sets into motion Romeo and Juliet’s eventual meeting at the feast. We read sections of this scene and discuss the pro's and con's of arranged marriages and why woman got married at such a young age and the Theme of Love leading to Conflict RL.9-10.2

I then decide to move onto Scene 5 because this is the moment they've all been waiting for. Romeo sees Juliet and forgets Rosaline entirely; Juliet meets Romeo and falls just as deeply in love with him. I will skip chapters because my students are repeating this course and therefore most are familiar with the plot the focus of this unit is not on plot understanding, but on understanding character development/relationships, on Shakespeare's use of figurative language, and on theme.

I facilitate the reading of parts of Scene 5.  As students read, I pause at times to identify vocabulary words, figurative language and character analysis (RL.9-10.4, L.9-10.4, and RL.9-10.3). For example we discuss as required in standard RL.9-10.9, how the first conversation between Romeo and Juliet is an extended Christian metaphor. Using this metaphor, Romeo convinces Juliet to let him kiss her. I dive into this because in this scene Romeo is always comparing his love for Juliet to a religious experience. I want them to identify these metaphors when they first meet; Romeo calls Juliet a "saint" and implies that he'd really like to "worship" her body (1.5.2),  I also want students to think about Shakespeare's portrayal of this being a real genuine love or maybe "teen love" which can be exaggerated passion felt in the moment. 

As the students read the play aloud, I circulate, coach and explain, as needed.  This is a very demanding lesson to teach, because my enthusiasm sets the tone for them.  If I don't put the energy in, the play becomes five LONG acts, and the students get put off because as I've said they know the basic plot line.  

After we finish reading a few selected sections of Scene 5 to increase understanding and engagement, students then listen to and watch the scene they just read sections of (stop at 5:52) on the BBC video and make any additions to their Venn  Diagrams and to clarify understanding of characters and plot.

Wrap Up

10 minutes

Quick Write

I write on the white board, "My only love sprung from my only hate."  I then ask students to write in their journals, W.9-10.10, what Juliet meant when she said this as she found out Romeo was a Montague.  I then pick a few students to read their responses to the whole class.  This is a "deep dive" into the text as my students must try to figure out what this phrase means and how it relates to the characters RL.9-10.3.