Analyzing the Language of The Balcony Scene so We Can Write More Meaningfully

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SWBAT write informative texts to examine and convey complex ideas clearly and accurately by explaining how a particular element of figurative language is effective.

Big Idea

Finding figurative language in the balcony scene is like fishing with bait. Analyzing it is more difficult.

Getting Started

5 minutes

Some students did not finish their letters to Juliet yesterday. I will collect the missing letters today at the beginning of class. 

Finishing the Balcony Scene

15 minutes

We only have a few lines left! But I don't want to rush through them. In the last part of the balcony scene, Juliet instructs Romeo to make arrangements for their wedding; all the while, the Nurse calls from within, looking for Juliet. We will focus on both of these elements of the text: the change in Juliet from patient and obedient to forceful and headstrong (RL.9-10.3), and the tension that builds because the Nurse calls and forces the couple from each other. Her consistent interruptions speed up the scene and remind the reader that this is happening quickly (RL.9-10.5). 


The students just handed in an open response outlining the tensions in the scene, but the tension build up did not end just because they finished their assignment. In fact, I am hopeful that the writing assignment will help them see the tension at the end of the scene, so that I don't have to spell it out, but can simply ask how the Nurse's calls from within affect the tone of the scene. Of course, there is more than one answer to this question, but the focus on tension within the scene will probably direct many of their responses.  

Finding the Figurative Language

15 minutes

Before moving on, we will play a game, using the balcony scene as reference. Students will team up in self-selected groups of two and three. Each group will go back through the entire balcony scene, searching for figurative language, including metaphors, similes, hyperbole, personification, and imagery (L.9-10.5). This is a competition. The group that can identify the most examples of figurative language in the scene will win.. 


The purpose of this activity is simple: I want students to recognize how saturated this text is in figurative language, and what better way is there to do that than through competition? If they are looking for more, they will find more. And there's some form of figurative language in almost every line of the scene. The groups have 15 minutes to compile their lists. Here are two examples: Example 1, Example 2.


This is really just the first step of the competition. It is an important first step because it highlights how saturated the text is with figurative language, and the mission excites students to work hard, but it isn't quite enough.

Finding Figurative Language Isn't Enough

15 minutes

Once the groups have their lists of metaphors, etc, it's time to up the ante. The real winner of the competition will be decided based on this final step: each group needs to select one example that they found and explain why it is effective? For example, why is it effective to equate Juliet with the sun? Or to complain leaving Juliet to a school boy going toward school? I will tell the groups that I am looking for a full paragraph of explanation (W.9-10.2); therefore, it is not enough to simply say "because it creates an image in the reader's mind." 


This is the crux of the lesson. Freshmen in high school don't often have trouble identifying similes and personification, but most still struggle to understand why figurative language is effective and important, especially in this play (RL.9-10.4). I want students to practice this skill because it is truly the sign of a thoughtful mind. The ability to see past the simile itself and explain its broader meaning will transform their writing from glorified book reports to essays replete with abstract thinking and awareness of the world. 

Take a look at some of their responses. 

Sharing Our Findings

10 minutes

In order to wind the competition, a representative from each group will have to read their paragraph to the class (SL.9-10.1). Not only is this good practice for the reader, but it exposes each student to different approaches and answers to the same question. A struggling group can learn from a confident one. A group who argued about whether a particular reference was a metaphor can hear what other classmates argue about it. 


After every group has shared, we will determine the winning group.