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Tips for Teaching Romeo and Juliet

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/17/2012

Teaching Romeo and Juliet can be frustrating. These tips should help to engage your students and reveal the reasons why Romeo and Juliet is worthy of their attention.

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    Literary Merit

    Are you kidding me? It's William Shakespeare. Of course it has literary merit. Here are some topics worthy of discussion while teaching Romeo and Juliet:

    • Love vs. Lust: Romeo and Juliet are obsessed, infatuated, out of control, and irrational. Sounds like lust to me.
    • Prejudice: The feuding families create tension and conflict, not unlike feuding cultures in today's society.
    • The Role of Fate: Shakespeare calls the two lovers "star-crossed." Does fate, however, play a greater role than the numerous stupid choices made by Romeo and Juliet?
    • Book Smarts vs. Street Smarts: Friar Lawrence knew a lot. Most of it was useless. After all, he had no real world experience. He just walked around all day collecting herbs.
    • Suicide: It's the gigantic green elephant in the room. You might as well talk about it.
    • The Role of Women: Verona society did not hold much for women, which makes Juliet's strength stand out even more.
    • The Role of a Husband: Romeo's weakness dooms the relationship from the start.
    • Friendship: Romeo's friend, Mercutio, causes his banishment. His other friend, Friar Lawrence, causes his death. Juliet's friend, the Nurse, abandons her in her time of need.
    • Communication: Juliet and her father need to sit down and have a nice long talk.
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    Romeo and Juliet Literary Analysis

    Teaching Romeo and Juliet involves teaching the following literary devices:

    • Figurative Language: Shakespeare is the master of puns, metaphor, simile, personification, synechdoche, meiosis, and hyperbole.
    • Elements of Tragedy: Teaching Romeo and Juliet involves teaching tragedy.
    • Verbal Irony: I'm a big fan of puns. So is William Shakespeare. He's better at them than I.
    • Situational Irony: Every negative coincidence imaginable happens.
    • Dramatic Irony: Every time I read the play, I scream to Romeo that Juliet is faking her death. Romeo never listens (The teacher next door, who always seems to be doing timed-writing as I scream, does).
    • Foreshadowing: Shakespeare mentions the lovers' death in the Prologue.
    • Conflict: External and internal conflicts move the story forward.
    • Suspense: Shakespeare uses foreshadowing, dangerous action, and pacing to create suspense.
    • Characterization: You could spend hours discussing Mercutio, and he dies in Act III.

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    Interesting and Fun Ways of Teaching Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

    These interesting and fun ways of teaching Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet will make the play enjoyable.

    • Read parts aloud: Only do this with advanced classes unless you want Shakespeare himself to awake from the dead and weep.
    • Read creatively: (1) Read one word at a time; (2) Read until the next punctuation mark; (3) Read one line at a time; (4) Read with heavy English accents if you're American; (5) Read with heavy American accents if you're English.
    • Listen to the play on CD as you read along.
    • Act out a scene.
    • Write Shakespearean insults.
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    Don't forget to check out the Romeo and Juliet Study Guide. Click here for a complete standards based semester curriculum map with lesson plans and links.