Romeo and Juliet – Planning Overview

Written by Dan

Last updated

Do Shakespeare’s timeless lovers, Romeo and Juliet, have a place in modern-day teaching? Of course, they do!

Whether teaching English literature or just looking to liven up the classroom with some classic drama, planning an engaging overview of Romeo and Juliet effectively brings Bard’s most renowned play into your student’s studies.

This article will discuss creative strategies for introducing characters and themes as part of a poetry study centred around beautiful lyricism in this much-beloved love story.

So brush up on your lines from the Elizabethan era because it’s time to let those beloved “star-crossed lovers” work their magic!

Related: For more, check out our article on Descriptive Paragraphs On Romeo and Juliet here.

Romeo and juliet

Romeo and Juliet’s Storyline

Act 1:

Two noble families of Verona—the Montagues and the Capulets—have been engaged in a bitter feud. While attending a party at the Capulet’s house, Romeo, a Montague, meets Juliet, a Capulet. The two instantly fall in love and agree to be married.

Act 2:

After discovering that Juliet is a Capulet, Romeo seeks out Friar Lawrence for help. The friar agrees to marry them in secret to end the family feud. Later that night, Tybalt kills Romeo’s friend Mercutio and Romeo kills Tybalt in revenge. Fearing punishment by the prince of Verona, Romeo is banished from the city.

Act 3:

Friar Lawrence gives Juliet a potion to make her appear dead until Romeo can rescue her from her arranged marriage with Paris. However, when Romeo arrives at the tomb, he finds Juliet alive but seemingly dead, so he takes his life in despair.

Act 4:

When Juliet awakens, she finds Romeo killed himself and decides to take her life with his dagger. Later both families discover what has happened and decide to end their feud in honour of the young lovers who lost their lives due to its senselessness.

Key Themes in Romeo and Juliet

  • Forbidden Love: Romeo and Juliet’s love is forbidden due to their family’s feud. This leads to several conflicts and ultimately contributes to the tragedy.
  • Fate: The idea that some events are predetermined, beyond human control, which leads to the story’s tragic conclusion.
  • Conflict: The strong antagonism between two households—the Montagues and Capulets—and recurring disputes between their members serve as a backdrop for the play and set up the central conflict involving Romeo and Juliet.
  • Tragedy: The story relies heavily on disaster, with its characters often paralysed by circumstance while battling against destiny. In other words, they are doomed from the start wondering if they can ever be together despite all odds.
  • Passion: Though passion is at the heart of Romeo and Juliet, it is a destructive passion that comes with tragic consequences.

Main Characters In Romeo and Juliet

The following is a list of the main characters and their impact on the story of Romeo and Juliet:

  • Romeo: Romeo is the main protagonist in the story who brings passion and romance to the tale. His love for Juliet challenges traditional family values and has repercussions throughout society.
  • Juliet: Juliet is Romeo’s beloved, whose feelings for him change and alter her life forever. She is willing to take risks and defy her family to be with Romeo, showing her character’s depth.
  • The Capulet Family: The Capulet family disapproves strongly of Romeo’s relationship with Juliet, adding a layer of tension to the situation. Their disapproval influences Juliet’s behaviour, as she does not want to displease them or bring any dishonour.
  • The Montague Family: The Montague Family also disapprove of Romeo’s relationship with Juliet due to their longstanding feud. They are determined to end any connection between the two families, causing additional conflict within the story.
  • Friar Lawrence: Friar Lawrence is an important supporting character who helps Romeo and Juliet to be together despite their families’ disapproval. He also provides helpful advice for them throughout the narrative.
  • Nurse: The Nurse is a close friend of the Capulet family and acts as Juliet’s advisor throughout her journey. She plays a vital role in secretly helping Romeo and Juliet get married.
  • Tybalt: Tybalt is a cousin of Juliet whose anger towards Romeo leads to deadly consequences later in the story. His actions help catalyse further conflict between the two feuding families.
  • Mercutio: Mercutio is one of Romeo’s friends who brings humour to the narrative but meets an untimely death at Tybalt’s hands. His death shakes up the dynamics between Romeo, Juliet and their families.

Forbidden Love

Romeo and Juliet’s love is forbidden due to their families’ longstanding feud. This means that any relationship between them is seen as an act of defiance and conflict. As such, Romeo and Juliet must keep their love a secret from both families, making it even more intense and passionate. This makes the story more interesting as constant obstacles prevent their happiness together.

Keeping their love a secret adds to the story’s intrigue by creating an extra layer of suspense and danger. Not only do Romeo and Juliet have to battle against their families’ disapproval and potential retaliation, but they must also hide it from them.

This ratchets the tension, as any moment could spell disaster for the couple. Additionally, it serves as a reminder that even if they were to survive this forbidden love, the feud between their families would still linger in the background.

What Would Happen If Mercutio Had Not Died?

Without Mercutio’s death, the story of Romeo and Juliet would have unfolded very differently. If Tybalt had not killed him, we can assume that the fight between him and Tybalt would not have happened – Romeo would not have been banished from Verona, and Juliet would not have had to take extreme measures to be reunited with him.

Mercutio’s presence also had a calming influence on Romeo which meant that his hasty decisions were sometimes held in check. Without this steady hand, there would likely have been more dramatic situations as a result of Romeo’s rash decisions.

Perhaps most importantly, Mercutio’s death was one of the catalysts for the story’s conclusion. If he had not died, then neither Romeo nor Juliet may have encountered their untimely demise. The consequences of such a chain of events could have changed the entire narrative arc.

Teaching Opportunities

Imagery: Reading Romeo and Juliet allows students to explore imagery. For example, Romeo refers to the stars as the ‘princes’ fortress’, vividly bringing the night sky alive in the reader’s imagination.

Symbolism: Symbols like Juliet’s balcony or Friar Lawrence’s cell are essential elements of the story that can be used to discuss symbolism and its significance.

Foreshadowing: Romeo and Juliet are full of examples of foreshadowing, such as when Romeo tells Balthasar he will not die young, alluding to his wish to take his life later in the play.

Irony: Irony can be found throughout the narrative; for instance, when Friar Lawrence advises Romeo to love moderately, but he is overly eager to marry Romeo and Juliet in secret.

Metaphor: The balcony scene is also an excellent opportunity to discuss metaphor and simile – Juliet compares Romeo to a winged messenger and a bright angel during their conversation. This passage highlights how metaphor can add power and emotion to writing.

Simile: Throughout the play, numerous examples of similes can be used as discussion points with students; for example, when Benvolio says, “As far from pity as remorse is from remedy,” describing his hopelessness at calming a public brawl.

Motifs: Motifs such as light and dark metaphors are frequently used throughout the play, which students could analyse and discuss symbolically.

Personification: Personification also features prominently in the text —for instance, when Mercutio refers to death as “the leveller” who “lays his mace upon us all.”

Allusion: Finally, there are many allusions present in Shakespeare’s language that students could try identifying — including references from classical mythology and religious tradition that link back to broader themes often explored in literature.

Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan 1- Foreshadowing

Starter Activity:

Ask students to identify any foreshadowing in Romeo and Juliet. Lead them through the play, stopping at critical points and prompting them with questions about what could happen next about the foreshadowing they identify.

Main Teaching Points:

Introduce the concept of foreshadowing to your students and discuss some examples they have already identified. Share more examples from the text, talk about why it is used in stories and how it can affect readers’ understanding of a story as it progresses.

Essential Questions:

What are some examples of foreshadowing in Romeo and Juliet? How might foreshadow make us feel when reading a story? How could an author use foreshadowing to create suspense?

Extension Activities:

Show students a clip from a film or TV show that uses foreshadowing, then ask them to identify characteristics of good writing that use this device effectively. Alternatively, get them to write their piece using foreshadowing as a tool.

Assessment Details:

Ask each student to write their creative piece using formative assessment techniques such as drafting, peer feedback and self-reflection for review purposes.

Lesson Plan 2- Metaphor

Starter Activity:

Invite students to identify metaphors used throughout Romeo and Juliet. Ask each student individually for examples from different scenes from the play before introducing metaphor as a literary device and discussing its purpose in narrative writing.

Primary Teaching Points:

Explain how metaphor can be used in writing – for example, what effect does it have on readers? Discuss other literary devices like similes compared with metaphor and differences between extended and shorter metaphors – encouraging students to share meaningful ideas on these topics.

Essential Questions:

What are some examples of metaphors used in Romeo and Juliet? How do metaphors help build characters or create more vivid imagery? What are other literary devices like those already discussed?

Extension Activities: Get students to summarise key scenes from Romeo and Juliet using metaphors only – this activity should help them understand how different words evoke different images or emotions within readers when used together effectively.

Assessment Details:

Have each student create their metaphor poem or short story using formative assessment techniques for review purposes such as (peer feedback or self-reflection).

Alternatively, set an assignment asking them to analyse two pieces of work which contrastingly feature heavy/light use of metaphor respectively – asking how these compare with each other regarding their impact on readers’ responses.

Lesson Plan 3- Motifs

Starter Activity:

Start by getting your class to identify motifs used throughout Romeo and Juliet – creating opportunities for discussion about why particular symbols are repeated throughout the story instead of others, e.g. stars vs moonlighting etc.

Main Teaching Points:

Introduce the concept of motifs before discussing which aspects might unify or separate specific themes or characters throughout the play – dividing two main types (visual & audio).

Discuss why their presence has added depth/meaning and extra weight to scenes where they are present – leading to further discussion about why authors might choose specific motifs over others when telling stories & how this impacts readers’ reactions etc.

Key Questions:

What are some motifs featured in Romeo &Juliet? How can we use these motifs effectively in our pieces? Why do authors choose particular symbols instead of others when making stories?

Extension Activities:

Have your class create short plays featuring one shared motif (which should be determined prior), e.g. death/nature/love etc. This should help reinforce their understanding while providing opportunities for collaborative learning & creative output.

– Assessment Details:

To assess understanding, have each group report back on their plays, giving specific detail about what was successful & unsuccessful according to chosen motif – Additionally, allow time for peer reviews so that every group can understand the best process when creating compelling stories etc.

10 Most Popular Shakespeare Plays

  1. Romeo and Juliet
  2. Hamlet
  3. Macbeth
  4. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  5. The Taming of the Shrew
  6. Othello
  7. King Lear
  8. Twelfth Night, or What You Will
  9. The Merchant of Venice
  10. Much Ado About Nothing*

Website Resources

RSC’s Romeo and Juliet Education page is an excellent resource for teachers exploring the story of Romeo and Juliet in the classroom. It provides lesson plans and activities to help students engage with the text, such as worksheets on themes, characters and language.

Teachit’s Romeo and Juliet teaching resources offer a wide range of materials for teachers to use in their lessons, including downloadable worksheets designed to support learning, quizzes, extracts from the play and grade assessments.

Douglaswise’s Romeo and Juliet resource is aimed at helping educators engagingly teach Shakespeare’s classic tragedy by providing detailed lesson plans covering all aspects of the play along with activities that can be tailored to any age group or ability level.

FAQs for Teaching Romeo and Juliet

Q: What lessons should I include when teaching Romeo and Juliet?

A: When teaching Romeo and Juliet, it is essential to cover topics such as literary devices, themes, characters and language. Worksheets can help students engage with the text, while quiz applications and grade assessments can track their progress.

Q: How can I ensure my students fully engage with the material?

A: You can use several activities to increase engagement with the play. These include writing assignments using literary devices such as foreshadowing and metaphor, creating summaries of key scenes using only metaphors, or writing creative pieces based on a single motif. Peer feedback sessions can also encourage active learning in the class.

Q: How do I assess student understanding?

A: Formative assessment techniques like peer feedback and self-reflection can help gauge student progress when teaching Romeo and Juliet. Alternatively, you could assign an assignment comparing two pieces of work featuring heavy/light use of metaphor, respectively – asking how these compare with each other regarding their impact on readers’ responses.

About The Author

I'm Dan Higgins, one of the faces behind The Teaching Couple. With 15 years in the education sector and a decade as a teacher, I've witnessed the highs and lows of school life. Over the years, my passion for supporting fellow teachers and making school more bearable has grown. The Teaching Couple is my platform to share strategies, tips, and insights from my journey. Together, we can shape a better school experience for all.






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