Are you searching for the perfect introduction to Shakespeare? Look no further than the Bard's timeless play Romeo and Juliet. In addition to being one of Shakespeare's most popular plays, it is also one of the most accessible. Students will relate to the universal issues the teenage main characters face: societal norms, family dynamics, friendships, and first love. They'll be captivated by its plot and will enjoy Shakespeare's use of puns and comic relief while also experiencing the tragedy of its heartbreaking conclusion. The play offers myriad educational opportunities for exploration. You can examine themes involving everything from youthful naïvety to fate vs. free will and study literary elements both basic and complex. Furthermore, Romeo and Juliet provides the opportunity to learn about dramatic conventions, as well as Shakespeare's unique style.

When studying a Shakespeare play, students must have an understanding of the Elizabethan dialect and culture of his time. If Romeo and Juliet is your students' first experience with Shakespeare, you might want to provide them with tactics for comprehending his language as they approach the text (Prestwick House's Literary Touchstone Classic edition includes an introductory section with strategies for this very task, as well as margin notes, a glossary, and vocabulary definitions to help students while they read.). Since Shakespeare's plays were written to be performed rather than read, it would be helpful and fun to stage performances of scenes from the play in class. This activity can engage your students and provide an active, visual, and lively learning experience.

Examine how this Shakespearean classic shaped the way society and the media continues to idealize romantic relationships. Students can identify a book, movie, or TV show heavily influenced by Romeo and Juliet and present their findings, or, for a more contained discussion, showcase one of the many modern adaptations (some of our favorites include the film West Side Story and the YA novel The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green). How do these versions of the story perpetuate—or defy—the tropes of the original?

Don't be "fortune's fool"—read more about Romeo and Juliet's love story below!

Summary of Romeo and Juliet

Key Facts

  • Length: 112 pages
  • Publication Date: 1597 (original text); 2005 (Prestwick House Literary Touchstone Classic)
  • Recommended Grade Band: 9-10

A feud between the Montagues and Capulets has long plagued the town of Verona, Italy, and poses consequences for the star-crossed lovers Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet. Romeo and Juliet meet at a masked ball and fall in love. The teenagers embark on a secret romance and engage trusted friends to help them get married. These lovers do not foresee what fate has in store. To avoid an arranged marriage to another man, Juliet concocts a plan to ingest a potion that will make her appear dead, freeing her of familial responsibilities. Believing his beloved is actually dead, Romeo ends his own life. Juliet wakes up and, unable to bear her grief, kills herself as well. From this tragedy yields a truce between the warring families.

What Your Students Will Love About Romeo and Juliet

  • The dramatic love story
  • Shakespeare's creative wordplay
  • Moments of comic relief

Potential Student Struggles With Romeo and Juliet

  • Deciphering Shakespeare's language, especially if Romeo and Juliet is an introduction to his works
  • Keeping track of the many characters

Learning Objectives for Romeo and Juliet

  • Explain the terms "star-crossed lovers," "courtly love," and "true love" and their significance to ideas in the play.
  • Trace themes that develop throughout the play, including those related to fate/free will, love, revenge, familial loyalty, and youthful naïvety.
  • Define "comic relief," identify specific examples, and comment on its role in the text.
  • Explain how both the Nurse and the Friar function as confidants.
  • Develop and practice strategies for interpreting Shakespearean language.
  • Compare modern adaptations of Romeo and Juliet to the original.
  • Determine the role fate plays in this drama.

Literary Elements in Romeo and Juliet

  • Allusion
  • Comic Relief
  • Foil
  • Foreshadowing
  • Imagery
  • Poetic Structure
  • Prologue
  • Metaphor
  • Soliloquy
  • Symbol
  • Theme
  • And more!

Major Themes in Romeo and Juliet

Love — The "star-crossed lovers" are willing to risk everything to be together, and they disregard all possible consequences for their actions.

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Fate vs. Free Will — Were Romeo and Juliet destined to die together, or was it their choices that brought such devastation? Could this tragedy have been prevented?

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Revenge — Revenge is the driving force for much of the action in Romeo and Juliet. An old feud fuels the tension between the Montagues and the Capulets. Arguably, Romeo and Juliet's joint suicide could be fate's revenge on the petty rivals.

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Other Resources for Romeo and Juliet