Inspire and engage students with The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet is often the first Shakespeare play students are introduced to, and it's one that's constantly being retold in all types of media. The story of feuding families, star-crossed lovers, and misunderstandings, this play is sure to delight and prompt discussions about family and free will. The activities in this lesson plan cover all four ELA Common Core standards and will help students bring the story to life!
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is about two star-crossed lovers from feuding families, who take their own lives. Through a series of unfortunate events, fate and chance turn against the lovers. Romeo, a Montague, and Juliet, a Capulet, meet at a party thrown by Juliet’s family. Romeo only attends because his friend says it will help Romeo get over a girl, Rosaline. Romeo had loved Rosaline, but she rejected him. When Romeo lays eyes on Juliet, he forgets he ever had other devotions. Later that evening, he sneaks to Juliet’s balcony and professes his love. Juliet, who has also fallen in love with Romeo, asks him to make a serious gesture, to prove his love. He asks her to marry him, and she agrees.
Using Friar Lawrence and Juliet’s Nurse as intermediaries, wedding plans commence. However, Tybalt, a Capulet, goes out in search for the Montagues who crashed the party. A duel ensues, and Romeo’s best friend, Mercutio, is killed, causing Romeo to slay Tybalt. The Prince of Verona had previously warned the quarrelers that if one more disturbance was made, those involved would be put to death. However, because Mercutio was the Prince’s kinsman, Romeo is exiled instead of killed.
Juliet finds out that Romeo has killed her cousin and is devastated, not by the loss of life, but over the banishment of her lover. They again devise a plan to be together, but an obstacle presents itself: Juliet’s father has arranged for her to marry Count Paris in two days time. Friar Lawrence convinces Juliet to take a sleeping potion to appear dead, and promises to send word to Romeo.
The plan is for Romeo to wake her in her tomb, and take her away with him. The plan begins as discussed, however, a dramatic irony unfolds: Romeo does not receive the letter intended for him about the Friar’s plan. Instead, he hears Juliet is dead and decides to enter her grave and take his own life. He goes to an apothecary and purchases poison. When he reaches the tomb, he encounters Paris, who is also there to mourn Juliet. Upset, Romeo kills Paris and enters the tomb, drinking the poison.
Moments later, Juliet awakes and finds Romeo dead. Distraught, she takes the dagger from his belt and stabs herself. In the end, Friar Lawrence confesses the story to the Capulets and Montagues. Knowing that their enmity was the reason for the senseless loss of lives, the two men agree to end their longstanding feud.