Romeo and Juliet Themes, Symbols, and Motifs

This Storyboard That activity is part of the lesson plans for Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet


Romeo and Juliet Symbols, Imagery, & Motifs

Example



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Activity Overview


Themes, symbols, and motifs are valuable aspects of any literary work, and they add richness to stories. Part of the Common Core ELA standards is to introduce and explain these complex concepts. However, abstract ideas are often difficult for students to analyze without assistance. Using a storyboard, students can visually demonstrate their understanding of these concepts, and master analysis of literary elements. For best practices, see our supplementary article with specific lesson plan steps on setting up your classroom and activities to teach themes, symbols, and motifs.

As a classroom activity, students could track the rich symbolism William Shakespeare uses throughout the play. In the example storyboard above, the creator has focused on the particular use of light and dark imagery in the play. Although generally light is seen as good and dark is seen as evil, the roles are reversed for these young lovers. This may be because their love must remain hidden, and darkness conceals their secret, making the darkness good.


Themes and Ideas to Discuss

Love Causing Violence

Throughout the play, the actions of the impetuous and rash lovers cause misfortune, often leading to the death of other characters, and eventually, themselves.


Individuals vs. Society

In much of the play, Romeo and Juliet struggle to be together against external forces. They have an ‘us against the world’ mentality, defying their families and the Prince of Verona.


Fate

The idea that our lives are not controlled by chance, but rather by a predetermined fate, keeps the audience in suspense. In the end, a series of coincidences leads to the tragic death of the star-crossed lovers.


Motifs and Imagery to Look For

Light/Darkness

Darkness concealing the lovers' relationship adds to the play's urgency and drama. Romeo and Juliet are the only light in each other's life.


Dreams

In the play, the idea that dreams are only fantasies is most notable in Mercutio’s "Queen Mab" speech. Romeo, the dreamer, quickly falls hopelessly in love. Mercutio can’t help but create a satire around this idea.


Poison

Early in the play, Friar Lawrence remarks that everything has its purpose and that certain things are only made evil by human hands. Specifically, he means the poison that will make Juliet appear dead although she is merely asleep. However, Romeo visits an apothecary and buys a lethal poison that ends his life.



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Template and Class Instructions

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes, symbols, and motifs in Romeo and Juliet. Illustrate instances of each and write a short description below each cell.


  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s) from Romeo and Juliet you wish to include and replace the "Theme 1" text.
  3. Create an image for an example that represents this theme.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples.
  5. Add cells as needed.

Template: Theme

Template


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Rubric

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