Violent Delights and Violent Ends: Romeo and Juliet

Unit Plan

Phil Coogan
Adapted by Mark Rounds
(College Prep-Honors)
4 weeks

California Language Arts Content Standards
Standards Addressed in this Unit
Listening and Speaking Strategies
1.7 Use props, visual aids, graphs, and electronic media to enhance the appeal and accuracy of presentations.
1.9 Analyze the occasion and the interests of the audience and choose effective verbal and nonverbal techniques (e.g. voice, gestures, eye contact) for presentations.
3.3 analyze interactions between main and subordinate characters in literary text (e.g., internal and external conflicts, motivations, relationships, and influences) and how they affect the plot
3.4 determine characters' traits by what they say about themselves in narration, dialogue, dramatic monologue, soliloquy
3.5 compare works that express a universal theme, and provide evidence to support the ideas expressed in each work
3.6 analyze and trace an author's development of time and sequence, including the use of complex literary devices (e.g., foreshadowing, flashbacks)
3.7 recognize and understand the significance of a wide range of literary elements and techniques, including figurative language, imagery, allegory, and symbolism, and explain their appeal
3.8 interpret and evaluate the impact of ambiguities, subtleties, contradictions, ironies, and incongruities in text
3.9 explain how voice, persona, and narrator affect tone, characterization, plot, and credibility
3.10 identify and describe the function of dialogue, scene design, soliloquies, and asides and character foils in dramatic literature


Smiley Select and adapt these learning activities to best meet the needs of your students, and to fit the time available:

To engage students in preparatory research, see Shakespeare's England.


  1. To find out more about Shakespeare and his world, students are assigned mini research topics in small groups. They are given one period in the library in which to find answers to their assigned research questions. This activity will be facilitated by alerting the librarian to the research needs of the group well before the activity is to take place. The research questions differ in their degree of difficulty and should be assigned accordingly.

    If Internet access is available then these sites on Shakespeare's life and times will prove useful:

  2. Students report back to the class the results of their research findings in 3-minute mini seminars, using visual aids (eg. pictures, charts and overhead transparencies) wherever possible.

  3. Shakespeare's Theatre - students investigate how the play would have been performed originally by reading information about the Globe Theatre, taking a virtual tour of the original Globe Theatre, or a virtual tour of the reconstructed theatre or viewing the original de Witt drawing of 'The Swan'.
  4. Variation 1 - Role play - Engaging with key ideas in contemporary settings.

  5. Variation 2 - Plot scaffolding - ripping into the text.

  6. Variation 3 - Plot scaffolding though other works.

  7. Preparing students to enjoy Shakespeare's Language. See also, In Search of Shakespeare.

    During Reading

  8. Learning Log/Journal - Students choose either Romeo or Juliet. Each night they make an entry in role in their learning log that traces that character's changing feelings and experiences through the play. Every 3-4 periods teachers could pair a Romeo with a Juliet and get them to share their entries. A more traditional alternative would be to have students answer plot questions as they read through the play.

  9. Use a variety of drama games to highlight points, deepen understanding and increase enjoyment of the play.

  10. Reading through the play can be most rewarding and useful when a variety of approaches are used.

  11. Students could examine some of the key language features of the play in groups, closely linking these to the ideas they help convey. Groups could be assigned one of the following areas to report back to the whole class on:
    • images of light and darkness
    • images of violence, inappropriate haste
    • images of the stars
    • the use of oxymorons
    • other contrasts (eg. the difference between the way Romeo speaks of his love for Rosaline and the way he speaks to or about Juliet; the contrast between Romeo and Juliet when they speak of love in the balcony scene; contrasts between the older and younger generations in their use of language; the differences in the language used by servants and the other characters in the play).

    Post Reading

  12. After the play has been 'read' in the ways outlined, students can engage in a number of activities to heighten appreciation and deepen understanding prior to preparing for the assessment activity.

    1. Form groups of character 'experts' who will be questioned in role after they have had a chance to come to some agreed positions on key features of the character.

    2. In pairs students could explore the use of contrast in the content of the play. Each member of the pair takes 1 aspect of the listed contrasting situations and characters, notes down the key features of their subject and compares this with their partner's list. Together they work out why Shakespeare has used this contrast and what features of staging (eg. set design, costume, delivery, grouping, lighting they would use to underscore the contrast for an audience).

      Pairs can then form revolving groups of four to teach other class members what they have found out about Shakespeare's use of contrast.

    3. As an individual written activity, students examine the idea of fate in the play.

    4. Defend a statement. Individually or in small groups students choose one of the statements about the play and defend it to the class basing their defence on evidence from the play, including quotations.

    5. Students select or are assigned a part of a scene for performance to an audience. This forms the assessment activity for this unit and expectations are communicated in the rubric that should be shared with students.

Links for Students



In groups students perform for an audience an extract from a scene. They should demonstrate their understandings of characters, ideas and language utilising visual, verbal and dramatic features. The rubric provides explicit guidance to students on what is expected from them in this task.

Assessment Activity

This Rubric contains other unit standard based assessment possibilities based upon studying either the play or the film of Romeo and Juliet:

When revising for an examination, have students identify and comment on the importance of the list of important quotations from the play.






This unit could lead into (or be substituted by) a film study of either or both the Zeffirelli (1968) or the Lurhman (1997) films based on the play. Many of the activities in the English Level 2 Assessment Guide would be particularly suitable for this. A useful introductory resource is Shakespeare Illustrated - a selection of paintings and drawings based upon Romeo and Juliet.

The Romeo and Juliet Theme Page offers a wealth of resources for teachers and students. If your students struggle with the language of Shakespeare, consider beginning with the Friendship Cards from Romeo and Juliet activity.