Supplementary Lesson Plans

Act I Focus: Family Dynamics and Misogynistic Language in the Early Modern Period

Learning objective: Students will understand the role family dynamics play in the context of Romeo and Juliet and the wider context of Early Modernism. Through a close read and hands-on activity, students will critically examine the misogynistic language that is present in Shakespeare and in the Early Modern period.

Lesson: “Depicting Character Relationships Through Scene Tableaus”

1. Have two different colored sticky pads or two sets of different colored paper available. One color will be used to represent characters within the Montague household. The other color will represent characters within the Capulet household.

2. Put students into groups of three and give each group one of the following passages (if needed, more than one group can be assigned the same passage):

  • Scene 1 lines 35-59 Samson and Gregory fight with Abram and Balthasar
  • Scene 1 lines 178-213 Romeo explains his heartache to Benvolio
  • Scene 3 lines 68-108 Romeo and Benvolio read the letter from the servant and decide to attend the ball
  • Scene 5 from stage directions after line 16- 35 Dancers appear and Capulet gives a speech
  • Scene 5 lines 102-118 Romeo and Juliet meet 

3. Have students reread their assigned passages. Explain that each group will create a tableau or a “still image” that represents the action in their assigned passage. All students must be a part of the tableau, even if they are just representing setting. Students will wear the color (either a colored sticky note or the taped piece of colored paper) that is associated with the family they are representing.

4. After students have had time to craft their tableau, have everyone spread out around the room.

5. Have all groups who are NOT depicting their tableau close their eyes until the tableau is set. Once the presenting group indicates they are ready, the teacher can instruct student viewers to open their eyes.

6. The teacher or a student in the presenting group can offer a brief overview of the actions of the scene. Students will then take a moment to observe the tableau.

7. After each group has presented, discuss these questions:

  • What is an image that stood out to you?
  • What did the visuals show us about the relationships between the Montagues and the Capulets?
  • What did the visuals show us about Romeo as a character?
  • How was the tableau of Romeo and Juliet meeting different from the others?

Lesson: “Close Reading Misogynistic Language in Sampson and Gregory’s Exchange”

1. Divide students into groups of two or three, or ask students to return to their groups from the “Depicting Character Relationships Through Scene Tableaus” activity above.

2. Provide groups with a printed copy of Sampson and Gregory’s exchange from Act I, Scene I (lines 1-27). The text’s corresponding footnotes should be printed at the bottom of the page or readily available to students on a separate sheet of paper.

3. Ask each group to read through the passage slowly—referring to the footnotes when directed by the text—and circle or highlight any words, phrases, or lines that they believe are referring to gender. Remind students that it can take a few readings to get used to the cadence and terminology of Shakespeare. If they are not sure whether a word, phrase, or line references gender, ask them to highlight it in a different color or make a note on the side of the page.

4. Read the passage out loud to students, inviting them to identify any words, phrases, or lines related to gender that they may have missed on the first read-through.

5. Now, ask groups to consider how gender is referenced in this passage, guided by their highlighted observations and the questions below:

  • What specific terms does Sampson use to describe the women of the Montague household?
  • What distinction does Sampson make between how he prefers to treat the women of the Montague household and how he prefers to treat the men?
  • In line 16, Gregory reminds Sampson: “The quarrel is between our masters and us their men.” What does this line tell us about the role of women within family politics during the Early Modern period?

6. Inform students that the Oxford English Dictionary defines misogyny as “Hatred or dislike of, or prejudice against women.”*

7. Ask students to further consider:

  • In what ways are Gregory and Sampson’s jokes misogynistic?
  • What does this tell us about how women were viewed during the Early Modern period?

8. Ask each group to share some of their observations with the class. Once all groups have shared, ask the class to collectively consider:

  • How do these senses of misogynistic language in the Early Modern period help us understand the expectations placed on Romeo and Juliet as a young man and woman during this period?
  • How do the moments when we are first introduced to Romeo and Juliet (respectively) seem to reflect some of the gender stereotypes that we have identified in Samson and Gregory’s misogynistic joking?


Final objective: Students should consider how Romeo and Juliet’s behavior is restricted by certain gender stereotypes of the Early Modern period. This will give students a foundation to understand decisions the characters make later in the play, as well as their interactions and responses to characters of the same and opposite sex throughout.


* “Misogyny.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, 2020, https://www-oed Accessed 24 Nov. 2020.

Act I Lesson Extension

Both chapters below come from the same text: The Youth of Early Modern Women.

The first article, by Eleanor Hubbard, could easily meet the needs of this lesson guide’s thematic concerns for Acts I-III. This source provides useful context for the balcony scene in Act II by exploring early modern youth culture and courtship norms. This can help us contextualize Juliet’s motivations in the play, her disdain towards marrying Paris, and her ability to consent, refuse, or otherwise manage Romeo’s advances and patriarchal authorities.

The article also provides space for thinking about the dangers and uses the night provided to different genders and to different members of social classes. Additionally, this article provides a deeper consideration of how setting contributes to the agency of the characters. Recommended grade levels: 10-12.


Hubbard, Eleanor. “A Room of Their Own: Young Women, Courtship, and the Night in Early Modern England.” The Youth of Early Modern Women, edited by Elizabeth S. Cohen and Margaret Reeves, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2018, pp. 297–314. JSTOR, Accessed 20 Nov. 2020.


The below source uses court documents from two ecclesiastical courts in England and uses testimonials dated to the 16th and 17th century to explore child marriage in the Early Modern period in England. This source allows students to gain a deeper appreciation for the intricacies of this practice and the means by which marriages could be resisted, challenged, and dissolved due to unsatisfactory or illegitimate pairings. Most crucially, this source means we do not have to treat the marriage plot of Romeo and Juliet in a vacuum. Rather, we can appreciate Juliet’s initial disdain for marriage and her resistance to Paris as operating within, and part of, a complicated and nuanced social practice which may now seem totally foreign to American students.


McNabb, Jennifer. “‘She Is but a Girl’: Talk of Young Women as Daughters, Wives, and Mothers in the Records of the English Consistory Courts, 1550–1650.” The Youth of Early Modern Women, edited by Elizabeth S. Cohen and Margaret Reeves, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2018, pp. 77–96. JSTOR, Accessed 20 Nov. 2020.


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