Supplementary Lesson Plans

Act II Focus: Representation of Class Through Language

Learning objective: Through scene illustration and close reading, students will examine the relationship between class and language alive within Shakespeare’s plays and the wider context of Early Modern England.

Lesson: “Drawing Language Into a Scene”

  1. Divide students into groups of three. Each group should have one blank piece of paper and colored pencils or markers.
  2. Give each group one of the following passages (if needed, more than one group can be assigned the same passage):
  • Act 2, Scene 2 lines 27-55 Romeo arrives at Juliet’s home
  • Act 2, Scene 2 lines 171-213 Romeo and Juliet say goodbye
  • Act 2, Scene 4 lines 150-175 The nurse talks to Peter, the servant
  • Act 2, Scene 5 lines 33-70 Juliet asks the nurse about Romeo’s message
  1. Explain to students that one student in each group will draw the action of the passage, one student in each group will draw the setting of the passage, and one student in each group will add a line of text that they believe best exemplifies the scene. Invite students to take a moment to choose roles.
  2. Give students time to complete the tasks assigned to their chosen role, with all members of the group working on the same piece of paper. Once each group has finished, create a gallery walk, hanging the images around the classroom.
  3. As students observe the images, they should consider and/or write down comments addressing the following:
  • What immediately catches your eye in the images?
  • Are the settings similar? If yes, how? If not, how are they different?
  • Is the language that the Nurse and Peter use different from the language Romeo and Juliet use when addressing each other?
  1. Encourage students to discuss their findings as a class.

Final objective: Students should begin to consider that the language preferred by upper class characters incorporates more complex diction and syntax than the language preferred by the working class characters. They should also be encouraged to notice that the content addressed by upper class characters is different than the content addressed by working class characters (for example: courtly love versus dirty jokes).

Lesson: “Close Reading Class”

  1. Now that students have considered the language variances across characters of different classes, they will contrast these speech and language patterns more deeply through a close read.
  2. To begin, ask students to reflect on what they already understand about the class distinctions between characters (as developed in the “Drawing Language Into a Scene” lesson above). Remind students of these distinctions by encouraging them to consider:
  • How would you describe Romeo and Juliet’s class?
  • Does the Nurse belong to a similar class? A different one?
  1. Divide students into groups of three to four. Provide each group with a printed copy of two passages:
    • Act 2, Scene 2 lines 1-36 Balcony scene
    • Act 2, Scene lines 124-141 Nurse addresses Peter
  1. Ask groups to carefully read both passages, designating one group member who will read the passages out loud so that the group can hear the dialogue spoken.
  2. Encourage students to begin by coming to a consensus on the action of the passage. Invite them to consider:
  • What is being discussed between the characters in the scenes?
  • Who are the major characters in the passage and what do we know about them so far?
  1. Instruct students to set the passages side-by-side on their tables. Ask them to begin by circling any words or phrases that are repeated in the passage between Romeo and Juliet that do not appear in the exchange between the Nurse and Peter.
  2. Next, ask students to put a box around any figurative language that they notice in either passage.
  3. Finally, ask students to reflect on repetition and sentence structure. Invite them to take a careful look at both passages individually, noticing any repeated phrases, repeated themes, favored sentence structures, or breaks from iambic pentameter. They should take notes on their observations.
  4. As a group, ask them to reflect on the effect that this language variance has on their sense of the characters represented in the scene. Students should answer:
  • Does one passage feel easier to follow or understand?
  • Does one feel more poetic, or more easily visualized?
  1. Come back together as a full class and invite groups to share their reflections.

Final objective: Students should consider how variances of language work to establish Romeo and Juliet as a different class than characters like the Nurse and Peter, with a different level of education. Students should also begin to reflect on how Shakespeare’s representation of these class differences affects the clarity and imagery of different passages in the play.

Act II Lesson Extension

The below source presents a means for thinking through filmic representations of Romeo and Juliet and the different approaches directors have taken with the story over the years. Engaging with film allows students to think critically about the mass media they consume while practicing skills that critique, analyze, and question the directorial choices that create/communicate the characters’ actions and intentions. This could also be used in Act V, wherein we think about adaptations and how students could adapt characters, worldviews, or plot occurrences to be more representative of their lives and circumstances. Recommended for students in 9-12 grades.


Martin, Jennifer L. “Tights vs. Tattoos: Filmic Interpretations of ‘Romeo and Juliet.’” The English Journal, vol. 92, no. 1, 2002, pp. 41–46. JSTOR, Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.


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