Supplementary Lesson Plans
Act III Focus: Gender Dynamics and Storyline
Lesson: “Exploring Character Interactions Through Physicalization”
1. Divide the class into groups of four.
2. Give each group one of the following passages:
- Act 3, Scene 1 lines 35-57 Benvolio and Mercutio encounter Tybalt
- Act 3, Scene 1 lines 57-86 Mercutio antagonizes Tybalt
- Act 3, Scene 1 lines 89- 100 Romeo tries to break it up, Tybalt stabs Mercutio
- Act 2, Scene 1 lines 129-145 Romeo fights Tybalt and kills him
3. Ask students to reread their assigned passage with their group members. Each student will choose a role: two or three students will choose a character from the scene and will be physicalizing it, and one or two students will be reading lines during the physicalization.
4. In their groups, ask students to make decisions about how they want to physically portray the action of their assigned passage. Ask each group to also select a key excerpt that they believe exemplifies the action of their assigned passage. This excerpt will be the one read out loud by group members during the group’s physicalization.
5. Groups will present their physicalization and line reading in chronological order, physicalizing the scene while the key lines are being read. The rest of the class will observe each group.
6. After each group presents, check that the class has a grasp on what is being portrayed in the scene.
7. After each group presents, have students write responses to the following questions or discuss as a full class (students might want to refer to the text as they answer):
- What is the mood of this scene? What contributes to the mood? Specifically, what key words contribute to the mood?
- How is both the action and language different than other key parts of the play (say, scenes with Romeo and Juliet)?
- What could this scene possibly tell us about gender dynamics (especially between men) in this time period?
- How is this scene similar or different from contemporary scenes in movies or TV involving only men? Provide specific examples.
Lesson: “Contrasting Representations of Gender”
1. Spend a few moments asking the class to reflect on gender within the acts of Romeo and Juliet that they have read so far. This can be done in a think-pair-share format or included as a full class discussion. If the class participated in the Act I lesson “Close Reading Misogynistic Language in Sampson and Gregory’s Exchange,” remind them of the gender stereotypes they noticed during that activity.
2. Tell the class that they will be building on these initial thoughts to consider how gender directs the play’s physical action and storyline.
3. Ask the class to get into groups of two to four. Give each group one of the following passages:
- Scene 1, lines 1-30 Mercutio comments on Benvolio’s temper
- Scene 1, lines 68-79 Mercutio and Tybalt begin the fight
- Scene 1, lines 112-128 Romeo and Tybalt fight
- Scene 2, lines 37-45 The Nurse tells Juliet about the fight
- Scene 2, lines 46-63 Juliet’s confusion
- Scene 2, lines 74-94 Juliet mourns Romeo’s role in the fight
4. Invite each group to read through their assigned passage slowly, then answer the following questions:
- What is happening in the scene?
- How would you classify the emotions of each character in the scene?
- If you were going to act this passage out, what kind of body language would you choose for each character?
4. Ask students to read their assigned passage once more as a group, highlighting or circling any words or phrases that refine their sense of the characters’ emotions and motivations in the scene. Give groups a few minutes to further discuss their findings.
5. Invite representatives from each group to physicalize their passage in front of the class, incorporating the emotion and body language that their group believes reflects each character. Alternatively, ask each group to summarize their findings for the class and write these findings on the board.
6. Once all the groups present, ask the class to identify contrasts they are noticing between the motivations and emotions of characters in Scene I and Scene II. Ask students to draw on specific examples from the text as they consider:
- How do the men in Scene I talk about fighting? How are these attitudes similar or different from the way Juliet and The Nurse discuss fighting?
- How do both sets of characters (men and women, respectively) respond to grief?
- How active or passive is the role of the characters (both the men and the women) in the events that unfold?
7. Close out this activity by asking students to consider the events of the play that they have encountered so far. Ask the class to consider:
- Are the differences between the gender they observe in this scene reflective of what we see elsewhere in the play?
Final objective: Encourage students to reference specific previous events or dialogue in the play to consider how these gender differences have functioned elsewhere. This should lead students to reflect on the level of agency of young men and young women during the Early Modern period, as well as how the events of Romeo and Juliet express these levels of agency.
Act III Lesson Extension
The below source is recommended reading for teachers who want to learn more about the historical context of the play; it would require careful framing for classroom use even in higher education. Specifically, the piece resurrects concerns over sexual violence that the story of Romeo and Juliet often tapers over, especially through the play’s prestige as one of the greatest love stories in English. In this reading, Romeo becomes a source of concern and confusion to Juliet, who must manage his romantic and sexual advances while preserving her own safety and reputation. The article focuses on the allusions to sexual violence from classical antiquity in the play as communicating a culture and society wherein sexual violence is always a threat. The article also recasts the Act III sword fights as examples of missplaced sexual violence. The “Tereu” of the title is a reference to a figure who sexually assaults and mutilates his sister-in-law in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Watson, Robert N, and Stephen Dickey. “Wherefore Art Thou Tereu? Juliet and the Legacy of Rape.” Renaissance Quarterly, vol. 58, no. 1, 2005, pp. 127–156. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.1353/ren.2008.0677. Accessed 19 Nov. 2020.