Supplementary Lesson Plans

Act IV Focus: Language Variance Across Editions

Learning objective: Students will examine the language variance within the different versions of Shakespeare’s texts by comparing their edition to the quartos and folio. They will also play with contemporary language by portraying Romeo and Juliet in “Twitter posts.”

Lesson: “Comparing and Editing Editions of Romeo and Juliet

1. If students have not already been introduced to the textual variance of different editions of Romeo and Juliet, inform students that Oregon State University’s edition is part of a long history of editors adding their own voice(s) and editing preferences to Shakespeare’s plays. Offer a brief overview of the dialogue differences that students might encounter as they move between editions of Shakespeare, all of which are inspired by variances in the quartos and folios. Tell students that they will become editors themselves today.

2. To begin, have the class read Juliet’s speech in Act IV, Scene III of Oregon State University’s edition out loud. If possible, encourage every student to read a line so that they can get a feel for the speech’s subject and cadence, stopping at each punctuation mark.

3. Divide students into groups of three to four. Provide each group with a printed copy of Juliet’s speech. Inform students that the full speech in Oregon State University’s edition is 45 lines.

4. Ask students to work together in groups to edit Juliet’s speech into 25 lines or fewer while retaining a coherent scene. Tell them that this editing work will require careful close reading. In groups, they should look at every line of the speech and consider:

  • What is the line’s effect in the speech (as a way of furthering action or exposing Juliet’s mental state)?
  • Is the line as effective as other lines in the speech?
  • Should the line be edited out during this activity?

5. Once the class has had time to edit Juliet’s speech down to 25 lines or fewer, ask one representative from each group to read their edited version to the class.

6. As a class, discuss the differences and similarities that students are noticing across groups. Have the class consider:

  • Which lines (if any) did most or all groups choose to keep?
  • Which lines (if any) did most or all groups choose to edit out?
  • Did any of these editing decisions affect our sense of Juliet’s emotions as a speaker? How so?
  • Did any of these editing decisions affect our sense of the scene’s action? How so?

7. Now, provide each group with printed copies of Juliet’s speech in Act IV, Scene III as published in both Q1 and F. Ask students to closely read through Juliet’s speech in both of these editions.

8. First, ask the class:

  • Which edition did Oregon State University’s editors follow most closely when editing Juliet’s speech?

9. Then, invite the class to compare the four editions before them—Q1, F, Oregon State University’s edition, and their own edition—in their groups. Ask each group to compare the effects of each edition and make a decision about which they prefer as readers.

10. Have each group report their findings to the class.

Lesson: “Recapping Romeo and Juliet Through Twitter Posts”

1. Students will work independently or with partners for this activity.

2. Recap how the class has been examining the different versions of Shakespeare’s texts. Remind students that Shakespeare’s stories are actually fluid and that the language and the presentation of the play can be adapted by the editors to reflect the audience and mode (as explored in the “Comparing and Editing Editions of Romeo and Juliet” activity above). Students should keep this in mind for the following activity.

3. Inform students that for each of these scenes, they will create a Twitter post from the point of view of a character in the play. This can be done in a document, on a sheet of paper, or through a worksheet. Each “post” should:

  • Include a maximum of 140 characters
  • Include a recap of the main action of the play
  • Be only from one character’s “Twitter” perspective (each post can be a different character’s perspective or students can repeat characters)
  • Be reflective of the tone and voice that the character would use in contemporary times. Students do not have to use Elizabethan English — the language should reflect contemporary English.

Students will create a post from a character in each of the following scenes:

  • Act 1, Scene 1
  • Act 1, Scene 2
  • Act 1, Scene 5
  • Act 2, Scene 2
  • Act 2, Scene 5
  • Act 2, Scene 6
  • Act 3, Scene 1
  • Act 3, Scene 5
  • Act 4, Scene 1
  • Act 4, Scene 5

4. To close, discuss how creating these Twitter posts can be similar to editor and editor making decisions depending on their audience and mode they are utilizing. As students of Shakespeare, they also have agency to make adaptations for their own audience and mode.

Act IV Lesson Extension

Engaging variations of Romeo and Juliet should also alert students to the various audiences that the play might reach. To that end, the below sources are provided to challenge assumptions that the play can only profit white, cisgendered, heternonormative, middle to upper-class identities.

Ressler uses instances in Romeo and Juliet wherein the dialogue becomes queer to provide readings of sexual and gender inclusivity in a play often characterized as entirely heteronormative. She goes over practices and a workshop framework she uses in her own classroom to get students to engage with the text and consider the boundaries that Romeo and Juliet crosses. Such reading practices can also lead to more comfortable discussions of gender, fluidity, class boundaries, and sexual orientations as students bodily conceptualize being in the positions Romeo and Juliet inhabit. This source might be of more use to the instructor as a way of working through the text than a text worth exploring in class. Recommended grade level is 8-12.


Ressler, Paula. “Challenging Normative Sexual and Gender Identity Beliefs through ‘Romeo and Juliet.’” The English Journal, vol. 95, no. 1, 2005, pp. 52–57. JSTOR, Accessed 24 Nov. 2020.


Straughan’s article is admittedly dated and short, but chronicles one ESL teacher’s strategies for reading Romeo and Juliet in their classroom. Such an article, again, allows us to think about non-white populations that this play may reach and diverse audiences it might interest. Straughan provides an overview of the information and texts that helped her to craft an engagement with the play and the different modalities that allowed her students to be successful in understanding both Shakespeare’s language and the overall plot and characters present. Again, this might be of more use when crafting lesson plans than being incorporated as a source students examine within the classroom. Recommended grade level is 8-12.


Straughan, June. “‘Romeo and Juliet’ and the ESL Classroom.” The English Journal, vol. 85, no. 8, 1996, pp. 52–54. JSTOR, Accessed 21 Nov. 2020.


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