In this classic play, two star-crossed lovers (and impulsive teenagers) from warring families meet, marry, and come to tragic ends.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In the informational text "The Lure of Shakespeare," Robert W. Butler discusses William Shakespeare's success as a playwright.
Assign "The Lure of Shakespeare" to students before they read Romeo and Juliet in order to provide background information on the author, William Shakespeare, and his enduring legacy. After students read the article, ask them to reflect on whether they are excited to read a Shakespeare play, and if they believe they will find the content in Romeo and Juliet engaging and relevant to their lives?
In this excerpt from Poetics, Aristotle offers a definition of tragedy, as well as several examples and non-examples of the genre.
Assign "On Tragedy" before students read Romeo and Juliet to provide them with an understanding of the classic concepts of tragedy in drama. Ask students to consider the key elements of tragedy according to Aristotle as they read the play, and identify moments in the play the make the story a tragedy according to Aristotle.
In the informational text "Should we scoff at the idea of love at first sight?" James Kuzner discusses the existence of love at first sight.
Assign "Should we scoff at the idea of love at first sight?" to students after the scene where Romeo first meets Juliet. After students read, have them discuss whether they believe in love at first sight. Based on the excerpt of Romeo and Juliet used in the article, do they predict Romeo and Juliet's love will be genuine, or do they believe the two teenagers may be only infatuated?
In his article, "Adolescence and the Teenage Crush," Dr. Carl Pickhardt delineates between different types of teenage crushes. According to his analysis, having a crush on someone is a normal part of adolescence.
Consider having students read "Adolescence and the Teenage Crush" after Romeo and Juliet meet. Do students believe Romeo and Juliet have crushes or do they believe their affection for one another runs deeper? What type of crush might Romeo have? What type of crush might Juliet have? Do students believe these crushes will be long-lasting?
Sonnet 43 is better known by its popular first line, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." Elizabeth Barret Browning's Sonnet 43 is one of the most famous poems in the English language.
In Sonnet 43, Elizabeth Barret Browning describes her love for her long-time husband. Have students read "Sonnet 43" after the balcony scene, when Romeo first comes to Juliet's balcony following their meeting, in order to provide cross-text analysis on the theme of love. Ask students to compare Browning's poem to Romeo's speech to Juliet. How does the love described in the two pieces compare? Do students see a difference in the maturity or intensity of love? Do the speakers' ages impact how they describe their love and, if so, how do students think age affects feelings and statements of love?
"Do Juvenile Killers Deserve Life Behind Bars?" is a news article that offers insight into the United States' juvenile criminal justice system, which often provides extreme punishments to adolescents.
Have students read "Do Juvenile Killers Deserve Life Behind Bars" after reading Romeo's banishment and exile. Ask students to reflect on Romeo's age and how that impacted his actions and punishment. In the context of the article, do students believe Romeo received a fair punishment? What consequences would they expect today following Mercutio and Tybalt's deaths?
In "Fear Prompts Teens to Act Impulsively," Laura Sanders explores the psychology and biology behind why rebellious behavior peaks during the teen years.
Romeo and Juliet features teenage suicide, a topic that can be difficult to address in a classroom setting. We ask that teachers consider how they might handle sensitive material on a class-by-class basis, taking into account their knowledge of the students who they are addressing. Consider pairing "Fear Prompts Teens to Act Impulsively" with the scenes where Romeo learns Juliet is dead and eventually determines to kill himself, in order to provide a psychological theory for Romeo's behavior. Ask students whether the points in the article about teenage impulsivity help explain Romeo's actions. Do they consider Romeo's actions impulsive or a reflection of his age? If this scene reflects Romeo's impulsivity, what lessons can students learn from it?
In Yrsa Daley-Ward's poem "what love isn't," Ward explores attributes of love not often discussed.
Romeo and Juliet features teenage suicide, a topic that can be difficult to address in a classroom setting. We ask that teachers consider how they might handle sensitive material on a class-by-class basis, taking into account their knowledge of the students who they are addressing. Consider pairing the scene with Romeo and Juliet's suicides with "what love isn't" in a class discussion of the negative consequences of love and passion. Would students consider Romeo and Juliet's actions an example of what love isn't?
In this story set in the rural midwest during the turn of the 19th century, a missionary attempts to heal the rift between two feuding families while there is still time to forgive.
After students finish reading Romeo and Juliet, have them read "The Pardon of Becky Day" for a cross-text analysis of the motif of feuds. How do feuds drive character's actions and growth in the two works? Why do students believe feuds emerge, and what resolves them?