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Ministry of Education.

Violent delights and violent ends: Romeo and Juliet

Students research a role model from their own whakapapa and orally present a "This Is Your Life" portfolio about that person.

Learning Outcomes | Teaching and Learning | Assessment and Evaluation | Printing Version

Writer: Phil Coogan
Year level 12
Who are my learners and what do they already know? See  Planning using Inquiry
School curriculum outcomes How your school’s principles, values, or priorities will be developed through this unit

Learning Outcomes

 (What do my students need to learn)

Curriculum achievement objectives (AOs) for:  

Processes and strategies

Integrate sources of information, processes, and strategies purposefully, confidently, and precisely to identify, form, and express increasingly sophisticated ideas:

  • thinks critically about texts with understanding and confidence
  • creates a range of increasingly coherent, varied, and complex texts by integrating sources of information and processing strategies


Select, develop, and communicate sustained ideas on a range of topics:

  • develops, communicates, and sustains increasingly sophisticated ideas, information, and understandings

Language features

Select and integrate a range of language features appropriately for a variety of effects:

  • uses a wide range of oral, written, and visual language features fluently and with control to create meaning and effect and to sustain interest


Organise texts, using a range of appropriate, coherent, and effective structures:

  • organises and develops ideas and information for a particular purpose or effect, using the characteristics and conventions of a range of text forms with control.
Achievement Standard(s) aligned to AO(s)

From 2012:

AS 2.6 Create a crafted and controlled visual text

Teaching and Learning

 (What do I need to know and do?)

1-2 related professional readings or links to relevant research

Planning using Inquiry

English Teaching and Learning Guide 

Assessment and Examination Rules and Guidelines

Learning task 1

Learning intention(s)

Establishing prior learning and linking it to the text

KCs/ Principles/Values focus KCs:
Thinking – explore texts

Learning task 1 – Pre Reading

  1. Shakespeare’s World
    To find out more about Shakespeare and his world, students are allocated research in small groups This activity will be facilitated by alerting the librarian to the research needs of the group well before the activity is to take place. The research questions differ in their degree of difficulty and should be allocated accordingly.
    Students report back to the class the results of their research findings in mini seminars, using visual aids wherever possible.
  2. Shakespeare's Theatre
    Students investigate how the play would have been performed originally by reading information about the Globe Theatre, or viewing the original de Witt drawing of 'The Swan'.
  3. Engaging with key ideas in contemporary settings
    In groups develop a role play based upon one of the situations below. All have links to Romeo and Juliet. The aim is to get you thinking about some of the issues in the play before reading it. After your role play stay in role so that your classmates and teacher can question you. Construct a short role play based upon the following situations:
    • A teenage boy thinks he's in love with a girl with whom he has been going out for some time. He's always telling his friends how in love he is. A new girl joins his class. She is beautiful. What happens?
    • A teenage girl has just met a boy she considers to be wonderful. However, she knows that because of his background and the fact that he comes from a family they disapprove of, they would be violently horrified if they ever caught them together. She is in her bedroom at night, thinking out loud about this boy and the difficulties of his background when he taps on her window.
    • Members of two families who have had a long standing dispute get together for a neighbourhood barbecue. After a few drinks some of the old causes of the dispute start to surface.
    • Two teenagers, still at school, who have only known each other for a few days, decide they are so in love that they want to be together more than they care about the opinions of family and friends.They decide to move to another town so that they can be together.
    • A group of teenage boys from a working class background gatecrash a party put on by a rich family. They sneak in and mingle and one of them sees a girl to whom he is attracted. What happens?
    • A teenage girl has secretly fallen in love with a boy of a different race. Her parents are extremely strict and they have made it clear that not only will they have a big say in who she marries but that person will be from the same race. In fact they have arranged for her to meet a suitable boy of good standing and they have a clear expectation that this meeting will lead to marriage. What happens?
  4. Plot scaffolding - ripping into the text
    Using a battered play copy, divide the number of pages by the number of students. Give each student a page to read but avoid the final act. (e.g. 180 pages divided by 30 students would mean that every third page was ripped out and given to a student). Use the page to answer questions like:
    • what is going on here?
    • who is involved? What sort of person/people do they seem to be?
    • are there any interesting uses of language?
    • what questions do I have after reading this page?
      In order of page numbers, give brief responses to these questions. This exercise will provide you with a plot scaffold with which to approach the play along with some impressions, questions and most of all interest about characters.
  5. Plot scaffolding through other works
    To help understand the plot of Romeo and Juliet, you could view the film West Side Story. Others may like to read Across the Barricades by Joan Lyngard which places the elements of Romeo and Juliet in a divided Belfast. The Charles and Mary Lamb retelling of the story is another useful way to prepare for the play.
  6. Shakespeare's Language
    Shakespeare made use of prose-verse dramatic idiom, a genre which has largely disappeared since. Shakespeare was not only a very good poet, but his prose is amongst the finest in our language. He used the prose spoken by everyday people "heightened" for his dramatic purpose. So successful was his prose that he partly contributed to the eventual development of prose as the unquestioned medium for drama. Earlier dramatists had used prose simply for discussing things that were inappropriate in verse. Prose was used for the speeches of clowns, for proclamations, for letters, to include a character's decline to madness, but he used prose also for the intentional dramatic contrast in his plays. Prose is reserved for the language of villains and people of lower social class predominantly whereas the Shakespearean hero and characters of high rank (socially) speak highly rhetorical verse. The Elizabethan audience was very aware of these conventions and would have recognised the subtleties of Shakespeare's handling of them.
    • Words sounded different in his day, eg. loin = line, loffe = love, noting = nothing.
    • Shakespeare uses a wide variety of words changed around. Ordinarily the verb follows subject, eg. we say - Are you calling? Shakespeare said - Call you?
    • Some of the verbs had different endings in Shakespeare's day, unlike modern verbs, eg.
he does - modern doth = old
she has - modern hast = old
    • In Shakespeare's later plays these endings became less frequent
    • In modern English we say "I don't know" - This is what we call the auxiliary verb. We seemed to start using it to show emphasis in questions and with "not"
eg. Modern - I do not know Shakespeare - I know not
eg. Modern - What do you think? Shakespeare - How think you?
    • Shakespeare's language obviously did not use "do" in these two cases as our language now does.
    • Shakespeare tended to use "are" or "were" rather than "have" or "had" in cases such as this with a past participle.

Have some fun with the language of Shakespeare by investigating what a wonderful creator of insults he was.

Learning task 2

Learning intention(s)

Examining key text aspects

KCs/ Principles/Values focus


Thinking – using a range of thinking strategies to build understandings

Relate to others – peer discussion

Participating and contributing – contributing to a group performance

Learning task 2 - Reading

  1. Learning Log/Journal
    Choose either Romeo or Juliet. After each class working on the play make an entry in role in your learning log which traces your character's changing feelings and experiences through the play. This entry should be written in role: ie, from the point of view of Romeo and Juliet. It is a sort of diary of events, issues and feelings as experienced by one of the main characters. Not only will this help you develop an understanding of your chosen character, but it will help you remember the plot of the play.
    Each entry should:
    • include a brief summary of events as experienced by your character.
    • reflect your character's changing emotions in response to these events.
    • reflect your characters changing understanding of the world in which they live.
    • reflect your character's changing feelings towards other characters.
    • Every 3-4 periods, form pairs with a ‘Romeo’ and a ‘Juliet’ and share journal entries.
  2. Drama games
    Use a variety of drama games to highlight points, deepen understanding and increase enjoyment of the play:
      One person stands in the centre, the rest in a circle. The one in the centre begins to walk towards another person, arms outstretched in their direction. The person being pointed out must say a quote from the play before the centre person gets there or they go in the centre. (Use the quotations resource)
      Each person in the circle is given a quote from the play. The first person points at somebody across the circle and begins walking towards them saying his/her quote loudly and in a manner consistent with the play's setting. The person being pointed at follows suit, pointing at somebody else and saying his/her quote loudly. Variation: Add emotions eg. angry, happy, sad, lustful, saucily, like a conspirator, whispered etc.
      As above but point at somebody and say their quote.
      Cut up the quotations resource into slips. Sitting in small groups in circles on the floor show each quotation slip. Others guess who is saying the quote and where it comes from in the play.
      Take a scene from the play. Develop a freeze frame showing the characters clearly through body language, posture, stance and showing the relationships to other characters through facial expression, closeness, distance, touching etc.
 NB Make sure the scene has a focal point. The other groups will guess what this scene is.
      As above but have each group choose a scene(s) from each Act of the play and then play them in order around the room.
      Using the Freeze Frame as above, each character is allowed one line which should encapsulate the meaning of the whole scene. Start with the Freeze Frame then move in slow motion (Count 5 4 3 2 1 Freeze) into the next important position, perhaps improvising a line or taking an important moment from the play. Freeze Frame the moment before it then move in slow motion into the important moment, expanding the dramatic moment. Then take the moment after it and do the same.
      Use the essence of the dramatic moments above and incorporate these into a modern scene, which retains the flavour and meaning of the original.
      eg. from Romeo and Juliet: Romeo/Juliet is about to die when suddenly and slowly he/she sees his/her whole life flash before him in the form of the people he has had contact with. Take a character each. Form two lines. Take a body stance and facial expression which reflects your attitude to Romeo or Juliet. Romeo or Juliet now walk down this 'Wall of Thought' and as he/she passes each person he/she voices his/her thoughts about the character and his actions.
      Now one line become the Panel of Interviewers who interview the other line as eg. Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps have each person in the line take on a different aspect of the character so that the replies are varied and represent the character at different stages of his/her development. Similarly the interviewers could represent different characters.
      Take the moment eg. when Juliet wakes to find Romeo dead or Romeo finding Juliet apparently dead. Have two people in the class take the position the two characters would be in on the stage. Each person then stands behind/beside either Romeo or Juliet and one at a time voice the thought you have at this moment.
      eg. Romeo and Juliet:
 Take the moment after the above when either Romeo or Juliet have Capulet, Montague, Tybalt, Mercutio, the friar each speak their writing words, lines, monologues, thoughts whatever comes out.
      Then in comes a 'Stranger in Role' who doesn't know what has gone on. The rest of the class will need to answer his/her questions.
      Each recall a memory or personality trait of a major character from the play. Now draw a human outline on a large piece of paper and write these traits onto the outline. Now add quotes to go with each one.
  3. Approaches to reading
    Reading through the play can be most rewarding and useful when a variety of approaches are used.

    The class could be engaged in:

    • Prepared readings: all class members are allocated a part to read in class. This will mean 2-3 class members are allocated to each significant part. The students become the 'experts' about this character. Not only do they share the reading but they are charged with becoming familiar with the notes which pertain to that character's speeches, so that they are able explain words and phrases as they arise to the whole class. Students need to read ahead each night so that they are comfortable and confident when they come to read in class.
    • Walk throughs: some critical scenes are selected for more physical acting out. Character 'experts' (see above) form groups and rehearse selected scenes (or more probably parts thereof) prior to presenting them to the rest of the class. The above can be interspersed with excerpts from audio recordings or one of the film versions ( Zeffirelli 1968 or Lurhmann 1997) available on video.
    • See also: Rules for reading Shakespeare aloud:
      • Emphasise the words you think are important.
      • Pause at commas, semi-colons and full stops.
      • If there is no stop at the end of a line, read straight on to the next line.
      • -ed at the end of a word is pronounced as a separate syllable, for example advis-ed inform-ed trench-ed
      • If the syllable is not to be pronounced, an apostrophe is used, for example 'vis'd inform'd trench'd
      • Try to give expression to the feelings of the characters
      • Wherever possible, convey these feelings by your tone of voice, your facial expressions, your gestures and your movements.
      • Don't rush to get through the speech - take your time.
    • Examine some of the key language features of the play in groups, closely linking these to the ideas they help convey. Groups could be allocated one of the following areas to report back to the whole class on:
      • images of light and darkness
      • images of violence, unseemly haste
      • images of the stars
      • the use of oxymorons
      • other contrasts (eg. the difference between the way Romeo speaks of his love for Rosaline and the way he speaks to or about Juliet; the contrast between Romeo and Juliet when they speak of love in the balcony scene; contrasts between the older and younger generations in their use of language; the differences in the language used by servants and the other characters in the play)

Learning task 3

Learning intention(s)

Preparing and delivering an oral presentation

KCs/ Principles/Values focus


Use language, symbols and texts – structure and express understandings about texts 

Participating and Contributing – contribute to a group performance

Learning task 3 – Post Reading

After the play has been 'read' in the ways outlined, engage in a number of activities to heighten appreciation and deepen understanding prior to preparing for the assessment activity.

Character experts

Form groups of character 'experts' who will be questioned in role after they have had a chance to come to some agreed positions on key features of the character. Prior to being questioned by the class groups need to arrive at a consensus on questions such as those below. They need to be able to provide specific supporting evidence from the text for their agreed position on:

  • The sort of person the character was at the beginning of the play? What were they like at the end? What caused the changes? Can you point to a key turning point?
  • What was the moral low point, the moral high point for this character?
  • To what degree was the character responsible for this tragedy.
  • What should this character have done differently?
  • How would this character dress? What general style of clothing would suit? What colours would best represent the character and why?
  • Agree upon one hand prop (eg. sword, wine goblet, piece of jewellery) which you would have this character use often or be associated with in a production of the play.

Contrast in the play

In pairs explore the use of contrast in the content of the play, for example:

  • Capulet - Montague
  • Age - Youth
  • Children - Parents
  • Nightingale - Lark
  • Life - Death
  • Love - Hate
  • Benvolio - Tybalt
  • Rosaline - Paris
  • Poison – Medicine
  • Night - Day

Each member of the pair takes one aspect of the listed contrasting situations and characters, notes down the key features of their subject and compares this with their partner's list. Together, work out why Shakespeare has used this contrast and what features of staging (eg. set design, costume, delivery, grouping, lighting they would use to underscore the contrast for an audience).

Pairs can then form revolving groups of four to teach other class members what they have found out about Shakespeare's use of contrast.


As an individual written activity, examine the idea of fate in the play.

  • What part does chance and fate have in the play? List the events in which good and bad luck are influential to the outcome of the play.
  • How much were Romeo and Juliet in control of their own fate? What other factors beside fate influenced the outcome of the play?
  • If you were able to re-write the plot what elements of fate would you include; which would you exclude? Why?
  • Look back at these speeches and decide if you can on Shakespeare's views on the influence of fate?
    • The prologue
    • Romeo (Iiv 106-113) "I fear, too early; for my mind misgives..."
    • Romeo (IIIi 138) "I am fortune' fool"
    • Juliet (IIIv 60-65) "O Fortune, Fortune!...."
    • Romeo (Vi 24) "Is it e'en so?...." Friar (II iii 1-30) "The gray-eyed morn ...."

Defend a statement

Individually or in small groups, choose one of the following statements about the play and defend it to the class basing your defence on evidence from the play, including quotations.

Romeo and Juliet is about:

  • The impetuousness of youth
  • Bad luck
  • An irresponsible Friar
  • What happens when children disobey their parents
  • The beauty of true love
  • The problems the younger generation inherit from the older generation
  • A bad postal system
  • Lust overcoming common sense
  • The lunacy of old age
  • Other - your choice.

A variation on this activity is to form groups each of which has to prepare and deliver a coroner's report into the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. That report has:

  • to reach one of the conclusions above
  • to consider all the evidence which contradicts that conclusion
  • to consider all the evidence which supports that conclusion
  • to shows why the supporting evidence is the stronger through use of analysis of speeches, paraphrase and details of incidents in the play.
  • to make a recommendation about the way the characters should behave in the future.

Performance assessment

  1. Select a part of a scene for performance to an audience. This forms the assessment activity for this unit and expectations are communicated in the assessment schedule.
  2. In pairs, practise delivering your performance. Make any necessary adjustments. Your individual spoken performance must be at least two minutes long. Look at selected exemplars on the Level 2 NCEA Speeches and Performances video. Look at and discuss the assessment schedule.
  3. Deliver your presentation.
  4.  In 2011, your presentation can be assessed against Achievement Standard 90376: Deliver a presentation. From 2012, it can be assessed against its replacement, the new Level 2 oral presentation standard, AS 2.6 Create a crafted and controlled visual text.The same standard of oral performance is required at each achievement level for both the old and new achievement standards.

Learning task 4

Learning intention(s)

Extending learning

KCs/ Principles/Values focus KCs: Thinking – explore texts

Learning task 4 – Additional Resources

  • William Shakespeare: The Complete Works
    This is a very comprehensive site with links to the complete works including background information, biographical information and pictures, information about Elizabethan theatres, a Shakespearean dictionary, the first folio, quotes, a quiz and a discussion forum
  • Surfing with the Bard
  • Much Ado About Something
  • This unit could lead into (or be substituted by) a film study of either or both the Zeffirelli (1968) or the Lurhman (1997) films based on the play. Many of the activities in the English Level 2 Assessment Guide would be particularly suitable for this. 

Assessment and Evaluation

 (What is the impact of my teaching and learning?)

Formative and/or Summative assessment task(s), including how will feedback be provided AS 2.6 Create a crafted and controlled visual text

Provision for identifying next learning steps for students who need:

  • further learning opportunities
  • increased challenge

This piece of writing should be an integrated part of the year’s writing programme. Refer to

English Teaching and Learning Guide 

Conditions of Assessment Guidelines for oral presentations.

for more details.

Tools or ideas which, for example might be used to evaluate:

  • progress of the class and groups within it
  • student engagement

leading to :

  • changes to the sequence
  • addressing teacher learning needs
See:  Planning Using Inquiry

Printing this unit:

If you are not able to access the zipped files, please download the following individual files.

Published on: 03 Dec 2010