Romeo and Juliet Activities: Language (KS3)

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Here you can find resources designed around the 2019 Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank production of Romeo and Juliet. Created for young people, students are able to follow along with the production online on the Globe's dedicated Romeo and Juliet microsite.

If students are new to the play, we suggest you start with these introductory Key Stage 3 Lesson Plans. If you would like to teach the play in greater detail, we recommend you use the advanced activities which can be found in the Key Stage 4 or Key Stage 5 areas.

We will be updating this section week by week, so be sure to check back for more activities soon. 

Read the article, 'Love and Hate in Romeo and Juliet', by Chris Nayak. Chris highlights two major speeches in which the title characters express themselves using oxymora. Let's look at these in more detail.

Divide a page in half and create a table with two headings: Romeo and Juliet

Start with Romeo's speech in Act 1, Scene 1, lines 168-174. List all the oxymora that he uses. Ask for definitions of any words that are new to you. At this point in the play, who is Romeo talking about? What is causing Romeo to feel this way?  Add this explanation underneath your list. Select three of the oxymora and illustrate them. Annotate your illustrations with all the connotations you can think of linked to each word.

Now look at Juliet's speech in Act 3, Scene 2, lines 73-85. List all the oxymora that she uses.

Who is Juliet talking about here? At this point in the play, what two types of love that Juliet feels are in conflict? Add this explanation underneath your list. Select three of the oxymora and illustrate them. Annotate your illustrations with all the connotations you can think of linked to each word.

Now that you have your lists, explanations and annotated illustrations, compare Romeo and Juliet's use of oxymora. Are there any patterns you can spot? (Hint: look at light and darkness, religious images, nature) Whose oxymora are ‘stronger’, or better at conveying their conflicted emotions? Why? Think about the last time you felt conflicted about something. Try to create three oxymora to describe how you felt. Chris makes the point that oxymora are the perfect way to capture how you feel when you're young. How much do you agree?

Return to Chris’ article, and consider: without the hate in the play, would Romeo and Juliet love each other as much?

Find the Week 1 blog by the assistant director of the play Natasha Rickman. In the blog, Natasha mentions the different uses of verse and prose. She references Romeo and Juliet's use of verse when they speak, and Mercutio's use of prose when displaying bravado. However, she also mentions that Mercutio switches between verse and prose depending on the situation. Romeo also switches between verse and prose, and we'll shortly examine this further.

First, in pairs, discuss situations where you change the way you speak in order to 'fit' the situation. Create two thought bubbles with Informal and Formal in the centre. Around each, write down things that influence when you would use that type of speech, for example: particular people, locations, situations.

Now let's look at how Romeo changes his speech, and think about what Shakespeare might be trying to suggest about his character.

Look at:

  • Romeo and Mercutio in Act 2, Scene 4, from ‘Come between us, good Benvolio’ to ‘now art thou Romeo’.
  • Romeo and Juliet in Act 2, Scene 2, from ‘My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself’ to ‘Than death prorogued, wanting of thy love’.

For each, complete the following tasks:

  • Read the exchanges aloud twice each, taking it in turns to be Romeo. The first time, read it jokingly, and the second time, read it seriously.
  • What mood fits which exchange better? Try to pick out words or phrases to support your view.
  • Using Natasha's explanation of verse and prose, identify which is an example of verse and which is prose. Take a line from the one that you think is verse and underline the stresses, to support your choice.
  • Which mood went with which form of language?

Think back to i) Natasha's blog, and what she said about when characters are likely to use verse and prose, and ii) your thought bubbles around your uses of 'formal' and 'informal' language. Why might Romeo have used verse in one situation, and prose in the other?

Please note: one section of this activity draws attention to the sexual references within the Queen Mab speech; therefore, please read through the activity as a whole to determine its appropriateness for your students.

Find the Week 3 blog by the assistant director of the play Natasha Rickman. In her Tuesday blog entry, Natasha outlines how the cast have been working on Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech, in Act 1 Scene 4 of the play.

Find the questions that director Michael poses about this speech within the blog, and show/write them onto the board, explaining that the activities that follow will help to explore these.

Before beginning, remind students what the context for this speech is: Mercutio, Romeo and friends are on their way to the Capulet ball, when Romeo tells his friends his lovesickness means he is not in the mood to dance at the party. Furthermore, he says he has ‘dreamt a dream’ that it wasn’t a good idea to go. The Queen Mab speech is Mercutio’s response to this.

This first activity is focused on supporting students to break down and understand some of the complex imagery that Shakespeare includes. Provide students with the whole speech except the final four lines, and dictionaries/access to the internet to look up unfamiliar words. The whole class should undertake Stages 1 - 3, which involves splitting the speech up into segments. Ask students to:

1) Draw the picture that Mercutio paints of Queen Mab, from ‘She is the fairies’ midwife...’ to ‘...the fairies’ coachmakers’. Annotate this with quotations to help make the link between what you are picturing and the words Shakespeare has used.
2) Next, draw the effect Mab has on each of the people Mercutio mentions, from ‘And in this state...’ to ‘And sleeps again.’ [NB: To scaffold this further, you might want to provide the occupations (and short definitions of any of these as needed): lovers, courtiers (mentioned twice), lawyers, ladies, a parson, a soldier.] Again, you should annotate your drawings with quotations.
3) Draw what two deeds Mab performs, looking at ‘This is that very Mab...’ to ‘much misfortune bodes.’ [NB: When students reach this section, you could support them by having them read ‘bakes’ as ‘hardens’ and ‘elf-locks’ as ‘tangles’.]

Ask students to work in groups to create freeze-frames of each of these images. The group from the drawing in 1 will need to be a larger group due to its complexity, whereas the groups for the drawings in 2 and 3 could comprise between 2 - 4 students each.

Have students share each of their freeze-frames in the same order as the speech. As each group shares, the rest of the students should make notes on the following questions:

- Without looking at the script, which key words from the speech can you
identify in the freeze-frame? Why do these stand out?
- How does the image make you feel? Is it more positive or negative than the
image before?

After everyone has shared their freeze-frame, ask students to think-pair share on how the speech changes as it progresses. They should use their notes on key words that stood out, plus how each section made them feel, to support their thinking. Draw out that:

i) Mab starts as tiny, fairy-like and is described in detail, but becomes a larger than life presence, mischievous and invisible (i.e. un-describable);
ii) the dreams all have something negative about them - they are all selfish, and the fact they are dreams suggest they cannot come true.

Explain that there is a final image of the speech, and ask students to predict what it might tell us about Queen Mab, i.e. will it be something positive or negative, based on the ‘journey’ of the speech so far? What do they think it might reference?

Explain that these final lines contains a troubling image, that you will explore together as a class. Reveal the final four lines:

‘This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage.
This is she-’

Model breaking this image down into its component parts and working through creating a modern translation of this. This will serve the dual purpose of sharing the useful process of breaking down an image, but will also ensure that the difficult nature of this image is handled sensitively. For example, you could break it up as follows:

This is the hag - Queen Mab is the witch who
When maids - when virgins
Lie on their backs - have sexual intercourse
That presses them - holds or pushes them down
And learns them - and teaches them
First to bear - to first have (bear) the weight of men on top of them, and as a result have (bear) children

Ask students to reflect individually for 30 seconds on their reaction to this final image, explaining that you won’t take feedback. Then, ask students to look at how Romeo and Benvolio react, focusing on:

ROMEO: Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace!
BENVOLIO: Supper is done, and we shall come too late.
ROMEO: I fear, too early...
But He that hath the steerage of my course
Direct my sail! On, lusty gentlemen!

In pairs, how would they summarise each reaction in a sentence? Have students write these reactions on post-it notes and place them on the board; read out a selection of Benvolios, then a selection of Romeos.

Finally, ask students to return to Michael’s questions from the blog. Working in groups of four, have students discuss these questions. Take whole class feedback on these, referring back to the points made by Natasha in the blog about how the speech and imagery builds, and how it becomes more sinister.


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