Romeo and Juliet Activities: Character (KS4)

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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 through the Week 1 blog. Natasha Rickman explains an activity in which the director asked every cast member to say the first word that came to mind for each character. After this, everyone explored together why these words might have come to mind, and identified questions that came up as a result. This teaching activity takes students through this rehearsal room technique, highlighting the importance of students’ questions for enhancing learning. Explain to students that this activity is about them generating questions in response to the characters. Comprehension relies on our ability to ask questions of a text before, during and after interacting with it.

Split into groups of 4-6. Look at the twelve characters on our character page ( Each student should take responsibility for 2-3 characters (you could differentiate this by assigning specific characters to students, or limit each student to one character).

The student should use the character information to provide a summary to the rest of their group on who their characters are and what they do during the play. Decide in advance how in-depth you want this summary to be, based on how far through the play you are with your class. You could add additional challenge by asking students to undertake further research to supplement the character profiles as a homework activity. Equally, the summary could take a range of forms: verbal, written, visual, etc.

Now that each student has a base line level of knowledge about each character, have students repeat the activity that the cast undertook. Explain the aim of this is to generate questions: show students the examples of questions that were generated by the cast after this activity:

  • Is Romeo selfish, or so in love he becomes selfless?
  • If Romeo hadn’t come along, would Juliet and Paris be the perfect match?
  • Do Romeo and Juliet think they will go to hell when they commit suicide (the Elizabethans believed those who committed suicide would)? Or, after ‘I defy you stars’, do they no longer believe in religion?
  • Why has Shakespeare written a Catholic friar when this was potentially politically risky, as England had recently become Protestant?
  • What are the nurse’s motivations when helping Juliet to marry Romeo, and then advising her to switch to Paris?
  • Is Lady Capulet in a loving marriage with Capulet? What is the history of the other children they mention they have lost?

Working round the group, have each student say the first word that comes to mind for each character: whatever that is – first reaction is the most important thing.

After each character, have students go round again and explore why they think those words had come to mind, with the student ‘responsible’ for that character then able to accept or question all or part of what was said. This gives the group ownership over every character in the play, and opens up discussions about plot points and motivations. 

Have one student act as scribe, and record the questions that come up as part of the discussion.

After the group discussions, gather the class back together and look at all the questions that were generated about the characters. Try and categorise the types of questions - you can model this using Natasha’s questions:

  • By character: which characters generate the most questions? (e.g. Romeo)
  • Questions are about missing information: why does Shakespeare leave this out? (e.g. the Capulets’ other children)
  • Questions linked to context: what contemporary happenings is Shakespeare drawing attention to? Why? (e.g. religion)
  • Questions linked to language: why did this word/phrase stand out? (e.g. I defy you stars)

Draw the discussion to a close by asking some final questions: why is it important for Shakespeare to generate these questions in our minds? Are some questions more important than others? Can they rank these questions? 

Depending on how well-acquainted the group are with the assessment objectives, you could ask them to link the categories to the assessment objectives. Which assessment objective does the ‘most important’ question match with?

Find the Week 1 interview with Charlotte Beaumont who plays Juliet. Listen to Charlotte’s initial thoughts on coming to the character of Juliet (timestamp 02.54.00).

As they listen, students should write down words or phrases that Charlotte uses to describe her thoughts on Juliet’s character. Take feedback from the class: what stood out? Did anything surprise you?
Continue this focus by looking at Juliet in relation to her parents and the Nurse. In pairs, have students examine the first two instances where we come across the relationship between Juliet and her parent-figures in Act I, scene 2 and Act I, scene 3 (including Lord and Lady Capulet and the Nurse). Students should highlight any words or phrases Juliet’s parents and the Nurse use to describe her in these scenes.

With their copies of the highlighted text, have the class stand in two lines facing each other, to create a corridor that one student as Juliet will walk down. All the students in the lines should call out the words and phrases that they highlighted from the above scenes as Juliet walks past. Give each student the chance to walk down the ‘corridor’ as Juliet. After everyone has had a turn, have students talk to the person standing next to them: how did it feel to be Juliet? Which words really stood out, and why? What patterns did you notice? Take feedback from the class, before posing the question: how can you use what you noticed to support Charlotte’s view of Juliet? If it didn’t come up during the feedback, ask students how many times is Juliet’s age mentioned across these two scenes? How would this make you feel?

Show students the article on this website entitled ‘Brooke versus Shakespeare’ and ask them to think-pair-share why this repetition is significant. Use whole-class questioning to draw out the link that this discussion makes between the text and its (literary) context.
Now, have students discuss the following questions in pairs: structurally, what is the impact of placing these two scenes back to back? Why introduce Juliet to the audience in this way? How does it make you feel towards Juliet?

The next time we meet Juliet is when she meets Romeo, in Act I, scene 5. Listen again to Charlotte’s interview; why might this be significant? Have pairs join to make fours and share their thinking. Then, take feedback from each four on one of the questions above.

Find and listen to the Week 1 interview with Ned Derrington, who plays Mercutio. In this interview, Ned discusses how an audience might be wary of Mercutio as he is ‘quite outrageous’. Let’s investigate this character in more detail to think about why Shakespeare chose to include him in the play.
First, establish the meaning of Mercutio’s name. Write Mercutio in the middle of a sheet of paper and collect your research around this, including:

- Which word (or word family) does it come from? Capture the definitions of words related to it. What might Shakespeare be suggesting about this character by giving him this name?
- What allusion does this name make to classical mythology? Why is this allusion significant? What might it tell us as an audience about the character?

Remind yourselves what Ned says about the imagery contained within Mercutio’s lines, and how this links to the sense of being ‘quite outrageous’. Work in groups, and divide a large sheet of paper in half, with the headings Romeo and Mercutio. Have half the group work on Romeo and the other half on
Mercutio. In your smaller group, record any quotations that reference each character’s views on love from:
Act 1 Scene 4, Act 2 Scene 1, Act 2 Scene 3, Act 3 Scene 1

Now, under each heading, write down all the words that come to mind when you think about each character’s views on love. Write a summary from this that outlines what this character’s view on love are.
Share your findings with the rest of the class, discussing:

- What are the similarities in their views?
- What are the differences?

Ned also describes Mercutio as being ‘provocative’. How does this link to the idea explored above? The other way we can think about Mercutio as a provocative character is in his ability to ‘provoke’ events within the play. Create a timeline of the events within the play. Onto this, plot Mercutio’s timeline.

What do you notice about Mercutio’s timeline and the main action of the plot? To what extent does Mercutio drive the events that lead to the tragedy of the play?

Read the article on this website entitled Brooke and Shakespeare, to familiarise yourselves with Shakespeare’s original source material for Romeo and Juliet. Undertake some further research on Mercutio in the original source material; what is significant about this? Why might Shakespeare have made this change to the original? Use your exploration into the character above to help you answer this question.

Work in groups and examine the following statement: ‘Mercutio’s role is primarily to explore the relationship between comedy and tragedy.’ You can do this by creating a PowerPoint presentation, having a discussion/debate in front of your peers, writing a collaborative essay, as a homework activity, etc.

Use the following to support:

- Ned’s interview;
- Your research into the character above;
- Prior knowledge about the conventions of tragedy and comedy.

Find and listen to the Week 1 Interview with Christopher Chung, who plays three parts in this production: Abraham, Paris and Prince Escalus.

The interviewer highlights how both Paris and Prince are apart from the conflict between the Montagues and the Capulets. Christopher explains how The Prince ‘very much sees things as they are: they’ve been creating civil unrest within his state so his main prerogative is just to keep the order, so that the whole town doesn’t fall into disrepair.’

Look at this edited version of the Prince’s speech in Act 1 Scene 1, where we first meet the Prince when he intervenes in the street brawl:

Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace,
Profaners of this neighbour-stained steel,—
Will they not hear? What, ho! you men, you beasts,
That quench the fire of your pernicious rage
With purple fountains issuing from your veins,
On pain of torture, from those bloody hands
Throw your mistemper’d weapons to the ground,
And hear the sentence of your moved prince.
Three civil brawls, bred of an airy word,
By thee, old Capulet, and Montague,
Have thrice disturb’d the quiet of our streets,
If ever you disturb our streets again,
Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.
For this time, all the rest depart away:
Once more, on pain of death, all men depart.

Everyone should stand with a copy of the speech. They should begin to read the speech aloud, just under their breath, walking forward as they do so. Each time they reach a punctuation mark, they should change direction. After doing this, reflect: what do you notice? Where were you turning the most? Why might this be?

Work in groups of three and take it in turns to read this speech aloud in these differing tones: angry, desperate, bossy. The two listeners each time should make a note of which lines seem to work particularly well when read in that tone. After each has read, compare your ideas, and together create one reading
that brings in elemtnts of all three tones for different lines. Share some of these readings across the class and discuss why certain lines suggested certain tones.

After these exercises, discuss: How well is the Prince doing at ‘[keeping] the order’ at this point of the play? Why is this important to share with the audience at this point in the play?

Look at the Prince’s appearances across the play (Act 1 Scene 1, Act 3 Scene 1, Act 5 Scene 3). Place each of these onto a large sheet of paper and work in your groups to identify patterns within his language. What do you notice? What impression is being created of the Prince through these language patterns?

After this, discuss in your group: Considering how Shakespeare presents the Prince, how effective is he as a voice of authority within the play? To extend your thinking: compare his efficacy with the other voices of authority in Romeo and Juliet’s lives: the church (as represented by the Friar) and family (as represented by parents). 

Investigate the ‘civil unrest’ that was happening in 1590s England, which could include the following aspects:

- Queen Elizabeth’s 1590 proclamation, ‘Enforcing Curfews for Apprentices’
- The Tower Hill riot of 1595
- Rates of inflation
- Population growth in London

Once you have compiled your research, discuss how this links to the Prince’s difficulty in ‘[keeping] the order’ within the play.

Find the Week 1 audio interview with Nathan Welsh who is playing Romeo. Nathan describes his feelings about Shakespeare before coming to this production (timestamp 04.13.00).
As a class, listen to this section and capture any key words and phrases that stand out from his description. Individually, collate your feelings about Shakespeare. This could be done via a moodboard that includes words, images, colours, song lyrics, etc. When everyone is finished, share these moodboards to capture the class’ feelings about Shakespeare. Ask if there are any similarities between these and what Nathan described.

Next, identify from the podcast what Nathan says helped him to overcome his initial feelings towards Shakespeare. As a class, we are also going to try this approach with one of Romeo's first speeches in the play. Hand out copies of this Act 1, Scene 1 speech to each class member, briefly explaining what has just happened before this in the scene:

O me! What fray was here?
Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all.
Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love.
Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate!
O any thing of nothing first create!
O heavy lightness! serious vanity!
Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
This love feel I, that feel no love in this.
Dost thou not laugh?

Have each student individually walk around the classroom reading the speech aloud, turning at each punctuation mark. Allow this to run for several times so that everyone has the chance to read the speech at least twice. Without focusing on the content of individual phrases, ask what Romeo’s state of mind seems to be here. How does ‘physicalising’ this speech by changing direction on each punctuation mark help our understanding?

Now give each class member one oxymoron from the speech (if needed, ex-plain that an oxymoron is a word or phrase made up of two opposites). Have everyone repeat their oxymoron ten times, each time changing the tone, volume, speed, feeling, etc. For example ‘feather of lead’ as a fast, aggressive whisper versus a slow, heavy assertion. Which feels ‘right’ to them? 

After this exercise, ask class members to move into pairs and share what they think their oxymoron says about Romeo’s state of mind. Then move into fours, then eights, eventually sharing as a whole class, spotting patterns and trends. As there will be more than one instance of each oxymoron, compare what different individuals chose as their preferred way of saying it. Now listen to Nathan explain how one particular interpretation helped the play’s themes resonate with him (at the start of the interview. Ask the class to think about the speech they have just looked at from Romeo and the kinds of feelings Romeo has. In pairs, they should decide how they might make this come across to an audience of their peers (i.e. modern day teenagers). This could include a particular setting, or costumes or switching specific words (as Nathan mentions in the podcast). 

Return to the podcast (timestamp 02.11.00). Nathan explains about the space in which he has to create the character of Romeo (at the Globe Theatre) and mentions the importance of sightlines. It is all very well under-standing the language and considering how to make it relevant (as we’ve done above, but this won’t matter if your audience cannot see/hear you! 

Using the factsheets on the main Globe website ( discovery-space/fact-sheets) research the layout of the Globe theatre. In the same pairs as above, have students draw a plan of the Globe theatre to help them understand the sightlines within the space. Imagine they are Romeo delivering the speech they worked on above. Have them plan where they would stand to start the speech, and if/where they would move to throughout. For each position they select on the stage, have them colour in/mark the parts of the audience who would be able to see them.

Find the Week 2 blog by the assistant director of the play Natasha Rickman. In her second blog, Natasha describes how cast members worked with the choreographer on the dances at the Capulet ball. Natasha explains that a key function of the dances is to show the contrasting relationship between Juliet and Paris, versus Juliet and Romeo. In this production, how does the director want to show the relationship be­tween Paris and Juliet? To what extent do you agree?

Work in groups of 4-6. Within each group, you are going to examine the evi­dence from the text about Paris and Juliet’s relationship.

  • Each group should split in half, with one side arguing that Paris and Juliet are a good match, and the other arguing that they are a bad match.
  • Each side should look through the text to find five quotations that support their argument.
  • Around each piece of evidence, notes should be added to explain how it supports the argument.

Groups should come back together after conducting their research to pre­sent their argument and supporting evidence to each other. After all the groups have presented, reflect again on the questions above; have your an­swers changed? Why/why not?

In Natasha’s blog, she explains that ‘the only problem is that Paris just isn’t Romeo’. Look at the evidence you have collected on Paris to reflect on this.

  • As a group, use your evidence to help you select five adjectives to describe the character of Paris.
  • Now, select five for the character of Romeo.
  • Compare your two lists of adjectives to see how much they contrast each other. Are there any similarities between these two characters?
  • Why has Shakespeare presented them in this way?


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