Romeo and Juliet Activities: Character (KS5)

Add to My Resources Remove from My Resources

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. 

Find the Week 1 audio interview with Nathan Welsh who is playing Romeo.

Listen to the opening two questions and responses, in which Nathan explains his interpretation of the way that Romeo feels both before and throughout the play. After listening to the interview, discuss with a partner: to what extent do you agree with Nathan’s view of Romeo? What evidence might you use to support or refute this view?

To continue with this theme, Ruth Nevo states that Romeo is ‘one among his companions, but he is set apart from them by his capacity, and his readiness, to be fired by a high passion. The orchard scene...may be taken as emblematic of this relationship.’ As a class, compare Nathan’s view with that of Nevo: how does Nevo’s argument build on Nathan’s? What are the critical differences? Next, in the same pairs as previously, look at the orchard scene and find evidence that will help you to examine Nevo’s view of Romeo as ‘one among...[but] set apart’.

Finally, consider: to what extent does this view of Romeo fit into the tradition of the tragic hero? Are there any other heroes from your studies that you think could have this description applied to them (‘one among...[but] set apart’)?

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). 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. What patterns did you notice? How can you use what you noticed to support Charlotte’s view of Juliet?

How many times is Juliet’s age mentioned across these two scenes? Show students the article on this website entitled ‘Brooke versus Shakespeare’ and ask them to discuss why this repetition is significant. 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?

Next, again in pairs, create a chart with three columns to compare the way that Romeo talks to Juliet with the way that her parent-figures talk to her:

  • In one column, pull out words and phrases that Romeo uses in Act I, scene 5 to Juliet;
  • in the second column, pull out words and phrases that Lady Capulet uses to Juliet in Act I, scene 3;
  • in the third, pull out words and phrases that the Nurse uses to Juliet in Act I, scene 3.

What patterns do you notice? How might these impact on the way that Juliet responds to each of these three characters?

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. 

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 pairs: have one work on Romeo and the other on Mercutio. 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

From this, in your pairs 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?
- To what extent can Mercutio be described as a foil for Romeo?

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?

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.

Emma Torrance (2017) writes, ‘Some modern directors interpret the friendship between Romeo and Mercutio as in conflict with Romeo’s new love for Juliet. This interpretation infers that Mercutio’s mocking of Romeo’s ‘love’, his pursuit of him after the ball and his determination to stand and fight for him in this scene is evidence of his jealousy or possessiveness. Sometimes Mercutio is shown as a jealous friend who feels as if he has been overlooked, but in some more controversial interpretations Mercutio is implied to have sexual feelings for Romeo.’

Work in pairs: each of you should argue for one of these interpretations of Mercutio (jealous friend who has been overlooked, or having sexual feelings for Romeo). Build your argument using quotations from the play, and then come together to discuss the evidence around for your interpretations. Come back together as a class and discuss: which of these interpretations did you find more compelling? Why is this?

Compare how same-sex friendship and love is presented in Romeo and Juliet and one (or more) of the following:

- A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- As You Like It
- The Merchant of Venice
- Twelfth Night

You might find the following article by the Globe’s Dr Will Tosh a useful starting point:

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.’ Let’s explore this further.

Everyone should stand with a copy of the Prince’s speech in Act 1 Scene 1. 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 decide on three different tones in which this speech could be read by an actor. Take it in turns to read this speech aloud using these differing tones. 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 elements of all three tones for different lines. Share some of these readings and discuss the impact each would have on an audience watching the play.

After these exercises, discuss: What does the Prince’s language suggest about his ability to ‘keep the order’ at this point of the play? To what extent could this be influenced by the delivery of the lines? Why is this important to establish the Prince’s authority (or lack of) 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? 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.

Herman (2008) notes in relation to Prince Escalus’ character that, ‘the distance between mercy and favoritism is very slight...The laxity demonstrated at the start of the play contributes directly to the deaths at the play’s end.’ To what extent do you agree with this statement? Place it in the middle of a large sheet of paper, and collate your ideas around it.

Ensure you include references to the Prince’s speeches to support your thinking. How could you link this to your research on context? Is the Prince being used to make a comment on the civil unrest in England at the time of writing?

Now, consider other voices of authority in Shakespeare’s plays. Compare the character of Prince Escalus with Duke Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, looking at:

- How they deal with the younger generation
- How they deal with the older generation
- To what extent their voice of law is respected by their citizens
- Where they appear across the play (i.e. compare the dramatic structure in relation to each)

Share your ideas with your fellow students. Are there any other characters in different plays that would provide a good comparison for Prince Escalus?

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 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?

  • Paris has been described as Romeo’s foil within the play, and in Natasha’s blog, she explains that ‘the only problem is that Paris just isn’t Romeo.’
  • Working in groups, examine the characters of Romeo and Paris, identifying evidence from the play that highlights their opposing traits.
  • Next, consider any similarities that they might have.
  • To what extent do you think they are foils for each other? Why do you think Shakespeare has chosen to present them in this way?
  • - What other foils are there within the play? Again, why does Shakespeare use characters in this way? How does it help an audience to better understand both characters?
  • - Examine how Shakespeare uses foils in a different play, for example Much Ado About Nothing. What similarities are there between its use here and in Romeo and Juliet? How does the genre (comedy versus tragedy) impact upon its use?

Now, consider: how much is the understanding of Romeo and Paris as foils for each other impacted upon by the actor’s/director’s interpretation of each character?
Consider the different ways an actor could play both characters in Act V, scene 3. Work in groups of 4 (one to play Romeo, one to play Paris, one to play Balthasar and one to play Paris’ page) or 5 (including an observer).

Play the scene up to Romeo’s death, experimenting with different interpretations of Paris and Romeo. After each interpretation, stop and discuss the impact this has on how the audience responds to Paris, and therefore Paris and Juliet’s relationship. Could they have led a happy life together?


Want to download these resources and more? Log in or sign up to Teach Shakespeare.


Log in or sign up to add your own notes.