Romeo and Juliet Activities: Context (KS5)

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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. 

Brooke's 1562 poem, ‘The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet’, served as a key source for Shakespeare. Have students read through the full article about this on the website; it may be helpful to provide this as a print out for reference. 

Explain to students that drawing out these differences in this way allows for rich exploration of writer's craft that cannot be separated from context – which is what they will now focus on. The following questions are designed to work as a whole-class discussion; have students compare the time reference in Brooke's 'argument' with Shakespeare's prologue, and discuss what effect this might have.

Next, assign students specific scenes of Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet’ and challenge them to find all the references to time. Collate this into a list for the whole class, and use this to reflect on:

  • What patterns do they spot?
  • Why is it that time seems to pass so quickly in the play?
  • Consider this also in light of Shakespeare's younger Juliet.

What meaning is being created through these marked changes to the original source material? To what extent is time, as a concept, affected by context? How much might our current/modern-day concept of time lead to a different range of meanings or effects?

To further explore time as a concept in Shakespeare’s plays, students could research the use of time in Antony and Cleopatra, and then compare this to Romeo and Juliet.

How does the adaptation of form – from poem to play – affect how it is received? Can you link this to the concept of time?


Find and read the article on the website entitled, ‘Violent Delights and Violent Ends’.

The article mentions the difference in beliefs between now and the 1590s about romance, emotions, sexuality, parenting, youth culture and the sorts of behaviour appropriate to men and women. In pairs, pick one of these topics to research. Create a comparison chart to summarise your findings. Once complete, you should find two pairs who have worked on different topics, team up into a group of six and have each pair teach the others about their topic.

The article states that, ‘You might have read that it’s a ‘timeless’ love story, which rather suggests that the play has had a consistent effect on its audience and readers over many hundreds of years.’ However, in the next paragraph, it questions whether ‘we respond to [the play’s] themes in the same way as audience members four hundred years ago?’ Now that you have researched the different beliefs, attitudes and assumptions, discuss in your groups of six: has the play had a consistent effect, or have our responses changed due to our differing contexts? Can a text ever be ‘timeless’?

Research Roland Bathes’ 1967 essay, ’The Death of the Author’. Within this, Barthes states, ‘a text’s unity lies not in its origins […] but in its destination’. How does this argument link to the questions raised in the article about how we respond to the themes of Romeo and Juliet? If we agree with Barthes, then can a text ever be ‘timeless’?

Find and listen to the interview with Jeff Alexander, who plays Lord Montague in the production.

Jeff highlights the difference between playing Mercutio in a previous production and Lord Montague in this production. In particular, Jeff references the different attitudes to fighting/the feud between the young and the old within the play. Explore this in more detail. In groups, create a chart with two columns, and give them the headings that Jeff uses: ‘Oh no, here we go again!’ (old) and ‘Oh come on!’ (young). Find quotations from the old and the young characters that show their attitudes to fighting, and write them into the correct column. Do they match the headings, and therefore Jeff’s ideas about each generation’s attitudes? Share your ideas as a class. To what extent do each generation’s attitudes towards fighting/violence echo what you see/hear in the media?

Consider the following quotation about teenagers: ‘Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households.’ Place this in the centre of a large sheet of paper, and answer the following questions around it: How does this link to what Jeff mentions in his podcast about Mercutio? How does this reflect current representations of teenagers? Find examples from the media. When do you think this quotation was written, and why? Use the Internet to find out who said this and when, and make a note of your reaction to this.

Compare how the concept of ‘the generation gap’ is presented in Romeo and Juliet and another of Shakespeare’s plays.

- For example, you may want to look at King Lear (Lear versus Goneril, Regan and Cordelia, and Gloucester versus Edmund and Edgar).
- You may want to narrow this down to fathers and daughters in the two plays.
- “The oldest hath borne most; we that are young / Shall never see so much nor live so long” (5.3.331–32). Using this quotation as a starting point, compare how the characters’ ages shape their responses to tragic events, such as the deaths of loved ones, within Romeo and Juliet and King Lear?

Create a chart that tracks Lord Montague’s appearances within the play, including:

- Where we meet him/in what settings
- Amount of speech
- Who he interacts with

Now plot Lord Capulet’s appearances onto this chart in a different colour. What do you notice? Why might Shakespeare have presented them in this way? How might this link to the gender of their respective children?


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