Romeo & Juliet: Language KS4/5

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In these lessons, students will learn how to read and respond to the text of the play. This will help them to gain crucial close-reading skills. Tasks include: asking 'What's in a name?' and exploring the importance of names and epithets; revising their understanding of iambic pentameter, and what it reveals about the speaker; and a list of practice exam questions with an emphasis on language.

In order to benefit fully from these lesson plans, we recommend you use them in the following order:

If you would like to teach the play in greater detail, use these advanced KS4/5 Lesson Plans. If students are new to the play, we suggest you start with the introductory KS3 Lesson Plans

These lesson plans are available in the Downloads section at the bottom of this page. To download resources, you must be logged in. Sign up for free to access this and other exclusive featuresActivities mentioned in these resources are available in a separate downloadable 'Student Booklet', also at the bottom of this page. The 'Teachers' Guide' download explains how best to use Teach Shakespeare and also contains a bibliography and appendices referencing the resources used throughout.

Key Questions for Students:

Can I search for epithets and draw inferences about character?

Can I reflect on characters’ names and on what is implied by them?

Can I use textual evidence to support my view about how a character develops in the course of the play?

Key words: character development, epithet, imply, infer, name, suggest, textual evidence


Prologue: Opening Discussion

Ask students to find out who is being described in each of these ten phrases taken from Act 1 Scene 5 of the play:


“villain”            “gentle coz”        “kinsman”       “our foe”

“saucy boy”      “dear saint”     “bachelor”    “a loathed enemy”

“honest gentlemen”     “a virtuous and well-governed youth”


Students could think about who is speaking in each of these examples, as well as who is being spoken about.


Enter the Players: Group Tasks

1) Epithets

Explain that an epithet is an added word or an attribution of certain qualities to a person or thing, either positive or negative. It can be a nickname or simply a descriptive word or phrase. Students could be given a set of cards with a number of words and phrases written on them, all things that characters say about other characters in Romeo and Juliet. Students think creatively and find ways to group them, e.g. who they are said about, who says them, whether they are saying positive things or negative things, whether they are official titles or more personal and familiar ways of addressing each other, etc. Take feedback about pairs’ approaches and findings.


2) “What’s in a name?”

In Act 2 Scene 2 of Romeo and Juliet, Juliet famously says:

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.

Students could discuss what Juliet is saying here about the (un)importance of names. However, the names of many Shakespearean characters can provide the audience with clues about them. Many of the names in Shakespeare’s plays come from the source texts he was inspired by, but some are his own invention. Ask students to create six small mindmaps on one page, tracing the possible associations of the following names from the play: Romeo, Juliet, Benvolio, Mercutio, Rosaline, James Soundpost.

You may wish to share pieces of etymological information, or (to make the task a little more challenging) set students word investigations that will help them to interpret the connotations of the names, e.g. students think of words beginning with ‘ben-‘


3) Character development

In Creative Shakespeare, Fiona Banks writes that ‘Often students who may find it difficult to answer questions about character development or plot progression find physicalising their response to the questions easier - they can then think about the justification for their response.’ In ‘Where on the line?’, students imagine a line drawn down the centre of the room. One end of the line represents ‘Strongly agree’, the other ‘strongly disagree’ and in the middle is ‘neither agree nor disagree’. Students can respond to statements about the play by positioning themselves somewhere along the line. Follow-up questions/activities can support them in justifying and providing evidence to support their opinion, perhaps on mini-whiteboards. The same statement can be used at different points in the play and changes in students’ responses explored.

Statements could include:

  • Romeo is in love with Rosaline
  • Romeo is impulsive
  • Romeo is romantic
  • Juliet is more practical than Romeo
  • Juliet has a rebellious nature
  • Juliet is brave



Exeunt: Closing Questions for Students

How do the characters in the play address each other and talk about each other? What can we infer from this? 

What is Shakespeare implying with some of his choices of names for characters? 

How do the main characters develop or change? 

Which character undergoes the greatest change in the course of the play?


Suggested plenary activity…

Students could play around with the idea of nicknames and epithets, perhaps drawing on some of the evidence they have gathered from the activities here. They should think of the most apt nicknames or epithets for various characters in the play. How might these change as the play goes on?


Aside: Further Resource

  • Students could extend ‘What’s in a name?’ into an investigation of names in some of Shakespeare’s other plays. A research homework could be to research the following characters from Twelfth Night, using the students’ predictions based on their names as a starting point: Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Sir Toby Belch, Feste, Malvolio.


Epilogue: Teacher’s Note

This learning sequence can be used to build on the text detective activities within the Key Stage 3 materials. It can also be linked to the other Key Stage 4 materials that look in detail at character and language.

Key Questions for Students:

Can I identify a range of literary techniques and consider their effects?

Can I identify a variety of effects Shakespeare achieves through his use of iambic pentameter?

Can I make interesting and subtle comments about the techniques used and the effects created?

Key words: antithesis, caesura, dramatic irony, enjambment, hyperbole, iambic pentameter, oxymoron, personification


Prologue: Opening Discussion

An activity revising some of the literary techniques that were focused on in the Key Stage 3 materials would be useful here: alliteration, assonance, onomatopoeia, repetition, list, rhyming couplet, simile, metaphor. Students should draw a grid with all eight terms and space for students to record an example from the text. Assign students a particular scene or scenes to investigate and find quotes from; provide examples on strips of card depending on students’ confidence with scanning and skimming the text. 


Enter the Players: Group Tasks

1) Iambic pentameter

Fiona Banks writes that ‘We can use our knowledge of the verse structure to look at the verse diagnostically’. Banks suggests a number of activities that support this kind of investigation into the variety within Shakespeare’s use of metre and the different kinds of effects that can be created:

  • plotting findings about the number of syllables in each line of a speech in a graph that looks like a heart trace print-out, and relating this to what is happening and being said in each line
  • listing and analysing the first and last stressed syllables of every line and compiling them in a chronological list, then looking for progression or patterns 
  • noticing where the rhythm is more varied, e.g, more or fewer syllables, use of a trochee (dum-de) or a spondee (dum-dum)
  • ‘walking the line’, i.e. foot up on unstressed syllables and down on stressed syllables, and noticing and commenting on irregularities, e.g. in ‘Gallop apace’ speech in Act 3 Scene 2
  • looking at shared lines and at how the iambic pentameter runs from one character’s speech into another’s, e.g. in Act 4 Scene 5:

      NURSE:            O lamentable day!

      CAPULET’S WIFE:      O woeful time!

Students could make notes in the Revision section of the Student Booklet about how the activities have helped them to analyse a particular speech or scene.


2) Rhyme

Romeo and Juliet contains more rhyme than any other of Shakespeare’s tragedies. Students could read Act 1 Scenes 1 and 2, looking for the use of rhyme, Shakespeare’s reasons for using it, and its effects on the listener. In the Student Booklet, students could note down three specific examples of rhyme used in these scenes and their own commentary on the use of rhyme. When taking feedback, points that might emerge through discussion include:

  • the effect of the sound patterns made by rhyme (e.g. rhyme sounds harmonious and ordered)
  • the idea that rhyme makes verse easier to remember
  • the use of rhyme at the end of speeches and particularly at the ends of scenes
  • the association of rhyme with love
  • the comical effect of using rhyme repeatedly when Romeo is speaking in a lovesick way about Rosaline
  • how characters use rhyme differently (i.e. differently from each other and also differently throughout the play - something to take note of as students proceed with their reading of the play)
  • rhyme that occurs in shared speech to reflect shared emotion or a shared understanding
  • the use of rhyme to mark an exit
  • the use of ‘half rhyme’ in places


3) Script machine

For this activity, students need access to the Script Machines ( on six different screens, e.g. on tablets or laptops or at different stations in a computer room. Students need to work in groups and each group should be assigned one of these six features that they will be presenting on: feminine ending; enjambment; caesura; hyperbole; antithesis; personification. Groups should move in a carousel, visiting each scene and using the Script Machine feature to identify examples of their particular feature. Each feature is not present in every scene, so students should also use their time at each station to examine the techniques that are used, and/or to revise verse/prose and metre. (The scenes are Act 1 Scene 1, Act 2 Scene 2, Act 3 Scene 1, Act 3 Scene 5.) At the end of the carousel, students could report back to the class about two things they have discovered:

  • the literary term of which they have found an example or examples, including a comment about the effect of this technique in this scene
  • something interesting they have noticed about the way Shakespeare uses iambic pentameter in this scene (if they have been looking at caesura, feminine endings or enjambment, their two answers might be closely connected!)



Exeunt: Closing Questions for Students

How does Shakespeare use rhyme to create a range of effects in Romeo and Juliet?

What might be the effects on the audience of some of the other language techniques we find in the play?


Suggested plenary activity…

Students should take one of the techniques that they have learned about today, and find an example of it from Romeo and Juliet. They should then write a sentence or two, explaining what they think the effect of this might be in the context of a theatrical performance. Take feedback.


Asides: Further Resources

  • Giles Block describes Shakespeare’s verse as being ‘based on two things: a line length that corresponds with our breathing, and an underlying rhythm that corresponds with our heartbeat’.


  • Rex Gibson writes that, ‘As Shakespeare grew older, he tended to use rhyme less frequently. Love’s Labour’s Lost has well over 1000 rhymes; A Midsummer Night’s Dream almost 800; Romeo and Juliet and King Richard II about 500 each. In contrast, the Roman plays, Antony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar and Coriolanus each have under 40 rhymes.’


  • The following matching activity could be used as a warm-up to the script machine activity or as a revision or homework task. Students could also collect one or more examples from the text:


the contrast of ideas or words in a balanced or parallel construction

a break or pause in the middle a line of verse, marked by punctuation

dramatic irony
this is when the audience of a play know crucial information that the characters onstage do not know

when a sentence runs from one line of verse to the next, with no punctuation or pause. Sometimes called a ‘run-on line’.

a description which exaggerates, by using extremes of language

a word or phrase made up of two opposites

a description of an object as if it is a person by giving it human characteristics


Epilogue: Teacher’s Note

Key Stage 3 materials to support students in preparing for this learning sequence can be found under Language, as can an introductory activity about metre. This sequence also introduces students to using the script machine. The learning sequences that follow in this section look in more depth at some of the terms featured here such as ‘caesura’ and ‘oxymoron’.

Key Questions for Students:

Can I explore layers of meaning in scenes involving both Romeo and Juliet through close analysis of language, including the use of imagery?

Can I extend my explanations about the meaning and effects of language in these scenes?

Key words: analyse, explain, duologue, imagery, interruption, metaphor, motif, opposites, oxymoron, paradox, pronoun, simile


Prologue: Opening Discussion

Using an hourglass or stopwatch, give students a minute or two to pick out a quotation from the play (one or two lines). Students should identify three to five interesting points about Shakespeare’s language in that brief quotation, and use correct grammatical and literary terms to make their points as strong as possible. Share with the class.

Here is an example:


ROMEO:   Give me a torch. I am not for this ambling,
Being but heavy I will bear the light. (Act 1 Scene 4)


Point 1: use of enjambment

Point 2: pun on ‘light’ (opposite of ‘heavy’/the light of the ‘torch’)

Point 3: first line has eleven syllables (feminine ending)

Point 4: short imperative sentence – ‘Give me a torch’.

Point 5: ‘ambling’ means dancing/moving around in a light-footed way


Encourage students to share and develop their thinking about the effects of the various techniques and to consider their quotations in context.


Enter the Players: Group Tasks

1) From the rehearsal room

The following activities from Fiona Banks’ book Creative Shakespeare will give students some interesting entry points to these scenes. This could be done as a carousel, but it might work better for all students to attempt each exercise together and then reflect on what they learned. Each activity has been matched to a scene, but you should combine the activities and scenes in any way you see fit.

  • Pointing on the pronoun: In pairs, read Act 1, Scene 5, lines 41-140, pointing to the relevant person or thing on every pronoun.
  • Word before: This activity helps students to listen to and focus on what the other character is saying. Students should read from Act 2 Scene 2. Before they deliver their own next line they should repeat one word from the other character’s previous lines.
  • Interrupting and pausing: Read from Act 2, Scene 6, lines 21-34 in such a way that Romeo and Juliet keep interrupting each other with their next line. Then read Act 3, Scene 5, lines 1-36 leaving a 5 second pause before responding. Among other things, this is a great activity for thinking about the pace of dialogue in a scene.
  • See-saws: Read the first part of Act 3 Scene 5 in pairs. Partner A should begin the line, and partner B should complete it. The students should consider where in each line the balance ‘shifts’. It could be where the speaker changes mid-line  or where there is a clear caesura marked with punctuation. In other lines the effect might be more subtle.

For each scene and each exercise, the same reflective questions could be asked:

Q) How would you describe the state of mind of both Romeo and Juliet?

Q) How would you describe Romeo and Juliet’s relationship at this point in the play?

Q) How does the language of the two characters convey this to the audience?

Q)  Did you gain some deeper insights into the characters of Romeo and Juliet at this point in the play as a result of trying out these activities?



2) Recurring motifs

This activity and the following one will support students in close textual analysis of Shakespeare’s language choices and their effects. Explain that certain ideas and images recur in a text, and that this is one of the ways in which Shakespeare builds our impressions of character and develops themes. Students should work in groups of three, with each group assigned one of the following motifs. Each student should scour a section of Act 2 Scene 2, looking for evidence of where that particular motif is used:

  • night and day
  • the skies
  • religious language
  • danger and death
  • nature
  • change

Students should then feedback to each other and highlight in the text the examples their other group members have found. Students can then reflect on the importance of that motif in this scene, and prepare a few written sentences of feedback in the Student Booklet for the whole group.


3) Opposition, oxymoron and paradox

Students should now turn their attention to the following extracts from the play: Act 1, Scene 5, lines 126-143; Act 3, Scene 2, lines 1-31; and Act 3, Scene 5, lines 1-59. Students should read these short sections and discuss the mood of each scene and of the characters who are speaking. Students should then analyse and annotate the six quotations in the Student Booklet, looking in particular for where Shakespeare makes use of opposition, oxymoron or paradox. You should establish students’ prior knowledge and understanding of these terms before beginning, and could model the first one or two examples.


Exeunt: Closing Questions for Students

What have I noticed about how Romeo and Juliet’s language conveys their love and also their unease about the future? 

What clues can I find in their language about their states of mind as the play progresses?


Suggested plenary activity…

There is space on the relevant page of the Student Booklet to write a comment about the effects of these language choices in this scene.


Asides: Further Resources

  • There is no one definitive and reliable way of punctuating Shakespeare’s plays. The punctuation in the earliest printed versions of the plays differs enormously, and there are many differences in modern editions.


  • When Romeo is talking about Rosaline, he uses a series of rather conventional oxymorons to describe his feelings about Rosaline, e.g. ‘Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health’. Combined with the repeated use of ‘O’ and extensive use of rhyme, his language here sounds conventional and contrived when compared to the language he uses later about Juliet.


Epilogue: Teacher’s Note

There is more about the use of opposites in the next learning sequence. Fruitful links could also be made to the Romeo and Juliet Character pages, to pages that focus on the staging of some of the scenes focused on here, and to the Themes of ‘romantic love’ and ‘fate, death and tragedy’.

Key Questions for Students:

Do I understand what is meant by a soliloquy as opposed to a speech/monologue or an aside?

Can I explain how the soliloquies in Romeo and Juliet help us to understand characters’ private and complex thoughts?

Key words: aside, character, duologue, monologue, pronoun, punctuation, soliloquy, speech


Prologue: Opening Discussion

What does 'soliloquy' mean? Students could break down the word to its roots: solus (to oneself) + loquor (I talk).

Now show students the following quotation by Patrick Spottiswoode, the Director of Globe Education:

“In the Globe during soliloquy there exists a special relationship between actor and audience. It is when the audience becomes complicit with the character and when the character and the actor become most vulnerable. Vulnerability is really interesting. As an audience in the Globe we are drawn to characters who share their vulnerabilities with us in soliloquies. Macbeth, Richard III, Iago and Hamlet are all good examples. In the Globe, during soliloquy, characters share private thoughts publicly.”

Clarify the meaning of ‘vulnerability’ and ‘complicit’ with students. Ask them what they think Romeo and Juliet’s greatest strengths and vulnerabilities are at different points in the play, as well as their hopes and fears. Can students remember where in the play they express their ‘private thoughts publicly’ in the form of soliloquies? Can they think of where there are soliloquies in Romeo and Juliet?


Enter the Players: Group Tasks

1) Getting started

Students could familiarise themselves with a long speech or soliloquy – such as Juliet’s soliloquy in Act 4, scene 3, lines 14-58 using activities such as: ‘Pointing on the pronoun’ (mentioned on the previous page), and ‘Walking the punctuation’ (where students walk around the room and change direction every time the punctuation changes). Students can then reflect on how frequently they changed direction and what this suggests to them about the character or the scene.


2) Monologue as duologue

Fiona Banks then suggests this activity, devised by Globe actress Yolanda Vasquez. The earlier activities can be extended by exploring a speech or soliloquy (i.e. a monologue) as a duologue. Two students take it in turns to read from one punctuation mark to the next, repeating this several times:

  • 1st reading: begin to identify the rhythms of the speech, the thoughts of the character, the places in the speech where thoughts are conflicting
  • 2nd reading: students really try to affect their partner with their lines, and think about what they are learning about the character, and any change in progression in thinking that occurs within the speech
  • 3rd reading: one student reads the whole speech and the other says ‘no’ (in different ways) at each punctuation mark, to which the other student responds in the way they read the next line
  • 4th reading: repeat with ‘yes’
  • 5th reading: repeat with either ‘no’ or ‘yes’ as seems appropriate

There is space for students to write about what they have learned about this speech through completing these exercises in the Student Booklet.


3) Breaking the speech down

Students could also attempt to break down the speech or soliloquy into three parts (that can be of varying length). Students identify an emotion for each part. Students then work to break down the speech further into units (with the same subject matter, a bit like paragraphs), and again into segments (individual thoughts or ideas).

Here is an example taken from Fiona Banks’ Creative Shakespeare showing Juliet’s soliloquy from Act 4 Scene 3, with the first section already broken down into units and segments:


Section 1:

Unit 1 Segment 1 Farewell.
Segment 2 God knows when we shall meet again.

Unit 2 Segment 3

I have a faint cold fear thrills though my veins,

That almost freezes up the heat of life.

Unit 3 Segment 4 I’ll call them back again to comfort me. 


Segment 5 What should she do here?

Segment 6 My dismal scene I needs must act alone.

Unit 4 Segment 7

Come, vial.

Segment 8 What if this mixture do not work at all?

Segment 9 Shall I be married then tomorrow morning?

Segment 10 No, no! This shall forbid it. Lie thou there.

[Lays down a knife.]


Section 2:

What if it be a poison, which the Friar
Subtly hath ministered to have me dead,
Lest in this marriage he should be dishonoured,
Because he married me before to Romeo?
I fear it is, and yet methinks it should not,
For he hath still been tried a holy man.
How if, when I am laid into a tomb,
I wake before the time that Romeo
Come to redeem me? There’s a fearful point.
Shall I not then be stifled in the vault,
To whose foul mouth no healthsome air breathes in,
And there die strangled ere my Romeo comes?
Or if I live, is it not very like
The horrible conceit of death and night,
Together with the terror of the place,
As in a vault, an ancient receptacle
Where for this many hundred years the bones
Of all my buried ancestors are packed,
Where bloody Tybalt, yet but green in earth,
Lies festering in his shroud, where, as they say,
At some hours in the night spirits resort -
Alack, alack, is it not like that I,
So early waking, what with loathsome smells,
And shrieks like mandrakes torn out of the earth,
That living mortals, hearing them, run mad -
O, if I wake, shall I not be distraught,
Environed with all these hideous fears,
And madly play with my forefathers’ joints,
And pluck the mangled Tybalt from his shroud?
And, in this rage, with some great kinsman’s bone,
As with a club, dash out my desperate brains?
O, look, methinks I see my cousin’s ghost
Upon a rapier’s point. Stay, Tybalt, stay!


Section 3

Romeo, Romeo, Romeo, here’s drink. I drink to thee.


Students could then think of movements – however small and subtle – which are appropriate to the thought or idea contained within each segment. This activity supports students in the analysis of language as a ‘way in’ to understanding a character’s journey through a speech. This kind of approach can be useful preparation for a detailed written analysis of a speech.


Exeunt: Closing Questions for Students

How does a soliloquy guide us through a character’s thought processes?

How can this be brought out in performance?

What effect might this have on the audience?


Suggested plenary activity…

Ask students to sketch a simple diagram of the Globe stage from above. Students should select a speech they have studied this lesson, and work out where each line should be delivered on stage and why. Ask students to consider and make brief notes on:

  • their relationship with the audience, and perhaps with part of the audience in particular, during that line
  • their physical position/stance during the line
  • the part of the line that resonated with them most



Asides: Further Resources

  • Students could be shown a speech in blank verse from the play, but in a completely ‘unformatted’ way, i.e. with no line breaks or punctuation. An exercise in revising iambic pentameter could be going through the speech and presenting the text in lines of verse with punctuation. It also helps in thinking about finding the ‘sense units’ within the speech.


  • Asides are common in Shakespeare’s plays; this is when a character speaks and some or all of the characters can’t hear what is said. In Act 3 Scene 5, for example, when Juliet is talking to herself and her mother cannot hear, she is sharing her thoughts with an audience. Both asides and soliloquies – when a character speaks alone on stage – are intimate moments, shared between a character and the audience.


Epilogue: Teacher’s Note

There is another set of Key Stage 4 activities about soliloquies under Character, and an activity based on Juliet’s soliloquy in Act 3 Scene 2 under Themes.

Key Questions for Students:

Can I explore the significance of words that are frequently used in this play?

Can I write about how Shakespeare uses particular words in the play and about the effects created in an insightful way?

Key words: adjective, compound, concordance, diction, effect, noun, opposites, repetition, vocabulary


Prologue: Opening Discussion

Which words are used most of all by Shakespeare? It will come as no surprise to students that the most common words in Shakespeare’s plays are very short useful words: the, and, I, to, of, a, you, my, in, that, is, not, with, me and it. Students can find the exact statistics at Ask students to jot down what they think the commonest words in Romeo and Juliet are, leaving short words like pronouns and characters’ names aside. After giving students a few minutes for this activity and taking some feedback, you could show students a Wordle-generated word cloud showing the 100 most commonly used words in Romeo and Juliet.

Enter the Players: Group Tasks

1) Word cloud
Assign a word from the play to a pair or group of three. Students have a certain amount of time to find as many examples of that word in Romeo and Juliet as they can, using an online concordance or scanning the text. Suggested words to use:

  • banished/banishment
  • dead/death/die
  • doom
  • happy
  • heaven
  • joy
  • kiss/kisses
  • life/live
  • love
  • shape



2) Close reading: Act 3 Scene 3

Ask students to read the scene as a whole and to look for the same words the class looked for earlier:

  • banished/banishment
  • dead/death/die
  • doom
  • happy
  • heaven
  • kiss/kisses
  • life/live
  • love
  • shape

How many of them can they find? When they come to one of the key words in the text, they could do what Fiona Banks calls ‘thematic heckling’, echoing the word to draw attention to it! Students should then write in the Student Booklet about the diction in this scene, focusing on four particular words that are used on more than one occasion. You could model annotating the text and then writing a brief analytical comment, drawing attention to features such as:

  • repetition
  • the use of opposites (e.g. happy, joy vs. sorrow, woe, weeping)
  • the sounds of words


3) Compounds
Students should read the following piece of linguistic analysis by Stanley Hussey from his book The English Language: Structure and Development

Some poets are especially notable for the number and variety of their compounds: Keats, Hopkins and Dylan Thomas come to mind immediately. Shakespeare’s plays are full of compounds (and examples of affixation too). He particularly responded to the concentration of energy in the adjectival compound of which the second element is a participle. In Romeo and Juliet, an early play, there are some 70 compounds, nearly two-thirds of which are of this kind, beginning in the opening Chorus. 

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-marked love…

Ask students to identify the two compounds used in this extract from the Prologue of Romeo and Juliet. They should then complete the activities in the Student Booklet by searching for more examples of compound words and writing about their effects.


Exeunt: Closing Questions for Students

Which have I noticed about Shakespeare’s use of diction in Romeo and Juliet and the effects of these language choices?

What part do language choices play in characterisation and thematic development in the play?


Suggested plenary activity…
Students choose a quotation from Act 3 Scene 3. In the Student Booklet, students should show how commenting on a language choice (or even a series of language choices) can be developed into a more conceptualised comment about character development and/or theme.


Asides: Further Resources

  • Wordle ( can generate a variety of word clouds to support analysis of Shakespeare’s use of language in Romeo and Juliet, e.g. the commonest words in the whole play or in particular scenes or speeches, the language used by different characters, the imagery used. 


  • Having investigated the word ‘star-crossed’, students could also use an online concordance to look up Shakespeare’s use of the word.


Epilogue: Teacher’s Note

There are many connections that can be drawn between the language choices explored in this learning sequence and characters and/or themes.

Key Questions for Students:

Can I identify the key words in the question?

Can I choose short apt quotations and incorporate them into my plan?

Can I make effective use of quotations to support my points as I draft my answer?

Can I analyse the language used in the quotations to further develop my answer?

Key words: draft, key words, language analysis, plan, quotation


Prologue: Opening Discussion

Students examine paragraphs written by students about Romeo and Juliet in the Student Booklet. They should focus on how well the students have used quotations. On sticky notes, students should write down examples of what each student has done well, and where their handling and analysis of quotations could be improved. Then, collectively as a whole class, draw up some success criteria for skillful use of quotations in essays.


Enter the Players: Group Tasks

1) Missing words

Remind students that it is important to pick out and memorise short quotations to support their points. Students should fill in the missing words in the twenty quotations in the Student Booklet and learn as many by heart as they can. Ask students to suggest for some of the quotations a point for which it could be used as evidence. The answers can be found in the downloadable Lesson Plans at the bottom of this page.

  1. “The fearful passage of their           love.” (Chorus, Prologue)
  2. “          subjects, enemies to peace.” (Prince, Act I Scene 1)
  3. “Love is a           made with the fume of sighs.” (Romeo, Act 1 Scene 1)
  4. “And too soon marred are those so early          .” (Capulet, Act 1 Scene 2)
  5. “Thou wast the           babe that e’er I nursed.” (Nurse, Act 1 Scene 3)
  6. “If love be           with you, be           with love.” (Mercutio, Act 1 Scene 4)
  7. “If he be married/My           is like to be my wedding bed.” (Juliet, Act 1 Scene 5)
  8. “Now old desire doth in his           lie.” (Chorus, Act 2 Scene 0)
  9. “’Tis but thy           that is my enemy.” (Juliet, Act 2 Scene 2)
  10. “The earth that’s nature’s           is her tomb.” (Friar Laurence, Act 2 Scene 3)
  11. “Now art thou sociable, now art thou          .” (Mercutio, Act 2 Scene 4)
  12. “So smile the heavens upon this           act.” (Friar Laurence, Act 2 Scene 6)
  13. “Romeo, the love I bear thee can afford/No better term than this: thou art a          .” (Tybalt, Act 3 Scene 1)
  14. “For who is living if those two are          ?” (Juliet, Act 3 Scene 2)
  15. “Heaven is here/Where           lives.” (Romeo, Act 3 Scene 3)


2) Analysing quotations

Model for students the analysis of a more minor character from the play: Lady Capulet. You will be modelling the process the students will be doing for themselves in the next activity: 

  • zooming in on the appropriate parts of the text, in this case Act 1 Scene 3
  • pick out three short quotations from that scene that will support you in answering the question: ‘How would you describe the role and significance of Lady Capulet in the play?’, and recording them for your plan
  • annotating these quotations and planning out your paragraph regarding that particular scene, then drafting your paragraph, ensuring that the success criteria described below are met

Success criteria:

  • Begin with a topic sentence
  • Make at least three points
  • Include textual evidence to support your points
  • Analyse the language of the quotations: meaning(s), techniques used, effects on audience.
  • End with an insightful sentence that draws a conclusion from the evidence you have gathered. 



3) Minor characters

Students should now choose a more minor character and write a paragraph assessing their role and significance in the play. 


Exeunt: Closing Questions for Students

How do I go about identifying key quotations and learning them when revising for an exam?


Suggested plenary activity…

Peer assessment of paragraphs using success criteria. Students could use ‘two stars and a wish’ or WWW (what went well) and EBI (even better if) as a structure for feeding back to their partner.


Aside: Further Resource


Epilogue: Teacher’s Note

This learning sequence and the two subsequent ones (i.e. Language 6-8) can also be viewed as one long learning sequence, taking students through the process of writing an essay about Romeo and Juliet.

Key Questions for Students:

Do I know what the examiners are looking for and what the question is asking me to do?

Can I generate ideas for my essay?

Can I organise my ideas into a coherent structure?

Key words: coherent, essay, feedback, organisation, planning, structure, success criteria


Prologue: Opening Discussion

Students should recap the success criteria for this task, perhaps in the form of a whole class brainstorm or list of bulleted points.


Enter the Players: Group Tasks

1) Identifying success criteria

Write a brainstorm on the board of the class’s ideas about what makes an excellent response to an exam task. You should tailor the discussion as appropriate to cover insights drawn from the syllabus, specification, curriculum documentation, examiners’ reports, etc. Broadly speaking, the success criteria should include criteria from the following areas:

  • exam skills (relevance to the question, evidence of good time management, skilful use of evidence)
  • textual knowledge and understanding
  • ability to advance an argument (supported by textual evidence)
  • language analysis skills
  • written expression


2) Task bank: language

The following tasks can be used in the teaching and modelling of planning and drafting written tasks, as well as for students’ more independently produced work for assessment:

  1. Choose a speech or soliloquy from the play and write a detailed analysis of what it reveals about that character’s thoughts and feelings.
  2. How does Shakespeare convey the Nurse’s character in the language she uses? Refer to at least three scenes in your answer.
  3. How does Shakespeare use language to suggest that Romeo and Juliet’s love will come to a tragic end? Choose three scenes in the play from which to draw your evidence.


3) Planning

Model for students the planning process comprising:

  • generation of ideas, e.g. by creating a spider diagram or bulleted list
  • working out the best structure for the answer, including: identifying the main ideas; introduction/conclusion; logical organisation of ideas; preparing evidence and examples to support ideas



Exeunt: Closing Questions for Students

How do I work out what to include and what to leave out of my essays?

Why is it important to plan my essays?

What level of detail do I need in my essay planning?


Suggested plenary activity…

Peer assessment of plans using success criteria. Students could use ‘two stars and a wish’ or WWW (what went well) and EBI (even better if) as a structure for feeding back to their partner.


Aside: Further Resource

  • Pick out the key words from the following essay questions:
    • How does Shakespeare use language to convey character in Romeo and Juliet? Write about two characters from the play in your answer.
    • Write a detailed analysis of Juliet’s language and imagery in Act 4 Scene 3.
    • How does Shakespeare use language to convey feelings of romantic love in Romeo and Juliet?


Epilogue: Teacher’s Note

This learning sequence and the ones immediately before and after (i.e. Language 6-8) can also be viewed as one long learning sequence, taking students through the process of writing an essay about Romeo and Juliet.

Key Questions for Students:

Can I draft an essay using my plan as a basic structure?

Can I ensure each paragraph contains detailed language analysis that supports my overall argument?

Can I review my work and make effective use of constructive feedback?

Key words: conclusion, constructive, essay, feedback, introduction, plan, review, structure


Prologue: Opening Discussion

Students could return to their peer/self assessment feedback from the previous learning sequence. This will help them to focus on their individual strengths and targets as they draft their essays.


Enter the Players: Group Tasks

1) Planning my essay

Following on from the teacher modelling of planning in the previous learning sequence, students could plan their essay with your support as appropriate.


2) Language analysis

There is a double page spread in the Student Booklet devoted to language analysis. Students can assess paragraphs to see which student has analysed the language of the play most effectively in terms of their understanding of the language used and the argument they are advancing in that paragraph. 


3) Drafting essays

Students should now draft their essays, using the following structure:

  • introduction
  • main body of essay
  • conclusion

Students should consistently be encouraged to review their work in progress against success criteria and individual targets.


Exeunt: Closing Questions for Students

How helpful was my planning when it came to writing my essay?

Where am I meeting the success criteria and where is there room for improvement?


Suggested plenary activity…

Students could self-assess their work in progress against the identified success criteria and their current curricular target(s) for reading and/or writing.


Aside: Further Resource

  • There is a space in the Revision section of the Student Booklet for students to record feedback and personal target-setting in relation to revision skills and writing skills.


Epilogue: Teacher’s Note

This learning sequence and the two previous ones (i.e. Language 6-8) can also be viewed as one long learning sequence, taking students through the process of writing an essay about Romeo and Juliet. The essay can be used as an end-of-unit assessment task for reading and writing. 


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