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17th Century Pick-up Lines: "Your words like musick please me"

Teachers' Rating:
  102 ratings

Edward Phillips. The mysteries of love & eloquence. London, 1658.

February 2001
Steve Williams, The Waterford School, Sandy, Utah.

Plays/Scenes Covered
Romeo and Juliet 2.2.46-145
What's On for Today and Why
Even in the 17th century, people used lines to get dates and inspire love. Students will examine a chapter from a mid-17th century handbook, The Mysteries of Love & Eloquence, Or the Arts of Wooing and Complementing, which offers to "young practioners [sic] of Love and Courtship set forms of expressions for imitation." Reading 17th century pick-up lines will give students an opportunity to practice reading a 17th century text and perhaps inspire their own success in love. The handbook also provides an interesting glimpse at language as a tool of persuasion; students can easily see how this relates to the language of Romeo and Juliet.


This lesson will take one class period.

What You Need

Folger edition of Romeo and Juliet
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts

Mysteries of love and eloquence p184-5
Mysteries of love and eloquence p186-7
What To Do

1. Pair up the students and give them copies of the passages from The Mysteries of Love and Eloquence.


2. Have the students stand several feet away from their partners and speak the lines alternately to each other.


3. Discuss as a class what images, words, ideas, or figures of speech they heard. Were the lines more comic than persuasive? How have 350 years changed the language of love?


4. Assign parts and read aloud Romeo and Juliet 2.2.46-145.


5. Discuss the similarities and differences between Romeo and Juliet and the handbook. Which words and images appear in both?


6. Divide the students into groups of three or four and have them rewrite a few of the handbook's more persuasive passages into modern English, trying to retain the essence of the original. Would any of these lines work today?

How Did It Go?
Did the students participate fully? Did they observe differences and similarities between Shakespeare's love lines and those from the handbook? Which passages did the students find more persuasive? Were their translations into contemporary English appropriate? Did they have fun?

If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.

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  Common Core State Standards

There are no standards associated with this Lesson Plan.
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