Lucretia M. Anderson,
Elementary School Program Coordinator
Folger Shakespeare Library
Romeo and Juliet, prologue
This lesson addresses Common Core standards in Reading, Speaking and Listening, and Language for grades 4-6
What's On for Today and Why
Students will explore performing the plot outline and prologue to Romeo and Juliet as a pre-reading activity. Through movement and vocal work, students will work in groups to create a brief presentation of the prologue to clarify meaning, get acclimated to the language of the text, and make inferences about the play's themes.
What You Need
Folger edition of Romeo and Juliet
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
15 Minute Romeo and Juliet document
Prologue from Romeo and Juliet document
Prologue quatrain cards
15 Minute Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet prologue
Romeo and Juliet prologue cards
What To Do
Warm Up Activity- 15 Minute Romeo and Juliet
- Have students break up into groups of 2 or 3. Give each group 2 or 3 numbered lines from the 15 minute plot narrative.
- Allow students a few minutes to practice how they might say the line with some slight movement or gesture. Each person must say at least part of the line, if not all reciting chorally.
- Once the groups have practiced, have students stand in a circle. The leader should read the narrative, calling out each number that corresponds to a line from the play as it appears on the page. When a group's number is called, students should enter the circle and perform their line(s) as they have practiced, stepping back into their place in the circle when finished.
- Discuss the possible themes from the play and write them on the board.
Performing the Prologue
- Distribute copies of the prologue to students. Read it aloud and clarify meaning of unfamiliar words. Encourage the students to use context clues before going to the dictionary.
- Have each quatrain (4 line chunks) of the prologue typed on cards to distribute to the students in groups. There will be one card with only two lines for the rhyming couplet.
- Divide the students into four groups. Have students rehearse a performance of their card's lines that may include reading chorally or individually, physically expressing the words through movement and gestures or showing the meaning of their lines of text in frozen dramatic pictures (tableau).
- After rehearsal, students should perform their part of their prologue in front of the class in sequential order.
- Discuss the differences in the language between the contemporary plot narrative from the warm up versus the prologue from the play.
- Have students write a brief paragraph of the plot of the story in their own words.
How Did It Go?
Were students able to demonstrate an understanding of the plot and themes of Romeo and Juliet?
Did physicalizing the text help to clarify meaning?
Did this activity heighten student enthusiasm for studying the play and interacting with complex texts?
Adaptations and Extensions:
The prologue quatrain cards could be split by two lines per group as well to make seven work groups instead of four.
For a more in-depth study of poetry and sonnets, instead of or in addition to the students writing a paragraph of the plot, have the students write the plot as an English sonnet (3 quatrains, with a rhyming couplet) in their own words.
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.