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Teaching Romeo and Juliet: Occupation Romeo

Updated on December 7, 2012

From Folger Shakespeare Library

As I mentioned in a previous hub, Teaching Shakespeare Without Losing Its Integrity, Shakespeare has never been my forte. I always hated it in school, high school and in college. It wasn't until I was forced to teach two plays at the same time that I realized what I was missing. This passion is something that I've wanted to give to my students through my lesson plans and units.

One of the ways that I introduce Romeo and Juliet is with an activity called "Occupation Romeo" that I found on the Folger Shakespeare Library website. I have used it year after year and it has been successful at really showing my students that the language really isn't that difficult and that it can actually be fun.

The first thing that you have to do to prepare for this lesson is come up with a list of "occupations" that can be acted out. Some that I choose are American Idol contestant, professional wrestler, bull rider, President of the United States, auctioneer, pirate, etc. I usually tailor them to my students' interests, but the most important thing to remember when choosing the "occupations" is to make them funny and something that has a personality tied to it that can be acted out.

The next thing I do is print out a copy of Romeo's lines from Act 2.2 "But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?/It is the east, and Juliet is the sun./Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,/Who is already sick and pale with grief." These are the lines that we are going to act out as the various occupations.

I ask the students to volunteer and give them a chance to practice the lines first. Then, they pick an occupation card randomly and depending on his or her preference, tell what it is first and act it out or act it and have the glass try to guess it.

The whole class is involved and there is a ton of laughter. We play with the language to get comfortable with saying it and how it sounds in an atmosphere that is not intimidating to the students. Even if at that point they don't know what they're saying or really what it means, the play becomes very accessible to the students because they realize it doesn't have to be dry and boring, that we can have fun learning the story.


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