Romeo and Juliet Act I

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 11332

Being teenagers "in love" is hard enough, but when your families hate each other? Such angst! Discover the most famous love story in history by Shakespeare (Don't worry; you'll learn the hard words!)!

categories

Literary Studies

subject
Reading
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Beaver
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

In Act I of Romeo and Juliet, you will encounter the "star-crossed lovers" for the first time. Read Act I to find out how these two teenagers fall in love!

Juliet's Balcony in Verona, Italy

Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies.

With the outcome of the play revealed in the prologue before the play even starts, the audience knows the fate of the two young lovers and watches their doomed romance play out across the five acts of the play. Using this literary technique of dramatic irony, where the audience knows the full situation but the characters do not, Shakespeare makes the arc of Romeo and Juliet's relationship all the more tragic because, even at their happiest moments, the audience knows the sadness that is to follow.


In Act I, you will be introduced to the majority of the major characters in the play.

  • On one side is the Montague family, whose sole son and heir is Romeo. Young Romeo has several kinsmen, including Benvolio and Mercutio.
  • On the other side is the Capulet family, whose sole remaining heir is their daughter, Juliet. Thirteen year-old Juliet has a cousin, Tybalt, but she is mostly sequestered with her nurse, who has been her nanny for her entire life.

These two noble families are at war with one another in Verona. Angered by the disruption this feud has caused, the Prince of Verona, Escalus, has threatened both families with the death penalty if they brawl again. With the threat of death facing both families, Romeo and Juliet meet and fall in love at a masked ball at the Capulet house in Act I.


Before reading Act I, it is necessary to define some vocabulary from the scene, since Shakespeare was known for possessing and using a wide vocabulary in his plays.

Using the following list, look up each word in a dictionary and write down the definition. You can use this link to Dictionary.com or another dictionary of your choice. After writing down the definitions for the Act I vocabulary, write a sentence for each word, using it correctly within the sentence's context. Once you have finished the definitions and the sentences, share them with your teacher or parent and have him or her check the sentences to see if each word is used correctly based on the definitions:

Act I vocabulary words

  naught

  cankered

  posterity

  fleer

  collier

  portentous

  lineament

  disparagement

  valiant

  importune

  prolixity

  princox

  pernicious

  propagate

  sirrah

  prodigious

 

Now that you have defined the vocabulary from Act I, you are ready to read the first act. To inspire you, watch the following clip of Act I, Scene I, performed by the Fitchburg State University theatre department. The clip starts from the prologue, and continues through the end of the scene, if you want to follow along with a text in front of you.

Watch this brief clip and reflect on how you felt watching Shakespeare compared to reading his work.


Act 1 Scene 1 | Romeo and Juliet | Fitchburg State University

 

As you have seen in the previous clip, plays are much more powerful when spoken or acted aloud, because they are designed as dialogue. Therefore, as you read the play, read it aloud to help you hear the emotion of the lines. Since Shakespeare wrote in verse (poetry) rather than prose (sentences), it is important that you do not stop at the end of a line if there is no punctuation. Only pause when you do encounter punctuation, regardless of where it occurs in a line. This way, you will read the dialogue with a more natural cadence, like speaking, and the meaning will be more clear.

I recommend that you use the following version of Romeo and Juliet, because it is a revised version that normalizes the spelling of words and includes line numbers. You can also use another version of the text, as long as it is the complete, full text. The recommended text is:

Once you have read Act I aloud, you can move onto the Got It? section to assess your comprehension of the beginning of the play.

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