Romeo and Juliet

Students hone their literary analysis and writing skills as they read Shakespeare's iconic Romeo and Juliet in the original Early Modern English.

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New Units For 9th and 10th Grade English

Unit Summary

This end-of-year unit draws upon the literary analysis and writing skills that students have been honing over the course of the year and asks them to apply these skills to the complex language and style of Shakespeare. While students have previously read No Fear Shakespeare versions of other works by Shakespeare, this will be their first experience with reading in Shakespeare’s original, more archaic language. Additionally, the unit contains an emphasis on building the skills described in Common Core ELA standard RL.9.-10.9, "analyzing how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work." While reading Romeo and Juliet, students will analyze works by the fourteenth-century poet Petrarch, investigating how Shakespeare drew on some of Petrarch’s themes and characters and used them to develop his own play. They will also watch pieces of the 1996 film version of Romeo and Juliet, directed by Baz Luhrmann, and read excerpts of the novel Street Love, by Walter Dean Myers, analyzing how these two modern artists transform Shakespeare’s sixteenth-century play to inform their work. As part of their analysis, students will read, discuss, and write about the play itself and compare it to these other works.

When planning out the final days of the year, teachers should be sure to leave one or two class days for review for the final exam. That review is not included in the count of days for this unit.

At Match, students have a Composition class 4 days per week in addition to English class. Below, we have included Supplementary Composition Projects to reflect the material covered in our Composition course. For teachers who are interested in including these Composition Projects but do not have a separate Composition course, we have included a “Suggested Placement” to note where these projects would most logically fit into the English unit. While the Composition Projects may occasionally include content unrelated to English 9, most have both a skill and content connection to the work students are doing in their English 9 class.

In English 9 Unit 6, students will read Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare. The major areas of focus in the English unit are: (1) decoding and comprehending Shakespeare’s archaic language and (2) comparing his original text to other works that have drawn on his original text. These supplemental Composition Projects will focus primarily on the latter, asking students to compare in writing how the newer works have drawn on and transformed Shakespeare’s original work. These writing focus areas mostly spiral from the earlier units, providing students with opportunities to apply their writing skills to new projects. The newer skill that students are asked to develop is to consider the structure of their essays and ensure that the structure lends itself well to the task and purpose.

Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

  • Play: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (Folger Shakespeare Library 2011 edition)  

Supporting Materials


This assessment accompanies Unit 6 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep


  1. Read and annotate the Folger edition of the play.
  2. Acquire and watch the Luhrmann version of the film.
  3. Read the novel Street Love, or at least the excerpts referenced in the unit plan.
  4. Answer the key thematic questions based on the film and play
  5. Take the end-of-unit exam.
  6. Read this explanation of Romeo as a Petrarchan lover.

Essential Questions


  • Love: What is true love? What should one sacrifice for true love? What should one never sacrifice for love? Is the love between Romeo and Juliet true love?
  • Good and evil/love and hatred: Do we need hatred (evil) in order to truly appreciate love (good)?
  • Fate: Is there such a thing as fate? If so, can a person avoid his or her fate? Is fate alone responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, or should certain characters be held responsible?
  • The motifs of light and darkness run throughout the play. How do these motifs help to develop the themes of the play?

Writing Focus Areas


English Lessons Writing Focus Areas

Students will write an essay comparing two different works of literature, explaining how one draws upon and/or transforms the other. By this point in the year, students will have had experience crafting compare-and-contrast essays. However, this is the first time they will be explaining how one author draws upon another. For this reason, the following focus correction areas are recommended.

Literary Analysis Writing Focus Areas:

  • Introduction and Thesis: Introduction and thesis are clear, compelling, and preview what is to come.
  • Evidence: Evidence is well chosen to develop the topic/position.
  • Analysis: Analysis reflects logical reasoning and progression of ideas.

Composition Projects Writing Focus Areas

Students will write a mix of literary analysis and narrative pieces in this unit, applying the writing skills they have practiced throughout the year. In these projects, many of the WFAs are review and should come more easily to students at this point. The “coherence” focus area may be newer and require more instruction and feedback.

  • Thesis: Includes a clear and relevant thesis statement. 
  • Analysis: Demonstrates clear and logical reasoning. 
  • Evidence: Draws relevant evidence to support position. 
  • Coherence: Structure is aligned with purpose.
  • Diction: Uses advanced and specific vocabulary. 
  • Professionally Revised: Complete and follows guidelines. Adequate revisions.



Literary Terms

diction, structure, stage directions, theme, character motivation, motif, conflict, style, iambic pentameter, pun, Petrarchan lover, tone, mood


Prologue: foes (7)
Act 1: valiant (9), partisan (13), pernicious (15), transgression (23), chastity (23), devout (33), heretic (33), obscured (39), tainted (47)
Act 2: bewitched (65), discourse (69), entreat (71), impute (77), vile (85), rancor (89), affecting/affect (n.) (93)
Act 3: apt (117), effeminate (123), calamity (139), banishment (141), perjury (149), vex (163), wretched (169)
Act 4: haste (177), slander (179), treacherous (181), prostrate (187), stifle (193), solemnity (203)
Act 5: unaccustomed (211), penury (213), distilled (221), beseech (223), ambiguities (237), enmity (243)

Idioms and Cultural References

bite my thumb (11), knaves (53), fool’s paradise (101), dirge (203)

Content Knowledge and Connections


Students will learn to read Shakespeare in its original form.

Future Fishtank ELA Connections

Lesson Map


  • Romeo and Juliet — Act 1, Scene 5 (pp. 51–61)

Analyze Shakespeare’s characterization of Romeo.


Discussion & Writing

Discuss and debate the essential thematic questions of the unit.



Composition Projects


4 days



The play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, the film version directed by Baz Luhrman, and the novel Street Love by Walter Dean Myers each contain a prologue designed to preview what is to come. Compare the choices each author makes about how to structure the prologue and the effect of these choices on the audience. Support your answer with evidence from all three sources.

An effective essay:

  • includes a clear, relevant, and complete thesis statement;
  • demonstrates clear and logical reasoning;
  • draws relevant evidence to support position and provide context;
  • aligns the structure of the essay to the purpose;
  • uses advanced and specific vocabulary; and
  • is professionally revised.


2 days



Select one the following pairs of characters: Mercutio and Romeo or Juliet and Lady Capulet. Write a journal entry from one member of the pair (i.e. Mercutio) in which you reflect on your relationship with the other member of the pair (i.e. Romeo). Be sure to characterize your relationship and the ways in which you are similar and different. Include specific references to the text in your journal entry.

An effective essay:

  • uses relevant evidence and details from the text, including establishing the setting;
  • accurately portrays the relationship between the characters;
  • is written in a tone and style that reflect the character; and
  • uses specific and relevant diction to develop the narrative.


3 days



In both Street Love and Romeo and Juliet, the authors tell the story of young lovers caught between the desire to be together and family and group loyalties that are pulling them apart. Describe how Walter Dean Myers, the author of Street Love, draws on and transforms elements of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in the excerpt read today. Your answer may include references to setting, plot, characters, mood, themes, or author’s craft.

An effective essay:

  • includes a thesis statement that previews what is to come;
  • supports the thesis with relevant evidence from both sources;
  • aligns the structure of the essay to the purpose;
  • uses advanced and specific vocabulary; and
  • is professionally revised.

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.9-10.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9—10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

  • L.9-10.6 — Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.9-10.1 — Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RI.9-10.2 — Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.9-10.1 — Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RL.9-10.2 — Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RL.9-10.3 — Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

  • RL.9-10.9 — Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare).

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.9-10.1 — Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9—10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

  • SL.9-10.2 — Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.

Writing Standards
  • W.9-10.1 — Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

  • W.9-10.10 — Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

  • W.9-10.1.a — Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

  • W.9-10.1.b — Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience's knowledge level and concerns.

  • W.9-10.2 — Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

  • W.9-10.2.a — Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

  • W.9-10.2.b — Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience's knowledge of the topic.

  • W.9-10.3 — Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

  • W.9-10.4 — Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

  • W.9-10.5 — Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.

  • W.9-10.6 — Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology's capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.

  • W.9-10.8 — Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

  • W.9-10.9 — Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

  • W.9-10.9 — Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.