Sunday, June 16, 2013

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare, William.  

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile 700

Qualitative Reading Analysis:
This definitely rates Middle High to High on the “Text Complexity: Qualitative Measure Rubric for Literary Text”.  First there are multiple levels of meaning and a lot of things going on.  The language is difficult to read and understand and is written in a style that is unfamiliar to most readers.  This more than anything makes the text complex.  There is irony, opposing viewpoints, figurative language, and the need to understand the historical context of the play.  This is not the most demanding of Shakespearean plays but you rarely encounter a teacher who would ask a student to read a Shakespeare play without a lot of scaffolding and explanation.

The Capulets and the Montagues have been feuding for years.  Young Romeo, a Montague, is in love, or so he thinks, with Rosaline. Juliet, a Capulet, is being asked to consider Paris as a future husband.  All that changes when Romeo crashes a party at the Capulet’s and sees Juliet.  Before the night is over Romeo and Juliet are professing their undying love to each other in the famous balcony scene.  By the next night the two are married by Friar Lawrence who hopes the union will bring the two families together.  Unfortunately, this is not to be.  In a duel the next day both a Capulet and a Montague are killed – one by Romeo’s hand and Romeo is banished.  Juliet and Friar Lawrence concoct a plan to reunite Romeo and Juliet which requires Juliet to drink a potion that will make her appear dead.  Meanwhile, Romeo will be told of the plot and will rescue Juliet when she awakes and they will escape together.  But Romeo does not get the message he is supposed to get and just hears that Juliet is dead.  In anguish Romeo goes to her tomb and kills himself with poison.  Juliet upon awakening sees Romeo dead and kills herself with a dagger.

Content Area: Reading/ELA

Content area standard:
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.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.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.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.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.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.
Curriculum Suggestions:
This is one of those must reads in high school English classes.  It is often followed by watching one of the various movies that has been made.  It could always be paired with historical background into Elizabethan England, a study of Shakespeare himself, or a comparison to other plays by Shakespeare.  This play can be compared to so many other books besides the one I am pairing it with. It would be interesting to see how many books, movies, songs students could find that have ties to this famous love story.

Personal Thoughts: What’s not to love about Romeo and Juliet.  I first read the play as a ninth grader.  I then had the privilege of playing Romeo’s mother in college.  I was watching the Leonardo deCaprio version of the movie when I went into labor with my daughter.  Just this year my daughter, now in ninth grade herself, read the play and watched the movie.  This is one of those plays that is a must read.

Subjects/Themes: Love and Sacrifice, Individual vs Society, Forcefulness of Love

Character Names/descriptions:
Romeo: A young man from the house of Montague.  Although originally infatuated with Rosaline, he quickly develops a passion for Juliet that leads to an ultimate sacrifice.
Juliet: A young woman from the house of Capulet.  When she falls for Romeo she goes to great lengths to ensure that they will be together.

High Interest Annotation: You know you’ve heard about the star crossed lovers and their famous balcony scene but you really should read it for yourself.

Classic/Contemporary Novel Pairing:
 I was originally going to pair Of Poseidon with The Tempest because the YA Sync Download had the two books paired.  However after reading Of Poseidon and rereading The Tempest I decided they really did not match that well.  In fact, Of Poseidon matches far better with Romeo and Juliet.  Star crossed lovers – check.  Although Emma and Galen don’t die, the differences between their families are similar to what Romeo and Juliet encounter.  The forcefulness of Emma and Galen’s love is similar to that of Romeo and Juliet.  There is also the idea of individual desires versus society’s needs or demands in both of the books.

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