Romeo and Juliet Act 1 Lesson Plan

Instructor: Jason Lineberger

Jason has 20 years of education experience including 14 years of teaching college literature.

This lesson plan requires students to choose important quotes from the play to build a body biography that will help them understand how writers develop characterization through dialogue.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • summarize the events of Act I of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
  • explain how the speeches of the play's principal characters develop the audience's understanding of both the characters and the central ideas of the play
  • cite quotes from the play to support their ideas


  • This lesson will need to be broken up over several sessions:
    • 45-60 minutes for Scene 1
    • 30-45 minutes each for Scenes 2-4
    • 45-60 minutes for Scene 5

Curriculum Standards


Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.


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.

Materials Needed

  • Copies of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • Tape

Key Vocabulary

  • Dialogue
  • Monologue
  • Indirect characterization
  • Act
  • Scene


Important Note: This lesson takes a primarily whole group or team approach, in order for students to take on character roles for a dramatic reading. However, it can be adapted for use with an individual student by acquiring an audio version of the play with multiple narrators to support their understanding.

  • Students can complete these tasks independently or with a team. Each student (or team) should have access to the play and to the Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare: Study Guide
  • Assign each student (or team) a major character from the first act: Lord Capulet, Romeo, Juliet, Benvolio, and Mercutio.
  • Assign parts and read Act I, Scene 1 aloud. Stop to paraphrase difficult speeches and have students practice paraphrasing. As you read through the first scene, students should note speeches that they think reveal something important about the way characters feel or view the world. Use the dialogue noted to teach students about indirect characterization in a play.
  • When you complete the scene, have students read Romeo and Juliet Act 1 - Scene 1 Summary and test their knowledge with the included quiz.
  • If students feel comfortable with the difficult language in the play, allow them to read the second scene; otherwise, continue with a supported reading approach. Assess their understanding using the Romeo and Juliet Act 1 Scene 2 - Summary quiz.
  • Before moving into Scene 3, distribute the chart paper and markers. Students will draw a large outline of their assigned characters on the chart paper. If you have access to it, use extra large sheets of paper and allow students to trace another person to create a life-sized human outline.
  • As students read Scenes 3 and 4, they should write down quotes either said by or about their characters. At the end of each scene, they'll decide where to add those quotes on their diagram. The placement of the quote should represent what the quote reveals about the character. For instance, if assigned the character of Juliet, students might write Lady Capulet's lines from Scene 3, ''Younger than you/ Here in Verona, ladies of esteem/ Are made already mothers....'' They could place these lines on Juliet's shoulders to represent the pressure she's feeling from her mother to marry someone, even though she's only 13. Use the Romeo and Juliet Act 1 - Scene 3 Summary and quiz at the end of the scene to help students keep up with the important plot points. Use Romeo and Juliet Act 1 - Scene 4 Summary to close out Scene 4.
  • Display the body biographies around the room.
  • For a collaborative element, have students partner multiple times and share their posters with others. Alternatively, if students are working in teams, one person can remain with the poster and other students can engage in a gallery walk. Students must explain the quotes others.
  • Conclude your study of Act I with a full reading of Scene 5. On their individual papers, students should draw outlines for Romeo and Juliet and add quotes for each that characterize them. Have students choose one particularly important quote to explain in a short paragraph at the bottom of the paper. Collect these to assess their understanding of the lesson.

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