Romeo and Juliet Prologue Lesson Plan

Instructor: Jason Lineberger

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

Use this lesson plan to help students analyze the prologue to Romeo and Juliet and how writing structure affects the reader. The lesson plan will also introduce paraphrasing as a comprehension strategy.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain the structure of the Elizabethan sonnet
  • explain the effect of the sonnet structure on Shakespeare's prologue to Romeo and Juliet


This lesson will take 30-45 minutes

Curriculum Standards


Analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.


By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

Materials Needed

  • Copies of Shakespeare's prologue to Romeo and Juliet
  • Copies of an Elizabethan sonnet

Key Vocabulary

  • Elizabethan sonnet
  • Quatrain
  • Couplet
  • Greek chorus


  • Begin by distributing copies of the text lesson Prologue of Romeo and Juliet: Summary and Analysis and have students read and text code it. Use two simple text codes, an exclamation point for information they already knew and an underline for information that's new to them.
  • When they've finished reading and coding the text, call on students to explain what they marked with exclamation points, then clear up lingering questions from underlined material.
  • Project one of Shakespeare's sonnets or write it on the whiteboard.
  • Explain the definition of a quatrain, then call upon students to come to the board to mark the location of the quatrains.
  • Explain the definition of a couplet, then mark the concluding couplet.
  • Discuss the structure of an Elizabethan sonnet. Then, with your students in pairs, have them discuss the problems presented in each of the quatrains of the sonnet. Have them then explain the solution offered in the couplet.
  • Distribute copies of the prologue that your students can mark and have them divide it into three quatrains and a couplet.
  • In pairs, ask student to paraphrase a line at a time, writing their versions next to or beneath the printed versions. When they have a quatrain completed, they should read over their paraphrased version and summarize it into a single point. What is the main point Shakespeare is trying to make in this quatrain?
  • Call on student pairs to present their summary points for each quatrain.
  • When the class has completed the three quatrains and the final couplet, lead a class discussion in Shakespeare's use of the sonnet structure to create his version of a Greek chorus.

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