Students begin their study of Romeo and Juliet by reading the 14-line prologue of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (from “Two households, both alike in dignity, / In fair Verona” to “What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend”), in which the Chorus introduces the events of the play. Students begin to acquaint themselves with Shakespeare’s English and explore how his specific word choices create tone within the text.
Trailer for Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet
- lamentable (adj.)
- prologue (n.)
- household (n.)
- dignity (n.)
- mutiny (n.)
- forth (adv.)
- foes (n.)
- doth (v.)
- naught (n.)
Read / Listen-Along
Examine the Title Page and read the 14-line prologue of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (from “Two households, both alike in dignity, / In fair Verona” to “What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend”), in which the Chorus introduces the events of the play.
As we read, focus on Shakespeare’s word choices and how they establish tone.
- What information can you gather from the full title of this play?
- How does the word lamentable impact the title of the play?
- What meanings of the word tragedy do you know? Why might a play be called a tragedy?
- What word parts or phrases help you to infer the definition of alike in line 1?
- What do you learn about the “households” in line 1?
- What words or phrases develop the relationship between these two households?
- Whose hands are being made “unclean”?
- How does line 4 develop your understanding of this “ancient grudge”?
- What does the audience learn in lines 5–6 about the relationship between the lovers and the “two households”?
- Who are the foes (line 5)?
- How are the lovers related to the foes?
- What does the word fatal in line 5 tell the audience about the lovers?
- What familiar word can you find in fatal? What alternative meaning of fatal, besides “causing death,” does this suggest?
- How does Shakespeare’s choice of the word fatal develop the tragic tone of the play?
- What familiar word can you find in misadventured? How does the prefix mis- impact your understanding of the word?
- How does Shakespeare’s specific word choices in lines 5–8 develop the definition of star-crossed?
- What effect do the “star-crossed” lovers’ deaths have on their parents?
- How does Shakespeare’s choice of the word death-marked develop the tone of the Prologue?
- To whom do “our” and “you” refer to in these lines? Cite evidence from the text to support your response.
- Paraphrase what happens during the “two hours traffic” on the stage.
- What does the Chorus ask of the audience?
- How do lines 9–11 and the definition of prologue develop the role of the Chorus?
Classwork / Homework
- Write an objective, one-paragraph summary of the Prologue.
Respond briefly in writing to the following prompt:
- How do Shakespeare’s specific word choices establish a tragic tone in the text?
Look at your annotations to find evidence. Use this lesson’s vocabulary wherever possible and use the Short Response Rubric and Checklist to guide your written responses.