The Royal Shakespeare Company has a lot of good resources for those who teach Shakespeare. Here’s a link to a resource that deals exclusively with the balcony scene.
I didn’t do everything in the packet, but I did do a couple of the activities that worked really well. One of the activities involves having students echo words in Romeo’s soliloquy that have to do with light. We then talked about why they chose certain words. They missed the word “window,” for example, and we talked about why that might have been a good choice. They also picked “heaven” and we had a good discussion about why we associate life with heaven (near death experiences came up since people talk about “seeing the light.”)
The next activity I did in the packet involved going through the next part. What works really well here is that the passages are abridged, so they cover the main content and move rather swiftly. We played around with having Juliet angry that someone would come into the orchard, and then played it as if Juliet knew right away that it was Romeo. I really wanted to show the students that with as few stage directions as Shakespeare offers, you really need to offer your own interpretation of the scene and can also have some fun with it. It’s important as a director that you make deliberate choices that are consistent with the character and their motivations and propel the play forward.
We also did the activity where we had four guards rotating around Romeo and Juliet as they talked. The instructions didn’t give a whole lot of specifics of how to do this. I had two of the guards rotate counterclockwise and the other two go around clockwise. It worked reasonably well, but when I do this activity again I’ll make the square bigger.
Here’s a link to a rehearsal of the balcony scene done by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Sometimes I get locked into using the Zefferelli version or the Luhrmann version exclusively, and forget that there are a lot of good stage productions out there that are readily available for use.
The author of this article is David Rickert, who leads parallel lives as a cartoonist and teacher. When not creating comics out of thin air, David teaches high school English Language Arts in Columbus, Ohio. His witty and engaging cartoons turn abstract and complicated concepts into concrete and concise images to embed content into our long term memories. Let’s face it: he makes boring topics entertaining. Check out his Grammar Comics and more resources to bring life to your ELA instruction at his store.