Romeo and Juliet: Words, poetry & plagiarism

Lesson rationale

In these activities, students will conduct a close linguistic exploration of the text, which considers the central and deadly role that words play in the lovers’ fate. They will also engage in broader tasks which contextualise the play in terms of its relationship to its main source, Brooke’s Romeus and Juliet, and the fashion for sonnet writing in the 1590s. Enjoy the ideas below, but remember ‘Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast’!

Key questions in this lesson:

  • What is the dangerous power of words in the play?
  • Just what exactly is in a name?
  • How does Shakespeare use and adapt the sonnet form?
  • How good a poet is Romeo?
  • Did Shakespeare steal words or ideas from his source, Arthur Brooke’s Romeus and Juliet?