Romeo and Juliet Mix-It-Up

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Shakespeare’s classic play is a must-read for all high school students. Might the tragic end of Romeo & Juliet have been different if the Montagues and the Capulets had crossed their social boundaries?

Objectives

  • Students will identify themes in Romeo & Juliet and Mix It Up
  • Students will write a scene, using Shakespearean language, in which two opposing characters cross their social boundaries

Time and Materials

  • Two class periods
  • Copies of Romeo & Juliet for each student (or a film version for whole-class screening)

The stage has already been set for this activity in most English classes who read Romeo & Juliet. Modern day versions of the play exist already and many teachers show the 1961 West Side Story or the 1996 film version with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. This classic tale of feuding groups, conflict, opposites and banishment contains many of the same themes that Mix It Up hopes to counter in schools. This activity has students use the themes from the novel to reinforce the need to cross social boundaries in their own school.

If students are reading Romeo & Juliet, they’ve already discussed universal themes for the story. These might include, among others, themes of love, death, violence, the individual versus society, time, destiny, opposites, conflict, love at first sight, banishment and the feud between families.

After sharing about Mix It Up at Lunch Day, ask students to identify possible reasons why the program might be important. This helps create a buy-in for students. Their responses will vary. The following questions will guide you in leading a discussion and generating themes for Mix It Up:

  • What are some reasons people self-segregate in our school? (Possible answers: people want to be with those like themselves; some people think they’re better than others)
  • What happens when people self-segregate? How do they feel about other groups? (Possible answers: people don’t know as much about each other and may rely on stereotypes for the other group; different groups may not trust each other)
  • What are some possible positive outcomes of Mix It Up? (Possible answers: you might make new friends; you could find out that your stereotypes were wrong; our school will get along better)

Many of the words we use today — like “assassination” — didn’t appear in print until Shakespeare wrote them down. He may have simply been recording the language he heard around him, but it’s quite possible that Shakespeare often made up his own words when he couldn’t think of the perfect word to use in his writing.

Help students make up some Elizabethan words about Mix It Up. Use the answers they generated to the questions above to help create their new words. These websites might help you:
Elizabethan Accents
Idiomatic Idiosyncrasies

Examples might include:
Bealike (as in The bealike has hold of them.)
Mix-It-Upeth (as in Won’t you aid us in our Mix-It-Upeth?)
Fitithin (as in She doesn’t really fithithin, does she?)
Labeleth (as in We shant labeleth any longer!)
Notclique (as in To clique or notclique, that is the question!)

Next, have students break into groups of two or three and develop a common everyday school scene in which there are two opposing groups that would be better off if they’d crossed their social boundaries. Invite students to be as playful as possible. The only requirement is that they have to use Elizabethan English. The following is an example:

Our Common Everyday Scene: We’ve noticed that many students on our campus sit with the same group of friends at every lunch, but that often the group of friends are the same race or ethnicity. We’d like to see more multi-racial groups at lunch.

Estella: How art thou, Sir Marcos?
Marcos: Why speakest thou to me Lady Brittney?
I am not of thy clique, nor have you deemed me ever
to fittithin with your company.
Estella: Oh no, Sir Marcos! I labeleth not!
Marcos: Hmmmm…
Estella: True, my Lord, there was a time when the bealike
was ahold of me. I may hath once upon a time thought better
of myself than of thy company but, alas, I have repented.
Marcos: But why my Lady? Do tell.
Estella: It is two-fold, my Lord Marcos. One, I witnessed the fate
of Romeo and Juliet. Romeo — brave knight — and Juliet — maiden fair,
torn asunder by their family’s inability
to crosseth their social boundaries. Two, having
understoodeth their plight, I made a covenant with myself
not to repeat such behavior. Thus, if you’ll forgive me and
invite me to lunch with thee, I would be greatly honoured.
Marcos: Then I deem you a maid of great honour and I beg
you take this seat besideth me and be my friend from
hence forward! Mix-It-Upeth with me!

Extensions
Students could use any heritage language (i.e. Spanish, French, Vietnamese) to do this same activity. Or they could use their common slang references. Teaching a video class at your school? Then why not have students make short films about crossing social boundaries? Teaching drama? Students could perform these short vignettes in Elizabethan costumes to advertise Mix It Up at Lunch Day. In charge of the Madrigal Choir? Have students write new crossing boundary lyrics to their favorite Elizabethan song and perform it.