A CLASSROOM ACTIVITY
STEPS The steps in this activity can be adjusted to your teaching situation. Step 1, for instance, can be based on materials you bring to your students, or you might start a day or two in advance by having students research and gather sound and images from versions of Romeo and Juliet. Step 2 is all about inference from material clues. Students’ thoughtfulness is more important than their coming up with particular “right” answers. This step can be conducted with the class as a whole, in small groups, or individually, as can Step 3. Steps 4 and 5 will work best as full-class discussions, to build enthusiasm about the upcoming transmission.
Step 1: Collect information about versions of Romeo and Juliet. Organize your findings by date.
Step 2: Interpret your findings. Consider similarities and differences among characters, settings, language, music, and plot points. On big pieces of brown paper, make a twopart “Roméo et Juliette Forever!” table. List similarities on the left, divide the right side into three columns—date, place (where the piece was created), and distinctions—to record distinguishing characteristics of each version.
Step 3: Make a timeline. First, figure out how many years the timeline must include. Next, on a big piece of brown paper, mark off equal units of time (decades will probably be the best units, but students may choose to mark off spaces year by year). Then create illustrations for at least three versions and glue them (or connect them with a bit of ribbon) to the proper place on the timeline. Use markers to add the names, dates, creators, and places of those three as well as other versions.
Step 4: Using the table and timeline as resources, discuss the implications of similarities and differences among versions. What do the differences tell us about social order, etiquette, and values at different times and places (for instance, courtly, discreet pre-modern Europe vs. our own direct, hard-toembarrass contemporary culture)? What do the unchanging aspects tell us about the story’s universal appeal? Which plot points or characters do you recognize from real life?
Step 5: Close with a culminating discussion: How do you think the Metropolitan Opera will interpret Roméo et Juliette? What aspects of the production can be known in advance (e.g., characters, plot, Gounod’s music)? Where is there room for interpretation?
FOLLOW-UP: In class, or for homework, students can outline the ways they would create their own Romeo and Juliet for their time, place, and concerns.