Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s most accessible literary works – teaching the play is the perfect way to introduce students to the conventions of Shakespearean drama and the nuances of Elizabethan language and poetry, which, let’s face it, can seem pretty intimidating for today’s students.
Universal Themes and Social Relevance
The play also features some of the most universal and socially relevant themes in Western literature (young love, parent-child relationships, gender, the generation gap, suicide, blood-feuds, etc.). Most high school students can relate to Shakespeare’s teenage protagonists – Romeo may be an angsty, love-obsessed character with a habit of acting before thinking, but he’s also a kid who faces pressure from a society that expects him to act like a “man” by taking part in the violent blood-feud. Juliet, who is pressured by her family to demonstrate her obedience and loyalty by marrying a man she doesn’t love, seems to grow up right before our eyes. Romeo and Juliet are flawed characters but students recognize that they’re also deeply human. Of course, students always have something to say about the couples’ misguided decisions, especially the dramatic suicides in Act 5, Scene 3.