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Nexus: Romeo & Juliet AND THE RENAISSANCE



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1. SHAKESPEARE’S THEATER: The first chapter takes students to a 17th-century performance of Romeo & Juliet so they can see how the logistics of the Elizabethan stage affected the way Shakespeare wrote. [LITERATURE & THEATER]

2. THE RENAISSANCE: The second chapter links Shakespeare to the Renaissance humanist tradition. [HISTORY & ART HISTORY]

3. LEONARDO DA VINCI—RENAISSANCE MAN: The third chapter examines Leonardo da Vinci’s discovery process. Instead of memorizing some of da Vinci’s feats, students learn to emulate them. The article includes student activities (as do most NEXUS articles). [SCIENCE & ART]

4. WORD GAMES: This chapter examines four language patterns that Shakespeare uses over and over in all his plays. Students learn to recognize these patterns instantly and to explicate the language in them. To engage students, various game formats are used. For example: a) Shakespeare’s wit exchanges—in which he runs through the gamut of a word’s meanings—are referred to and taught as games of Pun Ping Pong; b) Shakespeare’s use of opposites is compared to the rock lyrics of popular singer Alanis Morissette, a lover of irony and opposites; etc. [LITERATURE]

5. FASHION—THE MIRROR OF HISTORY: This chapter uses Mercutio’s fashion statements (generally put downs of French styles) as a point of departure to examine Renaissance fashions that reflect the manners and mores of the period. For example, during the 1400s, very pointy shoes—up to two feet long—were in. The kings of England and France issued edicts regulating their length. In France, points were limited to 24 inches for aristocrats, 12 inches for bourgeois, and six inches for the lower classes. This made it possible to tell a person’s rank simply by looking at his or her feet. [All NEXUS chapters are embroidered with the most colorful and telling anecdotes of the period to engage students.] [HISTORY & LITERATURE]

6. THE REBIRTH OF VENUS—MYTHOLOGY IN ART AND LITERATURE: This chapter looks at the rebirth of Greco-Roman mythology during the Renaissance and explores mythology in Romeo & Juliet and in the mythological paintings of Botticelli. Students are taught to “read” a painting in a way that is analogous to how we interpret literature—visual contrasts are linked to oxymorons, opposites and irony; visual connections are linked to metaphors, similes and personifications. [ART & LITERATURE]

7. THE EXPLORERS OF PICTURE SPACE—AGE OF REDISCOVERY: One-point perspective is taught using Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. Again we emphasize “reading” the painting. [NOTE: A boy who observed Leonardo painting the Last Supper gives us a glimpse into the artist’s creative process. This boy, Matteo Bandello, grew up to write the most important version of Romeo and Juliet prior to Shakespeare’s. Bandello’s version served as an indirect model for Shakespeare.] [ART]

8. ITALIAN FAMILY FEUDS: This chapter puts the Montague-Capulet feud in its true historical context—the struggle between the Guelphs and Ghibelines that engulfed Italy for more than 300 years. A photograph of the towers of San Gimignano accompanies the article to illustrate how factional Italian city-states were in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance (presumably neighbors fought one another from their tower-like family fortresses). [HISTORY & LITERATURE]

9. SOUNDS AND ROUNDS OF THE RENAISSANCE: This chapter explores one of the composition methods of the Renaissance, imitative counterpoint. For students who cannot read music we provide graphic representations of musical patterns. We use “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” as a simple, familiar example of imitative counterpoint. Then we progress to slightly more complex examples in the work of Orlando di Lasso. By the time students have finished this lesson and its accompanying activities, they will be able to write their own compositions using imitative counterpoint. [MUSIC]

10. CHILD STARS OF STAGE & SONG: This chapter looks at the phenomenon of boy actors (many of whom were members of children’s choirs) playing the women’s roles in Shakespeare’s plays. [MUSIC & LITERATURE]

11. CHARIOTS OF THE SKY: This chapter examines Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machines and the physics of bird flight. Again, we don’t simply tell students what Leonardo did, we take them through his thought process, emphasizing his use of the analogy. The analogy—which we call the “metaphor” of science—was central to da Vinci’s discovery process. [PHYSICS]

12. GALILEO—THE MAN & THE MOON: This chapter takes students through Galileo’s discovery process. Again, the analogy is central. [ASTRONOMY]

13. THE SPOTS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: We look at Galileo and the sunspot controversy. [ASTRONOMY]

THIS ISSUE INCLUDES TEACHER SUPPORT MATERIAL AND GUIDELINES FOR TEAM TEACHING NEXUS—WITH INTERDISCIPLINARY ACTIVITIES IN LITERATURE, HISTORY, ART, SCIENCE AND MUSIC.

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