Lesson Plans, Figurative Language,
Themes, and Interdisciplinary

Nexus: Romeo and Juliet and the Renaissance

Common Core Romeo and Juliet text and lessons made Student Friendly without Paraphrasing Shakespeare’s Language.

NEXUS Cross-Curricular Connections in each Lesson Deepen Students’ Understanding of the Play and Period.

“NEXUS is one of the best things I’ve ever seen. You’ve done an exceptional job with Romeo and Juliet and the Renaissance.” Dr. Paulette Goll, English Chair, Lincoln-West H.S., Cleveland, OH

“I am absolutely stunned by the quality of these materials – thank you so much!” R.R. Wilkinson, Home School Teacher, Kittredge, CO


“The materials in this title, wide in scope but nicely detailed, are valuable to any teacher, and…can be used with a variety of period texts. The magazine format is appealing, especially to younger students….All NEXUS volumes emphasize the critical skills and analogical thinking that are crucial for success on the SAT.”

CLASSROOM NOTES PLUS, NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English)

“Each [NEXUS] volume…is a hybrid of a well-written interdisciplinary textbook and a lively, attractive magazine.”

Aligned with Common Core Standards. For secondary students.

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Figurative Language Lessons in Romeo and Juliet and Interpreting Metaphor in Renaissance Art

  • 5 Common Core Standards in 1 Exercise – NEXUS Explications of Shakespeare’s Figurative Language.
  • By a rigorous application of CSSRL.4, the NEXUS explication (nexplication) also satisfies CSSRL1, CSSRL.2 and CSSRL.3 and Anchor R.5 (See Below).
Portrait of Shakespeare by Ozias Humphrey, 1783, Folger Shakespeare Library

Lessons in Shakespeare’s Figurative Language

Word Games in Romeo and Juliet: Identifying and Interpreting Similes, Metaphors, Personifications, Irony, Oxymora, and Antitheses

In this exciting, four-pronged lesson students break down the Bard’s language into frequently used language patterns which are taught as word games – “Pun Ping Pong,” “Word Teeter Totters” (antithesis, oxymorons, and parallelism), etc. This playful approach makes Shakespeare’s language accessible, inspiring, and fun. Students draw inferences from the passage and link Shakespeare’s insights to their own lives. They also track the development of Romeo and Juliet themes through “series metaphors” (e.g., repeated eye metaphors) in the lesson “Eye Themes (Love is Blind vs. Love at First Sight)” and the development of complex characters through their use of figurative language. This lesson is aligned with Common Core Standard CSSRL.4 (for GRADES 9-10).

For more on figurative language, see “Word Wars,” Macbeth and the Dark Ages, NEXUS, “Shakespeare and Caesar, Mysteries of the Mind,” Julius Caesar and Ancient Rome, from Republic to Empire, NEXUS, and “Sophocles’ Seesaw” in Antigone and the Greek World, NEXUS.

The Shakespeare Stage

This robust introduction to Elizabethan drama brings the Globe Theater to vibrant life. Students feel the pulsating energy and excitement of English Renaissance theater and learn the demands of Shakespeare’s stage. Students learn, for example, that characters needed to represent and argue multiple points of view to engage all classes in the audience, and that playwrights had to rely on language cues to establish time, place, and even temperature – “The day is hot, the Capels are broad…” or “It was the lark, the herald of the morn….Night’s candles are burnt out.” This chapter is aligned with Common Core Standards CSSRL.4, CSSRL.5 and CSSRL.6 (for GRADES 9-10).

Detail of Flora from Primavera by Botticelli, ca. 1486, Uffizi, Florence

Lessons in Visual Metaphor – Renaissance Art

In these lessons students identify and interpret visual metaphors in famous Renaissance paintings.

Poetry in Botticelli’s Primavera

Students learn to read the visual narrative of Botticelli’s masterpiece and interpret its metaphors and contrasts. They also compare the painting to the ancient mythological poems on which it is based.
Satisfies the following Common Core Standards: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.7 (Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment) and CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL 9 (for 9-10).
The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci, 1945, Santa Maria della Grazie, Milan

Reading Between the Images in Da Vinci’s Last Supper

Students learn to read the narrative and visual figurative language in Leonardo da Vinci’s celebrated masterpiece, reinforcing literary figurative language explication skills. Students also discover a Romeo and Juliet connection to The Last Supper. This lesson reinforces the Common Core Standards visually: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL4, RL.5, and RL.7 (for 9-10).
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Romeo and Juliet’s Backstory Taught through the Lens of Renaissance History

David by Michelangelo, Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence, 1501-04, photograph by Gloria Wilder

The Renaissance – Romeo and Juliet Pre-Reading Activities

In this straight forward, easy-to-read and lively introduction to the period, students examine the birth of the Renaissance in 15th-century Italy and link Renaissance humanism to Shakespeare’s plays in general and Romeo and Juliet in particular and to works of visual art.

Towers of San Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy. Photography by Robert F. Scarr

Romeo and Juliet Prologue Lesson: Italian Family Feuds and Power Struggles in Verona

In this highly engaging lesson students learn the historical backstory of the Capulets (Cappelletti) and Montagues (Montecchi) and explore how the family feud in Romeo and Juliet reflects larger political struggles in late medieval and Renaissance Italy and Europe as it transitioned from feudalism to nationalism. For more on Feudalism see “Feudalism” and “Magna Carta” in The Lion in Winter and the Middle Ages, NEXUS. This chapter satisfies CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2, RL.3, RL.4, and RL.9 as well as Common Core History/Social Studies Standards CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.1, RH.3, and RH.9 (for 9-10).

Mercutio’s Fashion Statements and Romeo’s Outfits: FASHION – THE MIRROR OF HISTORY

Students investigate how fashions alluded to in Romeo and Juliet mirror social mores and the class system of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. This chapter is aligned with CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.4 and COMMON CORE HISTORY/SOCIAL STUDIES STANDARDS CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.1, RH.4 and RH.6 (for 9-10).

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ANALOGY (the Metaphor of Science) in the Discoveries of Galileo and Leonardo Da Vinci

  • As Shakespeare used metaphors to connect disparate ideas and things, Galileo and Leonardo da Vinci, like scientists today, frequently employed analogy to find common ground between, what at first glance, seemed unrelated phenomena. Analogy and observation were two of the key tools they used to achieve their astonishing discoveries. IN THESE LESSONS, STUDENTS STEP INTO GALILEO’S AND DA VINCI’S SHOES AND MAKE DISCOVERIES WITH THEM. 

Copies of Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machine sketches by Gloria Wilder

Leonardo Da Vinci Flying Machine Lesson – Common Core Science Activities

This lesson examines Leonardo’s use of analogy in making discoveries about flight, for example, “he compared flying to swimming, believing birds use their wings and tail to take advantage of the air in the same way a swimmer uses her arms and legs to stay afloat in water. He wrote: ‘Swimming upon water teaches men how birds [swim] upon the air.’ Leonardo also compared birds to boats. The bird’s tail, he noted, acts like a rudder, helping it to steer. Its wings behave like oars, enabling the bird to drive itself forward. These analogies made many things clear, though they also led to an unfortunate error…” [Also see “Physics of the Crossbow,” The Lion in Winter and the Middle Ages, NEXUS.  This physics and history lesson satisfies CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1 and CORE SCIENCE and TECHNICAL STANDARDS CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.1 and RST.2, RST.6, RST.7 and RST.8

Woodcut of sun and moon faces from the Nuremberg Chronicles

Galileo Observation/Analogy Lesson – Eye on the Moon

Students step in Galileo’s shoes and, using analogy as he did, reenact his discoveries about the moon, discoveries that helped alter how man regards the universe and his place in it. This lesson aligns with CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1 and CORE SCIENCE AND TECHNICAL STANDARDS CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.3, RST.5, RST.7 and RST.8.

Sunspot trace, NASA, 2000

Galileo vs. the Geocentric System (A Lesson in Independent Thinking)

The Spots that Changed Our View of the World.

Students investigate the controversy over sunspots and learn how Galileo’s studies of this solar phenomenon helped prove that the earth and planets revolve around the sun. This chapter aligns with CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1 and CORE SCIENCE and TECHNICAL STANDARDS CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.2 and RST.4.

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Shakespeare, Patterns, and Renaissance Music Lessons

The Lute Player by Orazio Gentileschi, ca. 1612, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Renaissance Music and Patterns

Applying the cross-curriculum thinking skill that we call Pattern Recognition to Renaissance counterpoint, students learn to recognize counterpoint and write it in the manner of Renaissance composers.

For students who cannot read music we provide graphic representations of musical patterns and use “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” as a simple, familiar example of imitative counterpoint. Then we progress to 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. (For more on counterpoint see “Jelly ‘n Jazz,” The Harlem Renaissance.)

A boy actor who played the parts of women in Shakespeare plays

Child Stars in Shakespeare’s Plays

This chapter examines the phenomenon of boy actors (many of whom were members of children’s choirs) playing the women’s roles in Shakespeare’s plays. Yes, in Renaissance productions of Romeo and Juliet, Juliet was a boy!

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Romeo and Juliet Lesson Plans and Interdisciplinary Support Material

NEXUS Supplements can be accessed under the SUPPLEMENTS menu. NOTE: NEXUS supplements and magazines are protected by U.S. Copyright and cannot be photocopied, photographed, or downloaded.

  • Romeo and Juliet Project Ideas

  • Romeo and Juliet Activities

  • Romeo and Juliet Vocabulary
A Bridal Couple, anonymous, ca. 1470, Cleveland Museum of Art

In this supplement, we examine Mercutio’s disparagement of courtly love conventions (“groaning for love,” “Appear thou in the likeness of a sigh; speak but one rhyme, and I am satisfied! Cry but ‘Ay me!’ pronounce but ‘love’ and ‘dove’), conventions that Romeo adopts wholeheartedly from the era of the Troubadours and Petrarch. (For more  on courtly love see “Courtly Love – An Attitude Toward Women,” “The Love Poets (Troubadours),” and “Troubadours of Rock” in The Lion in Winter and the Middle Ages, NEXUS). This supplement and lesson is aligned with CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1, RL.2 and RL.4 (for 9-10).

Woodcut of the Swann Theatre in London, 1595

Students learn about the development of English theater from Mystery and Morality plays to the various types of Elizabethan drama: tragedy, comedy, and history – and the combinations of these mocked in Hamlet. They are also introduced to the itinerant companies of players that Shakespeare would have seen as a boy touring Stratford-upon-Avon, like the players in Hamlet.

Students taking a test

For Romeo and Juliet Lesson Plans see LESSONS menu

  • Romeo and Juliet Vocabulary (Coming Soon)

  • Romeo and Juliet Quizzes (Coming Soon)
  • Romeo and Juliet Test (Coming Soon)

  • Shakespeare Study Hall/Romeo and Juliet (Spring 2020)

Romeo and Juliet vocabulary exercises and quizzes, plot quizzes and tests will soon be available.

GUIDELINES: The NEXUS guidelines suggest interdisciplinary activities, additional lessons in five subject areas, and student-friendly ancillary readings. 

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