Real Teens Read: Romeo and Juliet

It’s Shakespeare month for our Real Teens Read literature group, and we are looking forward to seeing two live performances–Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet.

Watching the 1968 movie is a way to clarify what they are struggling to read, and it was a great motivator for the teens. They have been busily reading different versions of Romeo and Juliet and are struggling with the language a bit, but many of them are already familiar with the basic storyline of the play. By seeing and hearing the emotion of the actors, the sets, the costumes, and the action, the language seems more “real” and easier to understand.

The Franco Zeffirelli version (rated PG) that I remember seeing in high school English class won some Academy Awards. My son directed me to the IMDb, which is a useful resource for finding out specifics about movies, including parental advisories. I sent out a link to the moms, so we were forewarned that Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet does contain a brief nude scene. The moms squirmed a bit, but the teens just brushed it off. Though I’m not sure a PG rating is appropriate, my son commented that it’s funny how people ignore the violence in a film as if it’s not so bad, like the sword fighting and deaths, but freak out over showing love. He has a point, but I still had to resist the urge to put my hands over his eyes.

The older teens are reading either the original version or the No Fear Shakespeare version which contains the original and a “translation” in modern English side-by-side. Some of the younger teens are reading condensed versions or even a graphic novel format. There are so many choices available, that there is something for everyone. My goal with this first introduction to Shakespeare is to gently expose them to this play, and hopefully motivate them to read more and enjoy the experience.

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For our go-along project when we discuss the play, the teens are going to decorate masks. Romeo and Juliet first meet at the Capulet’s masquerade ball, and masks show up in other Shakespeare works as well. The teens decorated the masks they would wear to the Capulet banquet, and it was fun to see how different each one was. Some of them kept things simple, while some were more elaborate, but each one was uniquely suited to the wearer’s personality. We’re using some inexpensive supplies from the craft store and our imagination:

  • plain black masks
  • small dowels cut to 8″
  • colored feathers
  • sequins
  • various ribbons
  • quick dry tacky glue

Real Teens Read Shakespeare

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