Today, was just fun.
Immediately following the end of Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo + Juliet we divided our class into two groups. Standing in lines that faced each other, one half of the room was told that they are Montagues. The other half were Capulets. Immediately, they started to pose and posture. They became one with the family that they represented.
I walked up to the Capulets. “Alrighty. So you guys are the Capulets. Who are you related to?”
“JULIET!!” they yelled.
To the Montagues: “Ok, Montagues. Then who are you related to?”
Not to be outdone, they yelled “ROMEO!” with spirit. (My student named Romeo beamed proudly.)
We began by defining what a feud was. After posing the question, I took answers from both sides and then synthesized them into one working definition.
Then we got loud.
I explained to the kids that tomorrow when we first see the Capulets and Montagues in action, they were going to meet in the street and have a bit of a confrontation. To preview this confrontation, we were going to sling some Shakespearean insults. Using the handout from Shakespeare Set Free, kids had two minutes to work together to create their best insults to hurl at the other side.
When two minutes were up, we began.
I walked over to the Montagues, and picked a student to yell at the other side, “Do you bite your thumb at me sir?” (I explained that biting ones thumb was basically like giving someone the finger.)
A Capulet responded, “No sir, but I bite my thumb sir!”
The same Montague: “Do you quarrel sir?!”
And with that, we took turns making eye contact with someone across the room and yelling our Shakespearean insult to the other side. A Capulet would yell something like, “Thou whoreson raw-boned miscreant!” The whole Capulet side would yell, “Ooooooh!!!!!!” to back-up their teammate. The Montagues would have none of that. “Thou brazen eye-offending ruffian!” one would reply. And so on and so on.
I’ve seen this activity all across the Internet, and I thought that the one thing that was missing was a bit of a debrief. So we paused in our insulting for a few questions:
- What happens instantly when an insult gets thrown?
- How can this “fun” quickly lead to danger?
- How can words make conflict worse? Or start conflict?
- When one person yelled an insult, why did everyone react? What was the purpose?
- How do you see words create conflict here at school or in your life outside of school?
We followed this with Jim Burke’s “Conversational Roundtable.” I told students that this type of enemy relationship was one of the five types of relationships we’d be seeing in the play. We were going to use the rest of class to discuss the other four. Staying in their Montague/Capulet family groups, I had them arrange themselves knee-to-knee in groups of three or four. Armed with the Pre-reading — Conversational Roundtable handout, students discussed what the “rules” were for each type of relationship in the book. (While they discussed, I handed out copies of the book.) We then shared out from our discussions, adding additional ideas that other groups came up with.
(The handout is set up in the following way: The center circle says “Rules for Relationships.” The four sections surrounding the circle are labeled “Romantic,” “Parent-Child,” “Friends,” and “Mentor/caretaker – Child.” I had them label the bottom box “enemies.”)
To end class, we went over their reading packet and their homework for this evening: to read the “translated” version of 1.1.