We all read Romeo and Juliet. Or, of course, we were all supposed to.
The story of star-crossed lovers from two separate families is a school staple. It is known as one of the greatest love stories of all-time. I read this story in 6th grade. It was required for 6th graders to read this in Illinois, which is a little ridiculous. I don’t remember much about it, besides that I had to play Juliet and was terrified that my teacher would actually make me kiss Romeo, who just so happened to be a boy that would never, ever, ever make it to my MASH list (girls, you know that MASH is a middle school must).
However, now that I’m teaching it to 9th graders, I’ve realized that Romeo and Juliet is 100% different than the one my pre-teen self pretended to understand. Here are a few things that I’ve “re-learned” while revisiting R&J (and also felt incredibly awkward teaching):
1.) The story opens with two Capulet servants talking–in explicit detail–about throwing women up to the wall and raping them. They talk about this in the same light-hearted tone as one would about the weather.
2.) Romeo’s best friend, Mercutio, gets high off of hallucinogens, which is largely the reason for his long speeches. I didn’t know I’d be redoing a DARE lesson.
3.) Romeo and Juliet get very frisky, very fast. They only know each other for an hour, and their clothes come off nearly immediately. At least, this is true in the movie version which, I, er, apparently forgot to pre-view.
4.) Mercutio talks about having a boner in the morning. Even I glazed over that one.
5.) This last moment isn’t necessarily in the play. However, it was awkward to the extreme. I have my Honors students create Modern Adaptations of the play in groups, and then perform them for the class. They are hilarious. And awesome. My favorite one? Two boys played Romeo and Juliet, and then decided that Juliet went through puberty in the middle. They also made Romeo refer to Juliet continually as “babe.” The boy playing Romeo turned the color of Benny the Bull.
Do you remember reading Romeo and Juliet? Am I the only one that didn’t realize the (awesome) awkwardness?