7 Multimodal Picks for Exploring Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' | Refreshing the Canon

'Romeo and Juliet' is ubiquitous in English lit classes and in modern society. As you consider ways to bring Shakespeare's verse to life for students, here are multimedia works that can serve as both supplements and mirrors to the original text.


Last month, SLJ asked librarians and educators to weigh in on which classics should remain on summer reading lists. Inspired by the most popular titles that emerged, SLJ editors and members of NCTE’s Build Your Stack® Committee have curated this year’s round of “Refreshing the Canon” selections.

Additionally, we’ve put together multimodal lists of recommendations—including nonfiction, graphic novels, documentaries, and more—that educators can feature in classrooms and libraries alongside the exemplar texts. Our aim is to inspire educators to breathe fresh life into lessons around these works by giving students new context to understand why these classics are still relevant today.

Be sure to check out the 2022 “Refreshing the Canon” lists for more read-alikes of time-honored summer reading picks. 

Romeo and Juliet is ubiquitous in English lit classes and in modern society. Shakespeare’s tale of the teens’ star-crossed love has been the inspiration for many a book, movie, and song. As you consider ways to bring Shakespeare's verses to life for students, here are seven works in a variety of media that can serve as both supplements and mirrors to the original text.


Graphic Novel
Romeo & Juliet adapt. & illus. by Gareth Hinds.
Part of the “Shakespeare Classics Graphic Novels” series, Hinds's work is a modern, diverse adaptation that is faithful to Shakespeare’s original text. Graphic novels fans and readers new to the format will find much to enjoy. 


Great Performances: Romeo & Juliet. PBS. 2021.
This contemporary-set production filmed in London's National Theatre stars Josh O’Connor and Jessie Buckley in the title roles. There are additional educator resources in the form of clips, discussion question starters, and activities available on the PBS website for classroom use.

Enter the Body by Joy McCullough. Dutton. 2023. ISBN 9780593406755.
This is an innovative novel in verse that gathers Shakespeare's famous dead girls—Juliet, Ophelia, Cordelia, Lavinia—in a room under the trapdoor of a stage. Together, the teenagers consider their lack of agency in Shakespeare's work, and what would have changed in their stories had they been able to make their own choices. As SLJ's reviewer notes, "[t]he classroom connections here are endless."

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt. Norton 2004. ISBN 9780393050578.
Greenblatt's National Book Award–finalist adult biography explores how Shakespeare went from a small town to London and became a celebrated playwright. Reading the book or selected excerpts could help provide context to students about Shakespeare's life and times.

Shakespeare Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained. DK. 2015. ISBN 9781465429872.
Part of the “DK Big Ideas” series, this title can serve as a reference companion to Shakespeare's work. With graphs, illustrations, and charts, it's a solid overview to learning more about Shakespeare's canon.  


There are many songs influenced by Romeo and Juliet's star-crossed love, including "Love Story (Taylor's Version)" by Taylor Swift. "We were both young when I first saw you/ I close my eyes and the flashback starts, I'm standing there/ On a balcony in summer air" sings Swift,  from the perspective of Juliet. Later she implores, "Romeo, take me somewhere we can be alone/ I'll be waiting/ All there's left to do is run." (Her pair has a better ending than Shakespeare's.)

If incorporating music into a class, consider pairing it with a form of PBS's “Shakespeare or Taylor Swift?” quiz with the cast from Great Performances: Romeo & Juliet. It's both a fun way to make students think of Shakespeare’s text lyrically, as well as a jumping-off point for teens to create their own questions with songs from favorite artists for a class activity. 

Shakespeare Uncovered: Romeo and Juliet with Joseph Fiennes. PBS. 2015.
This documentary provides a deep dive into the origins of the play, as well as productions inspired by it. Fiennes, who played Shakespeare in 1998's Shakespeare in Love, takes viewers through the history of Romeo and Juliet and behind various performances, from one by London’s Royal Ballet to Stephen Sondheim discussing the Broadway West Side Story adaptation. At 53 minutes, it's great to watch during a class period, and there are educator resources on the PBS website.



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