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© 2010,
Frank Dicksee
Romeo and Juliet (1884)
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Essay Topics
The Basics
The Text
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 Romeo & Juliet was Shakespeare’s first
major tragedy, his 14th play.
 One of Shakespeare’s earlier plays, written
in 1595
 Shakespeare was 33 years old; he had not
developed fully as a dramatist.
 Use of dramatic structure combining
comedy and tragedy and use of minor
characters were early signs of his dramatic
 Romeo & Juliet was one of Shakespeare’s
most popular plays during his lifetime.
O, Romeo, Romeo, Wherefore Art Thou Romeo?
William Hatherell, 1912
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 Romeo & Juliet was first published in a
poor quality quarto version in 1597
 Mistakes and omissions were corrected
by later versions.
 The play focuses on two lovers, driven
to destruction by:
The inevitability of Fate
 Their parents’ hatred
 Their own impetuous actions
 All of the above?
Title page of the Second Quarto of Romeo and
Juliet published in 1599
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1. Pyramus and Thisbe, by the Roman poet
Ovid in The Metamorphoses.
2. The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and
Iuliet, written by Arthur Brooke in 1562.
Similar plot details and characters
Shakespeare condensed time frame
from 9 months to 4 days.
Shakespeare also added Mercutio and
3. A popular tale of Romeo and Juliet also
existed in a collection by William Painter,
called The Palace of Pleasure, written in
Thisbe, John William Waterhouse, 1909
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 Romeo & Juliet has been adapted many times for stage, film, and
 18th century productions often omitted scenes that were considered
 An 18th century operatic adaptation added a happy ending.
 19th and 20th century adaptations focused more on realism and are
more faithful to Shakespeare’s original language.
 20th century adaptations
 1936 – Romeo & Juliet, dir. By George Cukor
 1957 – West Side Story, music Leonard Bernstein, lyrics Stephen
 1968 – Romeo & Juliet, dir. by Franco Zeffirelli
 1996 – Romeo & Juliet, dir. by Baz Luhrmann
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Act I
Act II
Act IV
Act V
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Click the hand  for an answer.
1. What’s the purpose of the Prologue? 
2. Which Montague tried to stop the fight in Scene 1, and which
Capulet challenges him to a fight?
What does Romeo tell Benvolio is the cause of his melancholy
What request does Paris make of Lord Capulet?
Why does Benvolio think Romeo should attend the Capulet's
At the end of the act, what does Juliet discover about Romeo?
Romeo & Juliet Quizzes
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1. What's the purpose of the Prologue?
Click anywhere to show answer.
The Prologue is delivered by one actor. It's in the form of a sonnet-three quatrains and a couplet.
The Prologue serves several purposes. It introduces the play and
provides some general information, such as the location of the play
("fair Verona") and the length of the play ("two hours"). It also
provides the dramatist's view of the tragedy that is about to be
performed, citing two causes of the disaster--fate ("star-crossed
lovers") and the feud between the families ("parents rage").
The tone of the Prologue is serious and formal, as befits tragedy.
Romeo & Juliet Quizzes
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Act I
Act II
Act IV
Act V
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Click the hand  for an answer.
1. If ever you disturb our streets again,
Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace. 
2. ...For my mind misgives
Some consequence, yet hanging in the stars,
Shall bitterly begin his fearful date
With this night’s revels.
3. O she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
As a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear…
4. My only love sprung from my only hate.
Romeo & Juliet Quotes
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1. If ever you disturb our streets again,
Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.
Click anywhere to show answer.
After the street brawl that opens the play is quelled, the Prince of
Verona warns both Montagues and Capulets that death will be the
penalty of future disruptions of the civil peace.
Further, he summons the leaders of both houses to meet with him
that afternoon. Prince Escalus represents the civil authority in the
Romeo & Juliet Quotes
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Friar Laurence
Lord Capulet
Lady Capulet
Lord Montague
Prince Escalus
Lady Montague
Juliet’s Nurse
Friar John
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 At the beginning of the play, Romeo was immediately recognizable to
Elizabethan audiences as a symbol of courtly love.
 He stays alone, broods, recites poetry, etc.
 Romeo agrees to attend the Capulet ball, but is convinced he will not see anyone
more beautiful than Rosaline.
 His immature infatuation with Rosaline will contrast with his love for Juliet
later in the play.
 Upon entering the party, Romeo has his first “premonition.”
 …for my mind misgives
Some consequence yet hanging in the stars
Shall bitterly begin his fearful date
With this night's revels and expire the term
Of a despised life closed in my breast
By some vile forfeit of untimely death. (I, 4)
 This is the first foreshadowing of what happens later in the play.
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 When Romeo meets Juliet at the party, he
immediately falls head-over-heels in love
with her, instantly forgetting Rosaline.
 The Prologue of Act II points out that even
though Romeo was willing to die for
Rosaline, now that he has met Juliet,
Rosaline doesn’t seem so “fair.”
 That fair for which love groan'd for and
would die, / With tender Juliet match'd, is
now not fair. (II, Prologue)
Is Shakespeare criticizing Romeo as fickle, or is
he simply presenting an example of young love?
Richard Burbage, 1567-1619
Probably the first actor to play Romeo.
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 In the most celebrated love scene in literature,
Romeo’s poetry is filled with images of brightness:
Juliet is the sun…
She doth teach the torches to burn bright…
Speak again, bright angel…
 Romeo curses his name, which makes him Juliet’s
 Romeo’s words in this scene contain references to
death that foreshadow the tragedy.
My life were better ended by their hate,
Than death prorogued, wanting of thy love
 By the end of this scene, Romeo and Juliet have
agreed to meet and marry the next day.
Romeo and Juliet, Ford Madox Brown, 1867
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 When Romeo is confronted by Tybalt, he is reluctant to fight.
 He sincerely wants to end the feud between the two families.
 Now that he and Juliet are married, Romeo and Tybalt are relatives.
 Romeo inadvertently causes Mercutio’s death by intervening in the fight
with Tybalt.
 Romeo’s “good intentions” bring about a tragedy.
 I thought all for the best…
 After killing Tybalt as vengeance for Mercutio’s murder, Romeo realizes his
 O, I am fortune’s fool!
 Romeo’s fatal mistake occurs in a moment of hate in the middle of a play
about love.
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 After learning of his exile, Romeo is
 Tries to stab himself, preferring death over life
without Juliet.
 In III, 5, the morning after their first night
together, Romeo’s poetry continues the
pattern of bright images:
 Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
(III, 5)
 Daylight is now Romeo’s enemy.
 Light is now hateful to their love, which had
been associated with brilliance in the darkness.
 More light and light; more dark and dark our
woes. (III, 5)
Where's Romeo, William Hatherell, 1912
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 Romeo’s desperate state of mind is emphasized in the final act.
 When Romeo learns of Juliet’s “death,” he resolves to join her:
Then I defy you, stars! (V, 1)
 Romeo rashly decides to commit suicide, not waiting to hear from Friar
 Romeo’s final metaphor is a pilot who has lost control of his ship to
the forces of nature:
 Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
The dashing rocks thy sea-sick weary bark! (V, 3)
 As he drinks the poison and dies, he praises the apothecary:
 Thy drugs are quick. (V, 3)
 Ironically, if he had waited a few minutes, the tragedy might have been
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Dreams and Omens
Light and Dark
Romeo as Pilot
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 The love of Romeo and Juliet is often associated with light in the
 These images are appropriate for a play about love trying to exist against a
backdrop of hate (the Montague-Capulet feud).
 Romeo and Juliet are two enemies who fall in love.
 Light is also represents the potential destructiveness of their love.
 Like lightning, their love is brief, intense and explosive.
 When Romeo first sees Juliet, he uses images of light and dark:
 O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright.
 She hangs upon the cheek of night
As a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear…
 …a snowy dove trooping with crows. (I, 5)
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 Light imagery recurs throughout the balcony scene (III, 2).
 Romeo’s first words about Juliet are images of light:
 It is the East, and Juliet is the sun…
 …her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
 O speak again, bright angel!
 When Juliet expresses her fears in this scene, the light imagery changes
for the first time, becoming explosive.
 It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden;
Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be
Ere one can say it lightens.
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 Friar Laurence’s image of destructive light predicts that “violent ends”
will be the result of “violent delights,” i.e., hasty, intense love.
 These violent delights have violent ends,
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume. (II, 6)
 It’s interesting to note that both Romeo and Juliet die with a kiss.
 After Romeo is banished, Friar Laurence cautions him not to turn his
vows of love to perjury, killing that which he cherishes:
 He compares Romeo’s situation to powder accidentally set afire by an
unskilled soldier.
 Like powder in a skilless soldier’s flask,
Is set afire by thine own ignorance. (III, 3)
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 As Juliet waits for Romeo in Act III, unaware that he has killed Tybalt
and been exiled, she describes him in images of light in the darkness:
 Come, thou day in night;
For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night
Whiter than new snow upon a raven’s back; (III, 2)
 Give me my Romeo; and, when I shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with the night
And pay no attention to the garish sun. (III, 2) *
In 1964, Robert Kennedy used this quote to eulogize his brother, John F. Kennedy, at the
Democratic National Convention. JFK had been assassinated the previous November.
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 The reversal of the light-dark imagery begins in III, 5.
 Romeo and Juliet have just consummated their marriage.
 Though their love has been associated with brilliance in the darkness, now
daylight is hateful to them.
 More light and light—more dark and dark our woes. (III, 5)
 When Romeo buys poison from the apothecary, he asks that it work
quickly, unconsciously alluding to Friar Laurence’s earlier references to
“fire and powder” and “violent ends.”
 That the life-weary taker may fall dead
And that the trunk may be discharged of breath
As violently as hasty powder fired
Doth hurry from the fatal cannon's womb.
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 In the final scene (V, 3) , Shakespeare visually repeats the image of a light
in the darkness:
 Paris enters with a torch and puts it out, so as not to be seen.
 Romeo enters the darkness, holding a torch.
 After killing Paris, Romeo comments on Juliet’s “corpse”:
 For here lies Juliet, and her beauty makes
This vault a feasting presence full of light. (V, 3)
 Romeo vows to “never from this pallet of dim night depart again.”
 Romeo and Juliet will exist eternally in night and darkness.
 At the end of the play, the Prince declares:
 A glooming peace this morning with it brings.
The sun for sorrow will not show his head. (V, 3)
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Inevitability of Fate
Love and Violence
Youth vs. Age
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 The intense love between Romeo and Juliet is often associated with
 This idea is expressed in images that combine light and destruction.
 It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden;
Too like the lightning (Juliet, II, 2)
 These violent delights have violent ends,
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume. (Friar Laurence, II, 6)
 After Romeo is banished, he threatens to kill himself with a knife:
 O, tell me, friar, tell me,
In what vile part of this anatomy
Doth my name lodge? tell me, that I may sack
The hateful mansion.
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 Both Romeo and Juliet imagine the other is dead on the morning after their
first (and only) night together.
 Juliet:
Methinks I see thee, now thou art below,
As one dead in the bottom of a tomb.
Either my eyesight fails, or thou look'st pale.
 Romeo
And trust me, love, in my eye so do you:
Dry sorrow drinks our blood. Adieu, adieu! (III, 5)
 Juliet also threatens to take her own life after Capulet declares that Juliet must
marry Paris:
 If all else fail, myself have power to die. (III, 5)
 The connection between love and violence ultimately leads to the double
suicide of the two lovers.
 Romeo and Juliet are only able to preserve their love in death.
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The Reconciliation of the Montagues and Capulets, Edmund Blair Leighton, 1855
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