Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare English poet and dramatist considered one of the greatest English writers (1564-1616), 154 sonnets, 36 plays, an actor part of Lord Chamberlains men (Kings Men),major playwright in Elizabethan literature; owned Globe theater, which played his own work after 1603; famous for originality of characters, diversity of plots, understanding of human psychology, and unexcelled gift for language; he was a Renaissance man in his appreciation for classical culture, individualism, and humanism; wrote comedies, tragedies, and histories; people see themselves in his characters
Prologue Arguably Shakespeare’s most famous play with the complete title of ‘The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of…’ begins with a Prologue which establishes that this play will be a tragedy and that the children of two feuding families, Romeo of the Montague family and Juliet of the Capulet family, will both love and die in the course of this play…
Act I Sampson and Gregory, servants to the Capulets and Abraham and Balthasar, servants to the Montague family start a street fight, which is joined by Benvolio (Montague) and Tybalt (Capulet). Escalus, the Prince of Verona who angrily learns of this fight, declares a death penalty for further feuding between the two families. Romeo we learn is lovesick; Rosaline, the object of his affections will not requite (return) his love. His friend Benvolio tells Romeo to look at other girls… Meanwhile Capulet is keen for Paris to marry his daughter Juliet and plans a party to be held later that night. Romeo and friends decide to turn up uninvited, Romeo hoping to see Rosaline, whom he still pines for…Lady Capulet discusses the idea of marriage to Paris with Juliet. Juliet keeps her options open. The Nurse wishes Juliet every possible happiness…Meanwhile Mercutio attempts to cheer a lovesick Romeo up, telling him to be rough with love if need be. At the Capulet’s party, Romeo who is disguised by a masque (mask), falls in love with Juliet on sight. Capulet stops Tybalt from attacking Romeo at his party, telling him there will be other opportunities. Both Romeo and Juliet learn that they are each enemies of the other’s family…
Act II Ignoring the danger, Romeo scales the Capulet’s wall to be near Juliet, the woman he cannot forget… Unnoticed in Juliet’s orchard, Romeo learns of Juliet’s love for him. After declaring their feelings for each other, the two decide to marry. Juliet will send Romeo a messenger in the morning to make plans for their wedding…The very next day, we meet Romeo’s friend, Friar Laurence. He wonders how Romeo can forget Rosaline so quickly but agrees to marry the two since he hopes this marriage it will end the long running Montague / Capulet feud…Romeo catches up with his friends Mercutio and Benvolio. Juliet’s messenger, the Nurse, arrives and the wedding is set for later that day. The Nurse brings Romeo “cords” or ropes which will allow Romeo to climb into Juliet’s bedchamber as her husband later that night… ends with Romeo and Juliet’s marriage.
Act III Benvolio and Mercutio (both Montagues) meet Tybalt (Capulet). Tybalt attempts to provoke Romeo into fighting. Mercutio fights Tybalt and is killed. Romeo then kills Tybalt. Escalus, the Prince of Verona banishes Romeo from Verona threatening death should he ever return. Juliet learns of Romeo killing Tybalt and despite being torn between her loyalty for her family and Romeo, mourns her husband Romeo’s banishment. Romeo learns of the banishment order, realizing he will not be able to see Juliet again. Friar Laurence suggests Romeo go to Juliet’s bed chamber to comfort his wife… Capulet, who does not know of Romeo and Juliet’s marriage, decides that the marriage of Juliet to Paris must now proceed, bidding his wife to make Juliet aware of Paris’ love for her. The day of the marriage has been decided; it will be Thursday. We learn that Romeo has spent the night with his Juliet. Juliet who is now already secretly married to Romeo, learns that she is to marry Paris. She tries to fight her father’s wishes, failing to dissuade him. Juliet decides to commit suicide if all else fails…
Act IV Paris reveals that the wedding will occur on Thursday. Juliet is cold to Paris. Friar Laurence tells Juliet to take a potion simulating death, allowing Romeo to take her away, unopposed to Mantua since everyone will think she is dead at the Capulet’s ancient vault or burial ground. Capulet makes plans for Juliet’s wedding. Juliet, who has decided to drink Friar Laurence’s potion, no longer opposes the wedding, delighting Capulet. Hearing this good news, Capulet, who is keen to have Juliet marry Paris decides to move the wedding forward. It will now be on Wednesday morning, not Thursday as previously planned…Juliet succeeds in sleeping alone which allows her to take the potion in privacy. Juliet worries about the Friar’s intentions before the potion takes effect and she falls asleep…Lady Capulet and the Nurse are busy making preparations for the wedding. It is 3 o’clock in the morning and now Capulet hearing music announcing Paris’ arrival, tells the Nurse to wake Juliet. The Capulet’s learn that their daughter Juliet is dead. The wedding preparations are changed to those of a funeral.
Act V In Mantua, Romeo learns of Juliet’s death, deciding to risk his own life by returning to Verona at once to see Juliet one last time. Romeo also buys some poison from a local Apothecary. Friar John explains to Friar Laurence that his letter informing Romeo that Juliet is not dead, did not reach Romeo. Friar Laurence tries again to inform Romeo of his plan and heads off to the Capulet burial chamber where Juliet will soon awaken. Paris mourns his bride that never was. Romeo arrives, opening Juliet’s coffin to look at his love one last time. Paris fights Romeo whom he believes is desecrating Juliet’s grave. Paris dies, Romeo placing him beside Juliet. Romeo takes his poison, kisses Juliet and dies. Friar Laurence arrives too late. Juliet, now awakens, asking for her Romeo. Friar Laurence leaves, leaving Juliet alone. Juliet kisses Romeo and stabs herself, dying. The Prince, Capulets, and Montagues arrive, Balthasar and Friar Laurence explaining all. Escalus scolds the two families who finally end their feud. The play ends with the Prince summarizing this tragic love story.
pun a humorous play on words…Mercutio’s in Act III, when he realizes he has been fatally wounded: “…ask for me to-morrow, and you shall find me a grave man.” Grave meaning “serious”, but in this case, dead.
personification A figure of speech in which an object or animal is given human feelings, thoughts, or attitudes…Juliet: “Arise, fair sun and kill the envious moon”
metaphor a figure of speech in which an expression is used to refer to something that it does not literally denote in order to suggest a similarity…Romeo compares Juliet to the sun (Act II Scene II) “But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”
simile a figure of speech that expresses a resemblance between things of different kinds (usually formed with ‘like’ or ‘as’)…Romeo uses a this in Act I, Scene 4 when he is talking to Mercutio. He compares love to a thorn. He says”Is love a tender thing? it is too rough, Too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn…”
aside a line spoken by an actor to the audience but not intended for others on the stage…Romeo uses this as he is listening to Juliet’s soliloquy in Act 2, Scene 2. Inline 27, he says, “She speaks.” He is not talking to Juliet, the only other person on stage. Only the audience is intended to hear this line.
monologue a (usually long) dramatic speech by a single actor
soliloquy a (usually long) dramatic speech intended to give the illusion of unspoken reflections…Romeo starts his famous speech about Juliet with the words, “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks” (II.ii.2). He is speaking to himself about Juliet.
sensory imagery Language that evokes images and triggers memories in the reader of the five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell…In Act 1, Scene 5, lines 55 and 56, Romeo uses this to describe Juliet’s beauty when he says, “So shows a dove trooping with crows / As yonder lady o’er her fellows shows.”
foreshadowing the act of providing vague advance indications…In the Prologue to Act 1, the Chorus does this when they say to the audience, “civil blood makes civil hands unclean”
flat characters minor characters that are not very deep and do not undergo any substantial change or growth…The nurse can be considered a this kind of character. Her purpose in the play is to help Romeo and Juliet get married. She is Juliet’s closest confidant, and she meets with Romeo on her behalf to arrange the marriage time and place. But she is more comic relief than a fleshed-out character. Another character of this type is Benvolio. He is the same throughout the entire play, solid, temperate, and loyal. The irony is that others accuse him of being hot-tempered and wild, when they are the hot-tempered ones. This is a classic Shakespearean character type casting…
round characters complex characters, often major characters, who can grow and change…Romeo, Juliet…
verse a piece of poetry…Friar Laurence (counseling Romeo just before marrying him to Juliet): These violent delights have violent ends// And in their triumph die, like fire and powder Which as they kiss consume.// The sweetest honey Is loathsome in his own deliciousness,// And in the taste confounds the appetite.// Therefore love moderately. Long love doth so.// Too swift arrives as tardy too slow. (2.6.9-15)
blank verse unrhymed verse (usually in iambic pentameter)…This is verse that is made up of lines that are ten syllables (or five “feet”) long, with the syllables alternating between unaccented and accented. A famous example is Romeo’s speech from Act II, Scene 2: “But, soft, what light through yon-der win-dow breaks?/It is the east, and Juliet is the sun./A-rise, fair sun, and kill the en-vious moon,/Who is already sick and pale with grief/That thou her maid art far more fair than she.
prose ordinary speech or writing without rhyme or meter; referring to speech or writing other than verse… in Act III Scene I, Mercutio speaks in this fashion when he challenges Tybalt and when he is stabbed: “Tybalt, you rat-catcher, will you walk?” “Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.”
iambic pentameter a common meter in poetry consisting of an unrhymed line with five feet or accents, each foot containing an unaccented syllable and an accented syllable…The pattern most favored by Shakespeare is iambic pentameter. Iambic pentameter is defined as a ten-syllable line with the accent on every other syllable, beginning with the second one. The rhythm of this pattern of speech is often compared to a beating heart. Examine Benvolio’s final line and count the syllables it contains:”Or manage it to part these men with me.”Replace the words with syllabic count:1-2 3-4 5-6 7-8 9-10Replace the words with a ‘da’ sound to hear the heart beat:da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DA da-DANow put the emphasis on the words themselves:Or-MAN age-IT to-PART these-MEN with-ME
What is fate in Romeo and Juliet? The audience knows from beginning that the lovers are doomed. As much as they may try to thwart fate, their destinies are predetermined.
Discuss the use of light versus dark in the play. At the beginning of the play, Romeo is alone and depressed. His father says that his personal darkness is like “adding clouds to more clouds” (1.1.129). But later, his depression lifts when Romeo compares Juliet’s beauty to light, the ethereal quality that defines her: “But soft! What light from yonder window breaks? It is the east and Juliet is the sun” (2.2.2-3).