Study Guide

Romeo and Juliet

by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet Analysis

Historical Background

Historical Background
The first permanent professional theater in England was built around 1576 and was called the Theater. Other theaters soon opened, including two called the Curtain and the Rose. Not only was Shakespeare working as a playwright and an actor for the Theater, he was also a stock holder.

Another theater soon opened and became one of the most famous of the London public playhouses. It was completed around 1599 and was called the Globe. It was perhaps the largest theater in England and derived its name “from the sign painted above its door, a picture of Atlas holding the world on his shoulders” (Kittredge). Shakespeare also owned stock in the Globe and performed as an actor in many of his own plays. The Globe was an enclosed theater without a roof. The spectators who stood or sat on the ground around the acting area were called “groundlings.” The wealthier playgoers sat in galleries surrounding the stage area. There was no curtain, and sunlight provided the lighting for the performances; therefore, the performances were held during the day. Because there were no sets or scene changes, Shakespeare’s characters wore extravagant costumes to provide the beauty and pageantry that was expected on the stage. Plays were usually fast-paced and colorful productions. The actors, as a rule, played more than one part in a play, and all of the women’s parts were portrayed by young boys.

Shakespeare began...

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Romeo and Juliet Form and Content (Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Romeo and Juliet is a five-act tragedy about the protagonists’ ill-fated love. By chance, Romeo, the son of Montague, learns of the annual Capulet party, and he allows his kinsman Benvolio to persuade him to attend, even though the Capulets are mortal enemies of the Montagues. Romeo hopes to see his disdainful love, Rosaline, while Benvolio hopes that Romeo will find another woman there.

At the party, Romeo indeed falls in love with another, Juliet, the only daughter of old Capulet. She also falls in love with him. After the ball, Romeo enters the Capulet garden, where he and Juliet converse in the famous balcony scene. She proposes to marry him, and, before they part, she tells him that in the morning she will send her nurse to learn his answer.

That morning, Romeo tells the nurse to instruct Juliet to meet him at Friar Lawrence’s monastery in the afternoon, and there they secretly marry. Before the lovers can consummate their marriage that night, however, Juliet’s cousin Tybalt meets Romeo and challenges him to a duel. Romeo, now related to Tybalt by marriage, refuses the challenge, but Romeo’s friend Mercutio accepts. As Romeo tries to separate the two combatants, Mercutio is slain. Romeo must now choose between the masculine code of revenge and the feminine code of love. He chooses the former and kills Tybalt in a fair fight. The Prince of Verona, who has ordered the Montagues and Capulets to avoid fighting on pain of death, banishes Romeo. After a night with Juliet, Romeo flees to Mantua.

Thinking that Juliet grieves for Tybalt’s death rather than Romeo’s banishment, old Capulet quickly arranges a marriage for his daughter with Paris, a nobleman. Desperate, Juliet consults Friar Lawrence, who gives her a sleeping potion that will make her appear dead; she will then be placed in the Capulet vault. Meanwhile, Friar Lawrence will send a message to Mantua to tell Romeo about the plot. Romeo will come to the vault, meet the reawakened Juliet, and together the couple will flee Verona.

The friar’s potion works, but the plague prevents his messenger from reaching Romeo. Instead, Romeo hears that Juliet has died. Buying a dose of poison, he hastens to Verona and Juliet’s tomb. When Paris confronts him there, Romeo kills him in a duel. He then drinks the poison just before Juliet awakens. Friar Lawrence has come to the crypt too late to save Romeo, but he tries to convince Juliet to leave. Instead, she takes Romeo’s dagger and stabs herself. At last, the feuding families abandon their quarrel and agree to build a statue to the two lovers above their single grave.

Romeo and Juliet Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Capulets’ orchard

Capulets’ orchard. Walled orchard overlooked by Juliet’s window. A place where domestic comfort meets wild nature, the orchard is the place where the play’s star-crossed lovers pledge their troth, and through which Romeo enters Juliet’s chamber to consummate their secret marriage. There, too, the higher and lower aspects of love are contrasted: Juliet, above, representing true romance; and the lane by the wall, below, where Mercutio taunts Romeo with lewd jests.

Friar Laurence’s cell

Friar Laurence’s cell. Sacred place where the lovers repair from the cruel world to find solace and intimate counsel from their sympathetic priest. There the lovers privately confide in the friar their determination to commit suicide. There too the crucial elements of the tragedy’s plot are devised: plans for the secret marriage, the sleeping potion Juliet takes to avoid marrying Paris, and the miscarried letter to bring Romeo back from banishment in Mantua.

Capulets’ tomb

Capulets’ tomb. Place where love and death conjoin in a double suicide on holy ground. Seeming to be dead, Juliet is placed in the tomb, there to awake and find that Romeo has dealt Paris a bloody death and poisoned himself, thinking she is dead. When his lips afford her none of the poison, she plunges his dagger into her bosom. Significantly, the play ends there, not with their deaths, but with the families and townspeople crowding into the holy place to end their feud and honor the dead lovers.

Romeo and Juliet Essential Facts

Full Title: The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet

Author: William Shakespeare

Date of Composition: Mid-1590s

Setting: Verona and Mantua, Italy, during the fourteenth or fifteenth century

Main Characters: Romeo Montague, Juliet Capulet, Friar Laurence, Juliet’s nurse, Lord and Lady Capulet

Main Symbols:

  • Flowers. One of the most famous lines in literature comes from Romeo and Juliet: “That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet” (2.2.45-46). Here, flowers symbolize both beauty and love.
  • Stars. Romeo and Juliet are the “star-cross’d lovers.” Stars in this play are symbols of fate. The fact that the lovers are “cross’d” bespeaks the tragedy that is to come.
  • Darkness and Light. 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).
  • Poison. Friar Laurence concocts a “poison” that will make Romeo appear dead. His plan backfires and the young lovers commit suicide. Poison is a symbol of the way good people can make bad choices.

Main Themes:

  • Love. Romantic love is the dominant theme in the play. The powerfulness and blindness of love is paramount to all concerned, and that is especially true for Romeo and Juliet.
  • Us vs. Them. The young lovers’ refusal to conform is the other dominant theme. Although society presents many obstacles and reasons why Romeo and Juliet cannot be together, the pair pursues their own happiness.
  • Fate. We know from the beginning that the lovers are doomed. As much as they may try to thwart fate, their destinies are predetermined.

 

Romeo and Juliet Quizzes

Act I, Scenes 1-2: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What is the setting for the play?

2. What scene of conflict opens the action of the play?

3. Which character tries to stop the fighting among the servants?

4. Which character is aggressive and eager to fight?

5. What warning does the Prince give to anyone who breaks the peace again?

6. Who has asked for Juliet’s hand in marriage?

7. How old is Juliet?

8. In what state of mind is Romeo when we first see him in the play?

9. Explain how Romeo finds out about the Capulet ball.

10. How does Benvolio try to remedy Romeo’s love sickness?

Answers
1. The setting is a street...

(The entire section is 243 words.)

Act I, Scenes 3-5: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Who is Susan?

2. When is Juliet’s birthday?

3. Why does Lady Capulet visit with Juliet? What questions does she ask her?

4. How do the Nurse and Lady Capulet feel about Paris?

5. Which character loves to talk?

6. Who is Queen Mab?

7. What premonition does Romeo have?

8. How did Lord Capulet force the young ladies to dance with him?

9. Who recognizes Romeo’s voice at the feast and becomes furious because he is allowed to stay?

10. Who first tells Romeo and Juliet who the other is?

Answers
1. Susan is the Nurse’s daughter who was born on the same day as Juliet;...

(The entire section is 251 words.)

Act II, Scenes 1 and 2: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Instead of returning home, where does Romeo go after the ball?

2. What is a soliloquy and how is it used in Scene 2?

3. By whose name does Mercutio call for Romeo?

4. How does Romeo learn of Juliet’s love for him?

5. What does Romeo say helped him climb over the high walls of the Capulet orchard and find Juliet’s window?

6. What do Romeo and Juliet exchange?

7. What do Romeo and Juliet plan to do the next day?

8. To what does Romeo compare Juliet’s beauty?

9. Who keeps interrupting the balcony scene?

10. Why does Juliet ask Romeo not to swear by the moon?

Answers
...

(The entire section is 258 words.)

Act II, Scenes 3 and 4: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What is Friar Laurence’s special skill or area of knowledge?

2. With what does Friar Laurence compare the beneficial and poisonous parts of the plant?

3. About what does the Friar caution Romeo?

4. Why does the Friar agree to marry Romeo and Juliet?

5. Who has sent Romeo a challenge for a duel?

6. What excuse is Juliet to give for going to Friar Laurence’s cell?

7. Where are Romeo and Juliet to be married?

8. Who teases Romeo about Rosaline and his love-sickness?

9. Who teases the Nurse and causes her to become crass?

10. How does Romeo plan to get into Juliet’s window?

...

(The entire section is 265 words.)

Act II, Scenes 5 and 6: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. At what time did Juliet send the Nurse to see Romeo and find out the wedding plans?

2. How long has Juliet been waiting for the Nurse to return with the news from Romeo?

3. How does the Nurse react when she finally returns?

4. How does the Nurse feel about the marriage?

5. What is the Friar afraid of?

6. The friar warns Romeo again about something. What is it?

7. How much do the lovers say their love has grown?

8. How many people know of the marriage?

9. Where does the marriage take place?

10. What is another name for the Friar?

Answers
1. Juliet sent the Nurse at nine...

(The entire section is 253 words.)

Act III, Scenes 1 and 2: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Who begs Mercutio to leave the streets of Verona because the Capulets might also be out on this extremely hot day?

2. Who comes to the public square looking for a fight with Romeo?

3. What does Mercutio call Tybalt?

4. How does Tybalt insult Romeo and try to get him to fight him?

5. Why won’t Romeo fight Tybalt?

6. Why does Mercutio fight Tybalt?

7. How is Mercutio killed?

8. Why does Romeo kill Tybalt?

9. Who tells the Prince about the murders?

10. What is Romeo’s punishment?

Answers
1. Benvolio tries to get Mercutio to leave the streets of Verona because he is...

(The entire section is 260 words.)

Act III, Scenes 3 and 4: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What day is it in Scene 3?

2. Where did Romeo run to hide after the murder of Tybalt?

3. How does he react to the news that he is banished from Verona?

4. Who tells him that the Prince has banished him?

5. What upsets Romeo the most about being banished?

6. The Friar gives three reasons that Romeo should be happy. What were they?

7. What does the Nurse give to Romeo?

8. Where is Romeo to go before daybreak?

9. On what day does Lord Capulet plan for Juliet to be married to Paris?

10. Who is to tell Juliet the “good news” concerning her future marriage to Paris?

...

(The entire section is 232 words.)

Act III, Scene 5: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. On what day does Scene 5 take place?

2. What is significant about the lark and the nightingale?

3. What vision does Juliet have as Romeo is leaving?

4. Who comes to visit with Juliet early that morning?

5. What news does Lady Capulet give to Juliet?

6. What is Juliet’s reaction to the news that Lady Capulet gives her?

7. Who does Juliet turn to for help when her parents leave?

8. What advice does the Nurse give Juliet?

9. Why does Juliet tell the Nurse that she is going to see Friar Laurence?

10. If the Friar cannot furnish a solution for Juliet, what does she have the power to do?

...

(The entire section is 302 words.)

Act IV, Scenes 1-3: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why is Paris at Friar Laurence’s cell?

2. What reason does Paris give the Friar for the hasty marriage?

3. How long will the sleeping potion take effect?

4. Where will Juliet be put after her family believes that she is dead?

5. Who will be waiting in the tomb when Juliet awakens from the sleeping potion?

6. Who is supervising the preparations for the wedding?

7. What change does Lord Capulet make in the wedding plans?

8. If the potion does not work, what does Juliet plan to do?

9. What vision makes her have the strength to go ahead and drink the potion?

10. How will Romeo know about the...

(The entire section is 242 words.)

Act IV, Scenes 4 and 5: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Scene 4 takes place at what time in the morning?

2. Scene 4 takes place on what day?

3. How do the Capulets know that Paris is approaching?

4. Who is sent to wake up Juliet?

5. What does the Nurse find?

6. Who tries to console the Capulets by saying that Juliet is better off in heaven?

7. How do the wedding preparations change after they find Juliet?

8. How does the County Paris react to the death of Juliet?

9. How does Lord Capulet know that she is dead?

10. How does the act end?

Answers
1. Scene 4 takes place at three in the morning.

2. Scene 4 takes place...

(The entire section is 252 words.)

Act V, Scenes 1 and 2: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Where does Scene 1 take place?

2. What was Romeo’s dream?

3. Who brings Romeo the news that Juliet is dead?

4. Why does Romeo go to the Apothecary?

5. How much does Romeo pay for the poison?

6. Why does the Apothecary hesitate in selling Romeo the poison?

7. What persuades the Apothecary to go ahead and sell Romeo the poison?

8. Who does Friar Laurence entrust with the important letter to Romeo?

9. Why is the letter not delivered to Romeo?

10. How long will it be before Juliet wakes up?

Answers
1. Scene 1 takes place in Mantua where Romeo has been banished.

...

(The entire section is 244 words.)

Act V, Scene 3: Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why is Paris at Juliet’s tomb?

2. What is Paris’ last request?

3. Why does Paris think Romeo has come to the Capulet tomb?

4. Who kills Paris?

5. If Romeo had not been so hasty in drinking the poison, what would he have noticed about Juliet?

6. Name the people who have died in this scene.

7. Where does Friar Laurence want to take Juliet?

8. How does Juliet kill herself?

9. Who is suspected the most as a murderer and why?

10. What four accounts does the Prince hear?

Answers
1. Paris has come to Juliet’s tomb to bring flowers and weep.

2. As he dies,...

(The entire section is 249 words.)

Ed. Scott Locklear, Michael Foster