How does one answer a lot of study guide questions for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, such as, "Why is Paris at Friar Laurence’s cell?"

Expert Answers
Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since we are limited to space, and since students are limited to asking only one question per post, below are some ideas to help get you started, as well as to get you on the right track so that you can complete the answers to your study guide questions all on your own.

One thing worth noting is that none of your study guide questions require complex critical thinking. In other words, they are not asking you to reach your own interpretations and conclusions about certain concepts, characters, or themes. Instead, they are simply asking you what things happened in the play and why. That will make answering your study guide questions much easier, because all you have to do is reach an understanding of what happened in the play. While understanding Shakespeare's language can be challenging at first, it's not impossible, especially if you are willing to put in some extra effort to understand new vocabulary and a new way to read information. Editors of eNotes have not only added to our study guides links to enhanced eText versions of all of Shakespeare's plays, they even added an article that helps teach students how to read Shakespeare titled, "Strategies for Understanding Shakespeare's Language," which is accessible through the eText link under the Study Guide tab for all of Shakespeare's plays, even Romeo and Juliet. Reading over that article should help you better understand how to approach reading Shakespeare's rhythm and unusual grammar, making understanding Shakespeare a lot easier.

But in addition to the article, eNotes also offers an enhanced eText that not only has the modern translation of the Shakespearean language on the right-hand side, it also has difficult words underlined in red, and when you mouse over the word, a definition and explanation of the term shows, making reading Shakespeare on your own, much easier. For example, if we were to look at Act 4, Scene 1, the scene in which Paris has gone to see Friar Laurence in his cell, by reading the scene written in both the Shakespearean language and in the modern translation, we can very easily understand exactly why Paris is in Friar Laurence's cell.

"Why is Paris at Friar Laurence's cell?": One thing we can notice is that Friar Laurence's very first line in this scene is "[on] Thursday, sir? The time is very short," and Paris responds with, "My father Capulet will have it so, / And I am nothing slow to slack his haste" (IV.i.1-3). If we look at the modern translation, eNotes shows us that Paris's line 3 can be translated as "[and] I won't do anything to stop [Capulet] from being so hasty" (3). So what is it that Friar Laurence and Paris could possibly be speaking of? What is it that is supposed to take place on Thursday that Friar Laurence thinks is much too soon? Well, if we recall Paris's earlier scene with Lord Capulet, we can remember that Capulet decided it would be best for his daughter to be married as a distraction from her severe grief over Tybalt. He even tells his wife to inform Juliet that on "Thursday, ... She shall be married to this noble earl," meaning Paris (III.iv.21-22). Plus, the scene just prior to Act 4, Scene 1, Capulet threatens that if she does not consent to marry Paris on Thursday, then she can "hang, beg, starve, die in the streets" (III.v.199-201). Therefore, we know perfectly well that the reason why Paris has gone to Friar Laurence's cell is to make arrangements for their wedding ceremony and to tell Friar Laurence that they will be married on Thursday.

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Romeo and Juliet

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