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Romeo & Juliet

2010, ShakespeareHelp.com

Frank Dicksee
Romeo and Juliet (1884)

Romeo & Juliet The Basics

Romeo & Juliet was Shakespeares

first major tragedy, his 14th play.

One of Shakespeares earlier plays,

written in 1595

Shakespeare was 33 years old; he

had not developed fully as a

Use of dramatic structure combining

comedy and tragedy and use of
minor characters were early signs of
his dramatic skill.

Romeo & Juliet was one of

Shakespeares most popular plays

during his lifetime.

O, Romeo, Romeo, Wherefore Art Thou

William Hatherell, 1912

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Romeo & Juliet The Text

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:

Title page of theSecond Quarto

ofRomeo and Julietpublished in 1599

The inevitability of Fate

Their parents hatred

Their own impetuous actions

All of the above?


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Romeo & Juliet - Sources

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 Paris.

3. A popular tale of Romeo and Juliet

also existed in a collection by

William Painter, called The Palace of
Pleasure, written in 1582.
Thisbe, John William Waterhouse,


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Romeo & Juliet Adaptations

Romeo & Juliet has been adapted many times for stage,

film, and opera.

18th century productions often omitted scenes that were

considered indecent.
An 18th century operatic adaptation added a happy
19th and 20th century adaptations focused more on realism
and are more faithful to Shakespeares original language.
20th century adaptations
1936 Romeo & Juliet, dir. By George Cukor
1957 West Side Story, music Leonard Bernstein, lyrics

Stephen Sondheim
1968 Romeo & Juliet, dir. by Franco Zeffirelli
1996 Romeo & Juliet, dir. by Baz Luhrmann

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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

Romeo & Juliet Quizzes

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Romeo & Juliet Characters





Friar Laurence

Lord Capulet


Lady Capulet


Lord Montague

Prince Escalus

Lady Montague

Juliets 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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Romeo, the Young Lover

When Romeo meets Juliet at the

party, he immediately falls headover-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 doesnt 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

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Romeo The Balcony Scene (II,


In the most celebrated love scene in

literature, Romeos 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

Juliets enemy.

Romeos words in this scene contain

references to death that foreshadow the

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


Romeo and Juliet, Ford Madox Brown,


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Romeo The Fight Scene (III, 1)

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 Mercutios death by intervening in the

fight with Tybalt.

Romeos good intentions bring about a tragedy.

I thought all for the best

After killing Tybalt as vengeance for Mercutios murder, Romeo

realizes his predicament:

O, I am fortunes fool!

Romeos fatal mistake occurs in a moment of hate in the middle of a

play about love.


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Romeo s Exile

After learning of his exile, Romeo is


In III, 5, the morning after their first night

together, Romeos poetry continues the
pattern of bright images:

Tries to stab himself, preferring death over

life without Juliet.

Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund

Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
(III, 5)

Daylight is now Romeos enemy.

Light is now hateful to their love, which had

been associated with brilliance in the
More light and light; more dark and dark our
woes. (III, 5)
Where's Romeo, William Hatherell,


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The Death of Romeo

Romeos desperate state of mind is emphasized in the

final act.

When Romeo learns of Juliets death, he resolves to join

Then I defy you, stars! (V, 1)
Romeo rashly decides to commit suicide, not waiting to hear
from Friar Laurence.

Romeos 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


Thy drugs are quick. (V, 3)

Ironically, if he had waited a few minutes, the tragedy might
have been averted.


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Light and Dark

The love of Romeo and Juliet is often associated with light in

the darkness.

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


Like lightning, their love is brief, intense and explosive.

When Romeo first sees Juliet, he uses images of light and


O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright.

She hangs upon the cheek of night
As a rich jewel in an Ethiops ear
a snowy dove trooping with crows. (I, 5)


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Light and Dark 2

Light imagery recurs throughout the balcony scene (III, 2).
Romeos 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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Light and Dark - 3

Friar Laurences 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)

Its 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

He compares Romeos situation to powder accidentally set
afire by an unskilled soldier.

Like powder in a skilless soldiers flask,

Is set afire by thine own ignorance. (III, 3)


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Light and Dark - 4

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 ravens 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


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Light and Dark - 5

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 lightmore dark and dark our woes. (III, 5)

When Romeo buys poison from the apothecary, he asks that

it work quickly, unconsciously alluding to Friar Laurences

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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Light and Dark - 6

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 Juliets 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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Love and Violence

The intense love between Romeo and Juliet is often

associated with violence.

This idea is expressed in images that combine light and
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


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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Love and Violence - 2

Both Romeo and Juliet imagine the other is dead on the morning
after their first (and only) night together.


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.


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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Love and Violence - 3


The Reconciliation of the Montagues and Capulets, Edmund Blair Leighton,


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