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AS and A Level: Romeo & Juliet

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The social and historical context of 'Romeo and Juliet'

  1. 1 William Shakespeare was born in 1564 – He was a very successful poet and playwright in his own lifetime and is probably the most well-known English writer.
  2. 2 Romeo and Juliet is probably his best known play and was based on a poem – it is not based on a true story.
  3. 3 In Elizabethan times girls could be married as young as twelve. They were considered the property of their father until they married and then they became the property of their husband.
  4. 4 The Elizabethans would have recognised the theme of fate (star cross’d lovers) as they believed that a person’s destiny was already written in the stars and there was little an individual could do to change their destiny.
  5. 5 Romeo and Juliet was written to be performed in a theatre and the prologue makes it clear that this is not a real story.

Shakespeare's ideas and expression

  1. 1 Romeo and Juliet would be recognised by the audience as being a ‘romantic tragedy’ following Aristotle’s definition of tragedy that includes a cathartic experience for the audience who would leave the theatre feeling better after releasing emotion.
  2. 2 Shakespeare created dramatic events to entertain the audience and quickly switches from one event to another. As the audience know more than the characters do about the plot, dramatic irony increases the pathos and drama.
  3. 3 Themes include love, hatred, violence, death and fate. There are also comic scenes.
  4. 4 Most of the play is written in blank verse but includes prose, rhyming couplets and sonnets.
  5. 5 Shakespeare included a range of techniques including puns, similes, metaphors and personification.

Key things to remember when writing essays on Shakespeare's plays

  1. 1 Use PEA – point, evidence and analysis in essays. Ensure you are supporting all of your points with an appropriate quote from the play.
  2. 2 Refer to the essay question in the introduction and conclusion.
  3. 3 Use topic sentences at the beginning of paragraphs to refer back to the question and to inform the reader what is going to be in the paragraph.
  4. 4 Use terminology accurately when analysing Shakespeare’s language.
  5. 5 Information on tragedy as a genre should be included in the main body of the essay.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 12
  • Peer Reviewed essays 1
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  1. Marked by a teacher

    How effective is the Prologue as an introduction to Romeo and Juliet?

    5 star(s)

    The sonnet reveals to the audience the degree of Shakespeare's poetic genius to create a language - which in all its diversity can capture the most beautiful love story of all time. The first quatrain explains the background and setting to the play, explaining that the play is set in Verona, Italy. Shakespeare chose Italy as the setting for a number of his plays; although it is thought that he never actually travelled to the country, it was regarded in Elizabethan times to be a country of wealth and romance.

    • Word count: 1720
  2. Marked by a teacher


    4 star(s)

    Throughout this small speech, Juliet appears to be a model and dutiful daughter, but is she really as loyal and obedient as first impressions suggest? On one hand Juliet tells her mother that she will do only what she is told, and promises to look at the Prince, possibly even accept his hand in marriage. Nevertheless, on the other hand, Juliet deliberately disobeys her mothers' obvious wish by not agreeing to the marriage straight away. She has therefore taken control of the situation, and has not agreed to do anything that she doesn't want to do.

    • Word count: 3564
  3. Marked by a teacher

    An analysis of Baz luhrmann's interpretation of 'Romeo and Juliet'.

    4 star(s)

    The types of film Baz Luhrmann used in the prologue are TV news style footage showing you how much of their fighting is causing their city to be more violent, as well as this they are trying to say that what is happening between the Montague's and the Capulet's has an effect on the rest of the city. By doing the prologue, as TV news footage is a clever thing to do, as it is an original idea and by doing it in this way it will keep the audience hooked to the rest of the movie.

    • Word count: 1208
  4. Marked by a teacher

    Examine the role of women in Romeo and Juliet, and explore the role of women in 16th century society

    4 star(s)

    Juliet, and contrast it to the role of women today. Juliet's relationship with her parents is very different to what would be expected today. In the 16th century it was common for wealthy parents to employ a nurse to bring up their children, to be what a mother figure is like today. Juliet's relationship is typical of the period in which the play was set: her affluent parents employed the Nurse (who had given birth at the same time as Lady Capulet) to care for their daughter when she was born, and "wean" her.

    • Word count: 1090
  5. Marked by a teacher

    How does Shakespeare present the characters of Romeo and Juliet in Act Two, Scene Two of the play?

    3 star(s)

    Romeo appeared to have a very poetic, yet bleak, attitude to love. This is demonstrated by Romeo's use of extended oxymoron in Act One, Scene One, where he talked of "loving hate", and "misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms". His poetic words seemed to indicate that perhaps Romeo was not in love, rather in love with the idea of being in love. He spoke of Rosaline, the object of his love, as though she was a deity, even stating she has characteristics of the goddess Diana ("she has Dian's wit").

    • Word count: 1225
  6. Marked by a teacher

    Shakespeare coursework- Romeo and Juliet Why is Act 1 scene 5 an effective piece of drama?

    3 star(s)

    Shakespeare makes the audience realise that Capulet and his cousin were both young as are Romeo and Juliet. The third section of Act 1 Scene 5 is when Romeo sees Juliet for the first time and is immediately captured by her beauty. "Beauty too rich for use, for Earth too dear!" This shows the extent of exaggeration that is caused by Romeo's extreme state of mind due to the recent events with Rosaline. The mood that Shakespeare sets out in this section is love at first sight it is also hopeful of a relationship and that it might work out.

    • Word count: 1761
  7. Marked by a teacher

    Romeo and Juliet comparison

    3 star(s)

    In Franco Zeffirelli's production of 'Romeo and Juliet', the prologue is very brief and short. The film starts off with the details, the opening credits. The font to the credits is in white and in a quite gothic style of writing making it fit in with the traditional theme. While the details are slowly appearing on the screen, around the screen there is a thin border of orange geometric shapes on a yellow background. As the border is so bright and colourful, it is able to immediately catch the audience's eyes and therefore grabs their attention. The border suggests a very sixties styles. You would probably expect a more formal, dark edged kind of border.

    • Word count: 5398
  8. Marked by a teacher

    Romeo and Juliet is a play about conflict. By exploring Act 3 scene 5 explain how this theme is presented.

    3 star(s)

    Lord Capulet throws some insults at Juliet such as "green-sickness carrion" and "you baggage" which shows Capulet can be an abusive and angry natured character. He also manages to insult Juliet by mimicking her with such words as "I'll not wed, I am too young to love" which shows Capulet mocking Juliet's feelings. As soon as Juliet realises that Capulet refuses her wishes she turns to her mother which she is not as close to present day mothers and daughters and yet her mother lady Capulet "is she not down so late, or up so early" which shows they have a distant relationship as Juliet's mother does not often see her.

    • Word count: 802
  9. Marked by a teacher

    How Shakespeare presents Romeo & Juliet's early relationship.

    3 star(s)

    ' Out of her favour where I am in love' (I.II.166) Shakespeare has also portrayed Romeo as a young romantic and very poetic in his language. 'And she is fair I love, (I.II.204) In this poetic line, Romeo is saying the woman he loves is beautiful. (The woman in question is later revealed as Rosalind). Romeo is around 16, and like anyone around that age he wants to get sexually involved with women, and is frustrated that his love will not loose her 'chaste.'

    • Word count: 2616
  10. Marked by a teacher

    Interview of Friar Lawrence and Nurse after Romeo and Juliet's' Deaths

    3 star(s)

    I tried my best to unite two people who were very much in love. Yes, I did perform the marriage ceremony but I did it in good faith, I never knew what atrocities it would bring about. I also tried to help Romeo and Juliet when they were in trouble. After Romeo was exiled I helped arrange his escape to Mantua, for, you understand it might be possible for them to meet there. When I gave Juliet the drug I thought that I was doing the right thing. She was in a mess, she couldn't tell her parents so with my knowledge of herbal remedies I supplied her with the draught.

    • Word count: 858
  11. Marked by a teacher

    Describe the relationship between Juliet and her parents.

    3 star(s)

    Here we see that the relationship between Juliet and her parents is wearing out because when she is in love with Romeo she goes to the nurse for advice and does not bring her parents into it. Juliet's dad is a very unhappy person because he is worried when Juliet refused to marry Paris. Juliet does not want to marry Paris this is because she is in love with Romeo. She does not like Paris because of his act in the story.

    • Word count: 479
  12. Marked by a teacher

    For whom do you feel most sympathy in the play, Romeo and Juliet?

    3 star(s)

    The nurse, very close to Juliet, betrayed her at a very crucial moment; `I think it best you married with the County. ` It would have been heart wrenching for her to know that she let Juliet die without being on the best of terms with her. In some ways I feel the most sympathy for the Friar as he has the deaths of both Romeo and Juliet on his shoulders. He devised that plan that lead the young couple to their deaths and that in itself is a big burden.

    • Word count: 650
  13. Peer reviewed

    Is lord Capulet a good father?

    4 star(s)

    Lord Capulet clearly loves his daughter very much but this love is contrasted to his great temper. In my essay I am going to argue the good points of Lord Capulet as a father as well as the bad. We can see that Capulet loves Juliet very much from the way he speaks about her to Paris in act 2 scene 2 'stranger in the world.' This shows he is protective of her. He wants her to be happy and shows his affection, 'she's the hopeful lady of my earth.' 'Woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart.'

    • Word count: 612
  14. Romeo and Juliet: Act One Scene One. Despite all the violence that eventually follows, Act One Scene One for the most part borders on comical. Sampson and Gregory exchange sex jokes linked to the conflict

    However, in contrast to the servants, they don't seem to support either side, - 'Down with the Capulets! Down with the Montagues!' - indeed, this suggests they are actually sick of the drama this conflict brings and how it seems to involve them. Despite all the violence that eventually follows, Act One Scene One for the most part borders on comical. Sampson and Gregory exchange sex jokes linked to the conflict. Their words are confrontational, however bawdiness runs through them, for example 'Therefore women, being the weaker vessels, are ever thrust to the wall'.

    • Word count: 1291
  15. Romeo and Juliet: Give Me Love or Give Me Death

    Romeo is the most memorable of all the characters. At first, the reader might admire him for his passion and zest for life. However, as the play unfolds, Romeo proves to be dangerously impulsive, and this flaw in his personality brings about the tragic ending. Romeo acts impulsively throughout act one which takes place at the Capulet's party. The entire day Romeo is gloomy and sad about his unrequited love for Rosaline. He conveys his heavy heart saying, "I have a soul of lead/ so stakes me to the ground I cannot move" (1.4 15-16).

    • Word count: 620
  16. Themes introduced my Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet

    To cry, "A plague on both your houses!" in that day and age was an extreme insult, and considered as a curse on not just ones self, but on an entire family (or "house"). The black plague was extremely prominent, burned into the minds of the English. It had wiped out more than a third of Europe's population, and had crippled many prominent families. To utter such words was to curse ones family to suffer from the plague, effectively resulting in the death of various people.

    • Word count: 741
  17. Romeo And Juliet

    This meant that men were more in charge and had a higher status than women. Young girls from well-to-do families were expected to be married at a very young age, and they had very little choice in the matter. In Act 1 Scene 2, Lord Capulet is presented as a fair, liberal and generous man. In the scene he is speaking to Paris, and Paris keeps asking for Juliet's hand in marriage. However, Lord Capulet disagrees, which would be unusual in those days. ''She hath not seen the change of 14 years, Let 2 more summers wither in their pride, Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride'' Here he is saying that

    • Word count: 1729
  18. How does Shakespeare present the character of Mercutio and what role does he play in Romeo and Juliet?

    'Ah the immortal 'passado,' the 'punto reverso,' the 'hay!' ' He is mocking the names of popular fencing moves. In Shakespearean times it was the comic side of Mercutios role that would have appealed to the lower class 'peasant' members of the audience who had a more immature sense of humour than that of the wealthier ones. There is quite a clear contrast between Romeo and Mercutio in the play despite their close friendship. The way they view the subject of love for example is very different, this is shown during their conversation in act 1 scene 4: Mercutio, Romeo

    • Word count: 1366
  19. Who is to blame for the deaths of tybalt and mercutio?

    The Prince and Lord and Lady Capulet and Montague arrive to find out what's happened. Benvolio explains and the Prince banishes Romeo from Verona. At the beginning of the scene the characters speak in prose which is informal language, this is a chatty style of talking. The younger characters all speak prose to one another unless they are talking to someone of a higher status. The Lord and Lady Capulet and Montague speak in poetry, this is formal language and people of a lower status or young people speak to them in poetry to show respect.

    • Word count: 1442
  20. How is dramatic tension built in Act 3 Scene 5 of 'Romeo and Juliet'

    Juliet is trying to savour the moments she has left with Romeo as she knows he will soon have to go after being banished from Verona. The lark represents the beginning of day, and Juliet denies that it was the lark they heard, but it was the nightingale to signify that it is still night. The audience feel shocked as Juliet is asking Romeo to stay longer with her, even though he may be killed if found in Verona. Romeo continues to disagree with Juliet about the lark and gives her an ultimatum "I must be gone and live, or stay and die" The audience now feel concerned about Romeo's welfare.

    • Word count: 2661
  21. Romeo and Juliet essay

    Juliet received a potion to take before the wedding that would make her appear as if she was dead. Friar Lawrence told her that Romeo would be at the tomb to rescue her from the tragedy. The plan seemed like it was going to work but Romeo thought she was actually dead. This tragedy of infatuation combined with Juliet's bad decisions and communication in solving problems resulted in the unnecessary deaths of Romeo and Juliet. In the play, Juliet agrees to marry Romeo, her family's moral enemy. Although Juliet barely knows Romeo she believes she is truly in love.

    • Word count: 581
  22. Fictional Obituary: Romeo and Juliet

    He also won the award for being the most handsome and good looking youngster of Verona. Although his death caused a lot of grievance, it had a positive outcome also. His death caused the end of the hostility between the Montagues and Capulets. He is survived by his father and mother. God bless his soul. Paris Escalus Paris Escalus sadly died on 21st October 1602.

    • Word count: 501
  23. Romeo and Juliet - Shakespeare creates in his two lead characters, not merely a love based on physical attraction, but, as his choice of language shows, a meeting of minds and souls. Discuss the dramatic effect of this in your choice of key scenes.

    During act 1 scene 1 Romeo again questions the meaning of love with Benvolio "love is a smoke with the fume of sighs." In this section Romeo is talking about the sad aspects of love, and smoke implies that love is unclear. Shakespeare uses language that makes Romeo sound clever and intelligent. "Not having that which, having makes them short." Here Romeo cleverly and wittingly quips that the possession of something makes a person happy, suddenly makes time run quickly.

    • Word count: 1913
  24. Free essay

    Examine the ways in which what has happened up to Act 3 of the play. Is Friar Lawrence to blame for making this decision?

    His intentions seem good but he is too positive in the marriage of Romeo and Juliet, thinking it will bring the two feuding families together. Tragically, the two families do restore peace at last, but the price is the death of the two couples. Though being cunning and cautious throughout the play, Friar Lawrence is depicted as a coward for not admitting his failure to his plan and escapes at the end, leaving Juliet alone in the tomb. Friar Lawrence plays an important role in "Romeo & Juliet".

    • Word count: 739
  25. Romeo & Juliet Act 1 Scene 1

    Gregory and Sampson serve more than one purpose in the first scene. Shakespeare was a skilled writer, and it is evident from this play and from many others that whilst writing his scripts he was trying to consider every possible person that may be apparent in his audience, from the reigning Queen Elizabeth, for which the play was originally written for, to the lower class Elizabethans who shared a simple humour and minimal understanding. Romeo and Juliet with its various twists and underlying themes is effortlessly capable of engaging the most intellectual of people, and yet as Shakespeare intended, it is just as capable of engaging the more "ordinary" of people.

    • Word count: 2962

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • Discuss Shakespeare's use of the chorus in Romeo and Juliet paying particular attention to the language and its dramatisation.

    "If there was no prologue the story may be a bit confusing as the plot thickens the audience would be baffled as to what's going on. The ending would not be as effective as the audience wouldn't know they were going to die so it would be a shock, and they then would not realise how cleverly produced the play was to come to this conclusion in such an exciting and eventful way. By Claire Brocklesby"

  • Analyse and comment on the success of the title sequence of Baz Luhrmann's 1997 film adaptation of 'Romeo & Juliet'.

    "In conclusion, considering all the areas of the title scene, Baz Luhrmann has successfully given birth to a fantastic opening to Romeo and Juliet. The title scene underlines key aspects of the sonnet which opens the play, to help the people in the audience who don't understand Shakespeare and even the ones who do. He introduces the principle characters, again to stop the audience from getting confused. The use of exciting images, such as the gun and the images of police and violence makes certain people in the audience stay and not walk out because they may believe it to be boring; many teenagers would believe Shakespeare to be boring. The opening scene had a very strong effect on me personally. It really made me want to see the movie again, even though I had already seen it about three times. The scene gripped me and not many title scenes have done that to me. Baz Luhrmann's version of Romeo and Juliet was a complete success. Alex Kirshbaum"

  • Discuss the relationship between Capulet and his daughter Juliet in the play 'Romeo and Juliet'.

    "In conclusion to my essay the relationship isn't very strong. They don't know much about each other, they don't trust each other and aren't very close. Shakespeare puts the two characters in different situations to let us think this and gives both of them very strong personalities. I think Shakespeare has written about this kind of relationship because of the way his family might have treated him or maybe because he didn't like the way fathers were allowed to treat their daughters."

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