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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
  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. 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

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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