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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.

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  1. Analyse the impact of Violence in Act 1 of "Romeo and Juliet"

    Words such as 'grudge', 'mutiny', ' blood', all suggest this. Also the quote: "Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean" Shows the reader that members of the general public are going to cause harm or even kill (as suggested by the words 'civil blood'). The prologue gives an insight to the play. From this prologue I have learnt that this play is about two families, who have had a feud between them that has been around for a long time.

    • Word count: 671
  2. The Modern setting of 'Romeo and Juliet' is an extreme change to the original version. The director & producer Baz Luhrman introduces a modern setting of full violence in only the first scene of the film

    Doth with their death bury their parent's strife, The fearful passage of their death marked love, And the continuous of their parents rage, Which but their children's end nought could remove, Is now the two hour traffic of our stage" To someone who has never read the prologue before this may seem like gibberish but really has a rather large and deep meaningful background to it. A very famous line known to the prologue is: "Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean" When put into meaning this short line has a rather large role to the play.

    • Word count: 1533
  3. In conclusion Romeo's character has distorted right through the play. The change in situations through the acts have influenced Romeo's personality

    Romeo's contradictory language is a clear indication of how Romeo's perceptions and feelings are awkwardly diverse. The repetitive use of oxymoron demonstrates that Romeo's emotions are mixed up regarding his relationship with Rosaline. " Love is a smoke" " Loving hate" Romeo dialects in this elaborate way of speaking, the constant use of fanciful imagery and rhyming couplets show that his emotions are "artificial" and are not coming from his heart. Following Romeo's confused and heartfelt speech, Benvolio advises Romeo that the cure for love is to look at other girls and go along to Capulet party.

    • Word count: 1290
  4. Compare and contrast the opening sequence of the Luhrman and Zeffirelli film versions of Romeo and Juliet. Analyse the effect each sequence has on the audience. Which version do you prefer and why?

    As the Zeffirelli film is targeted for a grown-up audience the music at the beginning of the film is Elizabethan romantic orchestral. As the chorus is said the camera pans over long shot of the fifteenth century Verona, and the director's name is superimposed to focus on a misty sun. The camera then zooms in on the sun and the words William Shakespeare appear below it, this is then cut to a shot from inside city walls where the title is suddenly superimposed on the wall.

    • Word count: 2453
  5. Analysis of Baz Lurhmann's Romeo and Juliet Prologue

    Friar Lawrence hopes that this will be the end to the fighting and hostility between the two noble families. Romeo and Juliet resolve to keep their marriage a secret, and plan to run away together. Juliet asks Friar Lawrence to give her a sleeping potion that will appear as though she has been poisoned, while Romeo 'disappears' to their new home. But when Romeo comes to find Juliet, he believes that she has actually been poisoned. He declares his love and then drinks poison of his own. Juliet then wakes up, finds Romeo dead, and stabs herself with his dagger.

    • Word count: 670
  6. How did Shakespeare create tension in act 1 scene 5 of Romeo and Juliet

    JULIET: Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer. ROMEO: O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do; They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair. JULIET: Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake. ROMEO: Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take. Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged." (act 1 scene 5)This was used lot in Shakespeare plays. What also added to the tension is that the ball has been set up for the announcement of pairs proposing to Juliet "LADY CAPULET: marry, that 'marry' is the very theme I came to talk of.

    • Word count: 28718
  7. Compare how Shakespeare and Luhramann engage the audience and set up the play's theme in the opening of "Romeo and Juliet"

    the back of the theatre whereas the peasant would be standing in front and were named the Groundlings as the were on the ground. This proves that all ranges of audience came to watch his plays. Which means that he would have to write plays according to the taste of the Queen, the Aristocrats and the groundlings. Shakespeare created the prologue keeping in mind the audiences taste. The Prologue is written in forms of a sonnet, a trailer to what the audience was going to see.

    • Word count: 1816
  8. Juliet Character Study

    Her first line tells us a lot about her relationship with her mother. She calls Lady Capulet 'Madam' which would suggest that their relationship isn't a very close one. Also from this scene we can tell that Juliet is quite immature and disinterested in men and marriage, she says 'It is an honour that I dream not of'. Lady Capulet tries to persuade Juliet to marry Paris but Juliet is having none of it. She tells Lady Capulet that she'll 'Look to like'. This shows us that she is optimistic but also stubborn, she isn't allowing her mother to back her into a corner.

    • Word count: 873
  9. Compare and contrast West Side Story with Romeo & Juliet

    It was set in gun barron New York City against the tenement section of New York City. These two settings are completely different as you probably know. New York City is a massive and very up to the minute place and is known as the financial capital of America whereas Verona is significantly smaller, more secluded and far more provincial than New York City. As you can probably tell from the settings of the two plays, the societies in which the characters live are also very different. The two Italian families in Romeo & Juliet are both upper class, rich and also powerful.

    • Word count: 534
  10. In Romeo and Juliet Juliet broke the rules that a good daughter and wife should have followed in Verona's times. Juliet fell in love with and married a Montague

    The Montagues were a wealthy and reasonably well respected family. The Capulets were also at the same stage in the hierarchy triangle. We know this because in the chorus at the beginning of the play it mentions "two households, both alike in dignity" The chorus is there to set out the story so that the audience knew what was going to happen in the play. Instead of ruining the story, this actually makes it easier to understand because, had the audience not known, they would not be able to follow.

    • Word count: 1296
  11. Discuss The Dramatic Effectiveness of The Soliloquies in Romeo and Juliet.

    Shakespeare informs his audience of this by using several devices; he uses blank verse and rhyming couplets. Blank verse was used to identify a key individual and the use of rhyming couplets helped to emphasise this. Whilst watching this soliloquy amongst the tension in the theatre the audience would gain respect for him. This is because the Friar is a man who looks at life through all different aspects. When the Friar is talking about the plants "With baleful weeds and precious-juiced flowers" makes him seem genuine as he appreciates the power of something others would not.

    • Word count: 1753
  12. Romeo and Juliet, From Verona City to Verona Beach USA

    A nice touch by Lurhman, keeping the language the same but still taking this play forward in time. Once the reporter is finished the camera dives in to the T.V. taking us to the setting with dramatic music playing in the background. The setting of the original play is Verona, Italy; Lurhman cunningly changed this to Verona beach, USA the perfect setting for all famous Hollywood movies! The prologue is repeated again but this time by the voice of a man with a very deep voice, making the prologue sound more meaningful.

    • Word count: 994
  13. Exploring the Way the Women are Portrayed in Romeo and Juliet

    Why call you for a sword?" She agrees with Capulet and never argues with him or disagrees. This could mean she is weak and Capulet is the stronger person in the relationship. Lady Capulet's relationship with Juliet is very distant. Even though she is actually Juliet's mother it does not get portrayed as that in the play. She seems to be very unsympathetic and uncaring towards Juliet. It is almost as if it is the Nurse's job to support and bring up Juliet. Juliet talks to her mother as if she is superior, even though her mother does not properly care for her; it seems as if Juliet has a lot of respect for her mother.

    • Word count: 1496
  14. Overall I think that the main reasons which lead to Romeo's and Juliet's disaster was due to inadequate parenting from Lord and Lady Montague and Lord and Lady Capulet. They didn't show enough love

    This is one effect of inadequate parenting. This was also one of the reasons, which lead to Romeo's disaster, as he couldn't tell his parents his problems. During the play Lord and Lady do show signs of adequate parenting as well, but not enough. Lord Montague was the first to show some signs of adequate parenting out of the two, because when Romeo killed Tybalt the prince said that he would kill Romeo as well as a result of what he did, but Lord Montague went to the prince and begged for him not to kill Romeo and to let him live.

    • Word count: 1654
  15. Could the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet happen today? The story of the "star crossed lovers" is a true tragedy as there was so much potential for the relationship to work.

    This gives him the knowledge to make the concoction that makes Juliet appear dead. If Juliet had not appeared dead, then Romeo would have not have committed suicide. Thus ending with them still alive, but by chance they both had visited Friar Lawrence and not a different religious representative. The relationship between the parents and children makes the suicides truly sad, as Romeo and Juliet were two children who would be missed. Montague and Lady Montague were both concerned for Romeo when he is acting differently because of Rosalyn's rejection. Lady Montague asks Benvolio, Romeo's cousin, "O where is Romeo?"

    • Word count: 1854
  16. How effectively does Shakespeare use scene 1 to introduce the main themes in 'Romeo and Juliet'. 'A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life' this immediately tells the audience the tragic fate

    Using prologues at the beginning of his plays, Shakespeare was able to capture and engage the audience's attention and quieten them down before any of the main characters are introduced. The takes place in the form of a sonnet, this would have contained the classic characteristics of love poetry, this would have been a very successful way to introduce the play because not only would it have captured the audience's attention and quietened them down, but Shakespeare would have used this prologue to give the audience vital information that they would have needed to understand the rest of the play.

    • Word count: 2218
  17. "Consider how and why Shakespeare uses natural images in Sonnet XVIII, "Shall I compare thee..." and act two, scene two, of "Romeo and Juliet".

    mystical, and that fire was passionate, therefore if something or someone was compared to one of these, they knew exactly what was meant. Act two, scene two in Romeo and Juliet is set in Capulet's orchard. This setting is full of natural beauty - plants, flowers, insects - this reflects Romeo and Juliet's natural love for each other. When he enters into the orchard, he talks about Juliet; he says that 'Juliet is the Sun'. This is the first of many natural images within this scene.

    • Word count: 1604
  18. Romeo & Juliet

    The opening scene of the play is in complete contrast to the prologue. We go from a sonnet describing love in very elaborate and poetic language to the coarse and sexual language of two servants. This extreme contrast grabs the attention and interest of the audience straight away. The scene begins with two servants of the Capulet's basically "egging each other on" to fight the enemy. Sampson, the seemingly more hot headed of the two, brags about being "in choler" and that he will "draw" his sword in order to defend the Capulet's.

    • Word count: 1261
  19. In what ways does Shakespeare create suspense, tension and dramatic interest for the audience in Act 1 of the play 'Romeo and Juliet'?

    Shakespeare intentionally used this to create suspense and to get the audience asking questions. This suspense is carried on throughout Act 1 where we witness death threats, love triangles and street fights. These factors are what keep the audience glued to their seats and ready for Act 2. Before the beginning of the play there is a short 'prologue' which acts as an introduction to the play and gives a slight preview of the forthcoming events just as a film trailer would today. This is fourteen lines long and can therefore be classed as a 'sonnet', which were very popular in Shakespeare's time.

    • Word count: 2848
  20. Right from the start Shakespeare makes it clear that there is tension between the two families. He does in the prologue by saying 'From ancient grudge break to new mutiny'. This shows the families quarrel and fight

    He says this because he thinks himself and Gregory would have better luck with the ladies. The next part is with the servants of the houses Sampson, Gregory and Benvolio (house of Capulet) Abram and Balthasar (house of Montague). Shakespeare had made Sampson bite his thumb at Abram by doing this the reaction was bad because in Elizabethan times it was a gesture of defiance. When he does this they begin to argue it creates tension and make you want to read more because you are not sure what will happen. Following on from that Benvolio is then brought in to the scene and says 'part, fools!

    • Word count: 1229
  21. Looking closely at the characters and language in Romeo and Juliet, analyse the dramatic effectiveness in Act 3, Scene 5

    I have been looking closely at Act 3, Scene 5 where Romeo and Juliet have just been secretly married. The scene opens with the two lovers having to part quickly after the Nurse informs Juliet her mother is swiftly approaching. Already a dramatic atmosphere is created, the audience is almost waiting for Romeo and Juliet to be caught out, this they know can simply not happen. Juliet is understandably tearful; Romeo is sympathetic towards her, showing he really cares for her: "I will omit no opportunity That will convey my greetings, love, to thee" All this is in comparison to later scenes in the play showing Juliet solitary and unsupported.

    • Word count: 1034
  22. Explore how Shakespeare presents love through language and drama in the play Romeo and Juliet

    The imagery is religious, tender and sensual. "My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand" Romeo is hoping for a kiss from Juliet who stalls him by playing along with the imagery. "For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch, and palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss There are lots of 'o' and 's' sounds which slow the pace of the exchange, and this is in contrast to Tybalt's harsh, clipped language. In Romeo and Juliet we see how Shakespeare creates dramatic tension using the contrast between the public and private scenes.

    • Word count: 1544
  23. To what extent has Juliet grown through the course of the play?

    This is shown even before Juliet has entered the play. Capulet is discussing with Paris his plans for his daughter to marry him. We learn that Juliet will do as her father says. It is here where we also learn Juliet's age, "My child is yet a stranger in the world She hath not seen the change of fourteen years" As a modern audience we may be shocked to hear that Juliet is just 13, but in Shakespearean times the average life expectancy was about 30 this meant that most girls were married at a younger age than today.

    • Word count: 2227
  24. Which do you think is the most interesting or dramatic scene in the play? Write about your chosen Scene in detail, giving reasons for your choice.

    To twinkle in their spheres till they return. What if her eyes were there, they in her head?" Romeo does not think that Juliet is there, and she doesn't realise that Romeo is around either, and speaks aloud of Romeo. "Wherefore art though Romeo", she says out aloud. Just here she explains that she is disturbed that he comes from the enemy family, the Montague's. She only just realised this at the feast. She is willing to lose her identity, if it means se can love him!

    • Word count: 1128
  25. Comment on Shakespeare's Stagecraft in Act 3, Scene 5 of Romeo and Juliet

    This scene relates to the themes of; Love versus Hate when Romeo says goodbye to Juliet and when Lord Capulet shout at her to marry Paris; Light versus Dark when Juliet tries to convince Romeo to stay she uses metaphors and personification she says that it is still night because she knows it is day and he has to leave; Life versus Death when Juliet has a premonition that she see Romeo dead in a tomb, this dramatic irony because we know they die.

    • Word count: 662

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