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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. Shakespeares play Romeo and Juliet shows a clear turning point in act 3 scene1 which dramatically changes the outcome

    This can be seen as foreshadowing future events as Tybalt is seen another two times wanting to fight with the opposing family. It is emphasised how much Tybalt despises the Montagues as he suggests that he hates them just as much as hell and then he makes it personal by adding in ?thee? showing he hates Benvolio as an individual Montague as much as the rest of them. By using a receding list going from something universal to a personal issue, it reflects and emphasises Tybalts anger by suggesting that he hates them in that order showing the power of his hatred for the montagues.

    • Word count: 1772
  2. 'Romeo and Juliet is a play that celebrates young love' Agree or Disagree?

    One major example is the scene just before Romeo leaves for the Capulet Ball, where he meets and falls in love with the fair Juliet. He quotes: ?Some consequence yet hanging in the starts?.By some vile forfeit of untimely death. But he hath the steerage of my course, Direct my sail!? In this scene, Romeo fears that something yet ?hanging in the stars?, something destined to happen, will set in motion that night. His premonition seems to keep with what the Prologue tells us and adds to the sense of foreboding.

    • Word count: 1766
  3. What evidence in the play can be interpreted as Mercutios affections toward Romeo being more than platonic?

    Early on in the play, Mercutio is shown to have an aversion to women as well as heterosexual love. One of the clearest examples of Mercutio?s hostility towards women is shown in act 2, scene one when Benvolio and Mercutio are searching for Romeo after the party at the Capulets. ?I must conjure him. I conjure thee by Rosaline's bright eyes, By her high forehead and her scarlet lip, By her fine foot, straight leg and quivering thigh And the demesnes that there adjacent lie, That in thy likeness thou appear to us!

    • Word count: 2004
  4. Major Themes in Romeo and Juliet

    Romeo and Juliet is a play of controversy, conflict, passion and death. ?See what a scourge is laid upon your hate, that heaven finds means to kill your joys with love? clearly represents both the themes of love versus? hate and free will versus fate. The theme of love and hate ultimately shapes the tragedy, working as a backbone for the play. The Montague and Capulet?s strong hated for one another consequently leads to the fatal death of Romeo and Juliet.

    • Word count: 934

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