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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. Romeo is an important character in Romeo and Juliet.

    "So secret and so close" Romeo won't tell anyone what is wrong with him. Benvolio also makes his way to speak to him but even though he saw him he turned and walked off. "Towards him I made but he was ware of me and stole off into the convent of the wood." When Romeo appears he looks sad and miserable, he says to benvolio "Sad hours seem long." Romeos hours seem long because he is in love and the lady he loves doesn't love him back this makes him feel miserable as time is dragging on.

    • Word count: 1033
  2. How far are the older characters in Romeo and Juliet responsible for the tragedy?

    There were also many mistakes in the Capulet household alone, which contributed to the tragic end. For example, Capulet wanted Juliet to get married to Paris, and when she was in doubt he lost his temper to the extent that he could have hit her. This removed the trust between the relationship of the daughter to parents. Thus when she was falling in love with Romeo she was unable to come forth and was forced to do everything in secret.

    • Word count: 949
  3. Romeo and Juliet, Speech on Act 5 Scenes 3.

    They then get married. Mercutio fights with Tybalt and is killed. Romeo then fights with Tybalt and kills him. Romeo is then banished to Mantua. In the mean time Juliet's parents have arranged for her to marry Paris, Juliet then call Friar Lawrence he gives her a potion which makes her appear dead for forty two hours. The Friar says when she lays in the family tomb he will send for Romeo to get her. The letter from friar Lawrence id delayed Romeo hears Juliet is dead Romeo gets poison a rides to Verona he reaches the tomb and sees Juliet lying there He drinks the poison and dies.

    • Word count: 945
  4. To what extent do you feel Baz Luhrmann is successful in making Romeo & Juliet accessible to a modern audience?

    It is also shown as breaking news, which shows the impact of the two feuding families. This is a very good film technique used by Baz Luhrmann because it makes it more dramatic. There is also a picture behind a newsreader which shows a broken ring. This ring symbolizes Romeo and Juliet's broken relationship. Pulling apart a metal by force is very hard, likewise, the broken rings tells us that the lovers have been violently pulled apart. I think that it was a good idea to do this because it grabs the audience's attention effectively and it seems important.

    • Word count: 1335
  5. Why is Act 2 Scene 2 important for the play of Romeo and Juliet?

    Without Act 2 Scene 2 the whole play makes no sense. This is the scene where everyone is waiting for, where Romeo will announce, demonstrate and give explanation how truly, madly, deeply he adore Juliet. Act 2 Scene 2 basically tells us how strong his feelings are, as this will make us understand why they killed them selves at the end. If these is not acted the whole play will be boring, not a very interesting story and people would demand for their money back, those who paid for entertainment at his show.

    • Word count: 957
  6. Study of two scenes from Romeo and Juliet.

    Then she appears on the balcony Romeo below in the garden listening to her personal thoughts about him and the idea of falling in love with her family's foe, possibly the most famous line in literature: "Romeo, Romeo where for art thou Romeo deny thy father and refuse thy name" Although these words are not addressed to Romeo he does hear them from his hiding position in the grounds. He is happy to hear them as he considers whether or not he should respond to them.

    • Word count: 787
  7. Analyse the dramatic impact of Friar Lawrence in the play Romeo and Juliet

    Shakespeare also uses themes such as fate, because in this era common people believed strongly in religion and mysticism. This invites the question; "was the death of Romeo and Juliet due to fate or the influence of other characters, such as Friar Lawrence? Different aspects of Friar Lawrence's character are exposed through the relationship he has with that particular person. To all of Verona he is a priest and spiritual adviser; to Romeo he is a teacher as well as a father figure; "Thou chid'st me oft for loving Rosaline." "For doting, not for loving, pupil mine." (2.3.81-82), Trust slowly develops between Juliet and Friar Lawrence; this is evident when she visits him to discuss the banishment of Romeo.

    • Word count: 908
  8. Examine Shakespeare's presentation of the Nurse with particular reference to Act 1 Scene 3, Act 2 Scene 5 and Act 3 Scene 5

    Again this demonstrates Shakespeare's constant change in his presentation of the Nurse's behaviour. It is this, which holds the audiences attention. Act 1 Scene 3 is our first encounter with the Nurse and is the audience's first chance to form opinions about her. We see her as a loud and bawdy character, which reminds us of Samson and Gregory in the previous scene. Shakespeare presents her in direct contrast to Romeo in the first scene who is lovesick and quiet. Again, this technique grabs the audience's attention because of the change in mood.

    • Word count: 836
  9. Discuss the various perceptions of love in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Then choose two contrasting examples and explain how you would stage them to show these contrasts.

    'Tis true and therefore woman being the weaker vessel are ever thrust to the wall.' Act 1 scene 1 This shows their characters to have no respect for woman and the audience can presume that they have never experienced true love, which is a major contrast to Romeo and Juliet's love. Another character who is extremely bawdy is the nurse, 'Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wilt.' Act 1 scene 3. Although we learn that she is widowed, her marriage was based around sex and not around love, therefore the nurse does not understand the desperation Juliet feels for Romeo.

    • Word count: 1678
  10. How does Shakespeare engage the audience in the First Act of

    There are various other similar instances of 'Shakespeare humour' in the first act, as well as the rest of the play. The very first factor you are likely to notice when reading the play however, is that 'Fate' plays a large part in the outcome of the play. An example of this is shown at the beginning of the play in the prologue. Shakespeare wants us all to realise straight away that "Romeo and Juliet" isn't going to be a joyful romance story with a 'happily ever after ending.'

    • Word count: 1277
  11. Love is a central theme in Romeo and Juliet. Explore the different kinds of love revealed in the play.

    The Capulets are associated with control rather than allowing their daughter freedom to explore and choose for herself. They choose her husband for her (which most parents in the 16th century do). Juliet accepts this and is prepared to go along with it until she finds true love in Romeo. Another type of love is care and nurture between Juliet and the nurse, and the Friar and Romeo. Juliet was brought up by her nurse and the nurse has a motherly love for Juliet, like she would for her own daughter.

    • Word count: 2068
  12. Contrast the occasion Romeo and Juliet are together at the ball with the last when Romeo breaks into the Capulet tomb.

    The first meeting is a happy and passionate occasion. Romeo and Juliet instantly fall in love. This is a complete contrast to the second time they meet in the Capulet's tomb. Romeo has had news that Juliet is dead and risks his life to go to Verona to see for himself. He gets to the tomb and Paris, Juliet's fianc� is there. Romeo tells him to leave but he refuses so they have a fight and Paris is killed. Romeo says his last words to Juliet and drinks the poison he has bought before coming to the tomb, and dies.

    • Word count: 1809
  13. How does Shakespeare Show Juliet's Changing Emotions and State of Mind though Language and Drama.

    We can also see the literal effect of this as the Nurse breast fed Juliet when she was new born and has been her carer almost ever since. Lady Capulet seems nervous to address the idea of marriage with her daughter. We see this as she asks the Nurse to leave her and Juliet as they must talk in private, but contradicts herself and calls the Nurse back again. This shows that she feels uncomfortable being alone with Juliet and that possibly she doesn't know how to address the subject with someone so close in blood but distant in companionship.

    • Word count: 2024
  14. Compare the opening shots in Baz Luhrmann and Franco Zeffirelli's versions of Romeo and Juliet. Which do you think is the most effective and why?

    The background of petrol stations, highways and tall buildings makes the setting familiar to a modern audience. In contrast Zeffirelli's film version is set in Renaissance times. The sixties was a time when young love was much to the fore with all its rebellion and youth culture. It was filmed in 1968 on location in Verona in Italy where Shakespeare's play was set. The props and clothes belong to the Elizabethan times. Zeffirelli is trying to recreate the setting of Romeo and Juliet as closely as possible to how Shakespeare imagined it. This approach has more appeal to an older audience. The prologue, which is a 14-line sonnet, is present in both versions of 'Romeo and Juliet'.

    • Word count: 2120
  15. Romeo and Juliet experience disaster in their lives partially due to inadequate parenting. Examine how well each parent/carer copes with his/her role.

    The Nurse is the only alternative for Juliet to have comfort from apart from the Friar who she also goes for comfort from. "for the gentlewoman is young and therefore, if you should deal double with her, truly it were and ill thing... and very weak dealing" The support the Nurse was giving to Juliet made her feel that the there is someone there for her to support and look after her in situations where she needs the Nurse the most, by telling Romeo not to chat on her.

    • Word count: 2220
  16. Romeo and Juliet - own version

    Other words such as "grudge", "foes" "rage" and "mutiny" represent the fact that the feud has built over time and bitterness arisen. Words such as "blood", "death" and "end" obviously indicate that death will lead to the end of the feud. Key groups of words give clear impressions as to how and why the grudges are being held. The prologue blatantly reveals the outcome of the play in order to emphasise that the play is not just about what, but about why and how these things occur which is more important.

    • Word count: 2265
  17. Why is act 3 scene 5 so effective in Romeo and Juliet?

    other, knowing there is a chance they will never see each other again which makes the goodbye scene a memorable moment for the audience. The exchange between Romeo and Juliet in which Romeo speaks of being "put to death" hints at future disturbance. It reminds us that despite their declaration of love for each other all is not well, there is a tense atmosphere lurking under the surface. Juliet's exchange with her mother reveals that she mistakenly believes that Juliet weeps for Tybalt.

    • Word count: 1806
  18. In Act 3 Scene 5, how does Shakespeare create dramatic effect (including use of language and character interaction)? Romeo and Juliet

    Romeo is forced to leave for exile in the morning, and Juliet not wanting him to leave, both try to pretend that it is still night, and that the light is actually darkness. "It was the nightingale and not the lark." The lark symbolises daylight, which is against them, and the nightingale symbolises darkness, as concealment through darkness is their only hope. "More light and light, more dark and dark our woes." This pun is used to create dramatic irony, as when Romeo says this he doesn't know the terrible things the future holds.

    • Word count: 1786
  19. Romeo and Juliet is a love story. Why does Shakespeare use so much violence?

    The play Romeo and Juliet is tragedy. It is mainly a love-story but it contains so much violence. In this play Shakespeare produces fantastic visions of violence in the world. The violence in Romeo and Juliet is very important because it shows the prejudice between the two families, Capulet and Montague, which never was resolved because they were enemies. In each case, disruption, fighting, injuries and occur. In the first section of the play 'the prologue' it makes audience ready to watch story full of violence because it tell audience what to expect from watching the play- "Civil bloods make civil hands unclean".

    • Word count: 1153
  20. Romeo and Juliet experience disaster in their lives partially due to inadequate parenting. Examine how each parent carer copes with his/her role.

    Lord Capulet is certainly one of the causes of Juliet's poor parenting. Lord Capulet domineers his relationships; his tyrannical behaviour dismisses Juliet when she refuses to marry Paris. He explodes into a violent and fuming mood constantly cursing Juliet for her childish and unfaithful actions and at point in his uncontrolled anger he threatens to strike Juliet as his 'fingers itch'. Lord Capulet's forceful and uncontrolled actions make it difficult for Juliet to explain her situation. It is Lord Capulet's unsupportive and inadequate parenting along with his insensitivity regarding Juliet's feeling and emotions which drives her away from her family, towards Romeo and eventually to her suicide.

    • Word count: 1880
  21. Analysing film trailers.

    Types of editing include quick/medium/slow cuts between clips, slow-motion and text (captions that appear on the trailer). Saturation, de-saturation and editing are all internal media devices; there are many external devices in connection with trailers such as: - adverts on buses, newspapers, e-commerce, TV spots, radio adverts, bill boards and movie reviews. If you hear good things about a movie, you are more likely to go and see it. The two movies I have chosen to analyse are "Romeo & Juliet" and "Ocean's Eleven", I will be comparing and contrasting these two trailers. Romeo & Juliet" was directed by Baz Luhrmann and was released in 1996; it is a modern version of William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet.

    • Word count: 3631
  22. Studying two film versions of Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet'.

    The images were showing us the two famous buildings of the city, the Capulets building and the Montague's buildings. I know which building belongs to, because on the top of the buildings has the owners name in big letters. An other thing that I liked about this version was that when we were hearing the Narrator's voice saying the prologue for the second time, we hear the words that he says being accompanied by the newspaper headlines with the picture of the two families with a given fore names.

    • Word count: 929
  23. Does Romeo and Juliet Fit Aristotle's Definition Of A Tragedy?

    A serious fictional story is a recital of happenings either true or fictitious which is then carried out in a grave manner. For example, the reader can infer Romeo and Juliet is a serious fictional story which always involves important figures who have a fatal flaw from the quote "Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona (where we lay our scene), from ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean." P.1-4. Seriousness is shown by "where civil blood makes civil hands unclean" because when people kill each other, as this quote states, it is very grave.

    • Word count: 1849
  24. Give a detailed analysis of how the opening scene of Romeo and Juliet stimulates dramatic expectation in addition to entertaining and informing the audience

    In some ways this is a taster for the audience for what is to happen next. In the opening part of the scene, we see two boys from the Capulet house, Sampson and Gregory, boasting about their sexual prowess. In addition to their jokes being grossly humoured, they are written in a witty way, which the audience at the time would have found particularly clever and entertaining. 'Sampson: I mean, and we be in choler, we'll draw. Gregory: Any, while you live, draw your neck out of collar.'

    • Word count: 698
  25. Friar Lawrence's Diary of Events leadings to Romeo and Juliet's deaths.

    I'm here to marry them, not judge. So the small ceremony took place later, early afternoon. But the happy day didn't last long, Romeo came to me mid-afternoon confessing to the murder of Tybalt. What could I say? I had never murdered anyone before. I advised him to visit his wife, Juliet and to talk to her. He is probably there now. Tuesday 18th June I had a visit from Paris today, asking me to marry him and Juliet! She seems a very popular young woman. But I am felling that the situation is getting more twisted and confusing.

    • Word count: 768

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