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Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare

Study Questions & Essay Topics

Key Facts

Quiz

Study Questions

1.

What effect does the accelerated time scheme have on the play’s development? Is it plausible that a love story of this magnitude could take place so quickly? Does the play seem to take place over as little time as it actually occupies?

Because of the intensity of the relationship between Romeo and Juliet and the complex development of events during the few days of the play’s action, the story can certainly seem to take place over a time span much longer than the one it actually occupies. By compressing all the events of the love story into just a few days, Shakespeare adds weight to every moment, and gives the sense that the action is happening so quickly that characters barely have time to react, and, by the end, that matters are careening out of control. This rush heightens the sense of pressure that hangs in the atmosphere of the play. While it may not seem plausible for a story such as Romeo and Juliet to take place over a span of only four days in the real world, this abbreviated time scheme makes sense in the universe of the play.

2.

Compare and contrast the characters of Romeo and Juliet. How do they develop throughout the play? What makes them fall in love with one another?

Romeo is a passionate, extreme, excitable, intelligent, and moody young man, well-liked and admired throughout Verona. He is loyal to his friends, but his behavior is somewhat unpredictable. At the beginning of the play, he mopes over his hopeless unrequited love for Rosaline. In Juliet, Romeo finds a legitimate object for the extraordinary passion that he is capable of feeling, and his unyielding love for her takes control of him.

Juliet, on the other hand, is an innocent girl, a child at the beginning of the play, and is startled by the sudden power of her love for Romeo. Guided by her feelings for him, she develops very quickly into a determined, capable, mature, and loyal woman who tempers her extreme feelings of love with sober-mindedness.

The attraction between Romeo and Juliet is immediate and overwhelming, and neither of the young lovers comments on or pretends to understand its cause. Each mentions the other’s beauty, but it seems that destiny, rather than any particular character trait, has drawn them together. Their love for one another is so undeniable that neither they nor the audience feels the need to question or explain it.

3.

Compare and contrast the characters of Tybalt and Mercutio. Why does Mercutio hate Tybalt?

As Mercutio tells Benvolio, he hates Tybalt for being a slave to fashion and vanity, one of “such antic, lisping, affecting phantas- / ims, these new tuners of accent! . . . these fashionmongers, these ‘pardon-me’s’ ” (2.3.25–29). Mercutio is so insistent that the reader feels compelled to accept this description of Tybalt’s character as definitive. Tybalt does prove Mercutio’s words true: he demonstrates himself to be as witty, vain, and prone to violence as he is fashionable, easily insulted, and defensive. To the self-possessed Mercutio, Tybalt seems a caricature; to Tybalt, the brilliant, earthy, and unconventional Mercutio is probably incomprehensible. (It might be interesting to compare Mercutio’s comments about Tybalt to Hamlet’s description of the foppish Osric in Act 5, scene 2 of Hamlet, lines 140–146.)

Suggested Essay Topics

1. How does the suicidal impulse that both Romeo and Juliet exhibit relate to the overall theme of young love? Does Shakespeare seem to consider a self-destructive tendency inextricably connected with love, or is it a separate issue? Why do you think so?

2. Discuss the relationships between parents and children in Romeo and Juliet. How do Romeo and Juliet interact with their parents? Are they rebellious, in the modern sense? How do their parents feel about them?

3. Apart from clashing with Tybalt, what role does Mercutio play in the story? Is he merely a colorful supporting character and brilliant source of comic relief, or does he serve a more serious purpose?

4. How does Shakespeare treat death in Romeo and Juliet? Frame your answer in terms of legal, moral, familial, and personal issues. Bearing these issues in mind, compare the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo and Mercutio, and Mercutio and Tybalt.

More Help

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Wrong!!!!!!!!

by ConorD98, February 18, 2013

In act 2 scene 5 Nurse appears to be tired and sore and tell Romeo the news NOT in act 2 scene 4 as sparknotes have written down.

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1 out of 2 people found this helpful

This is a horrible story

by sdhlkgj, February 28, 2013

THIS STORY IS NOT POLITICALLY CORRECT! KIDS SHOULD NOT BE READING "LOVE" STORIES ABOUT SUICIDE. THE NO 1 KILLER IN 2020 WILL BE S U I C I D E! END THIS MADNESS NOW!

FLEE FOR THE HILLS OF TARA, RUN FOR YOUR PATHETIC, LOVE-WANTING LIVES! THE WORLD IS ENDING!

3 Comments

11 out of 41 people found this helpful

Thanks :)

by SingitforJesus, April 09, 2013

We are reading Romeo and Juliet in my class and it is so confusing because of the way they talked back then. Sparknotes has been a great help.

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