Questions for study with ideas for answers.
Q: Give reasons why the love between Romeo and Juliet was so special.
Ideas: When the two parties met, there was an immediate physical attraction for within minutes they were kissing one another.
Their love for each other was strong because they were unaffected by the
fact that they were members of the two opposing feuding households. Their love was kindled before they knew the other’s identity.
Both parties agreed at the outset that their love would always exist in this
world and the next i.e. it is a transcendental love.
To Juliet, her love for Romeo enabled her to mature from a child to a woman,
and this happened on her wedding night.
To Romeo, life without Juliet would be impossible, although there is
evidence to show that previous relationships he had had were shallow, his love for Juliet was deep, as she reciprocated his feelings. On hearing that Juliet was dead, he, for the first time in the play, acted
in a methodical way in order to ensure that he could take his own life at Juliet’s side.
Likewise, when Juliet awoke from her death-like sleep, she had no hesitation
in taking her own life, as life without Romeo was unthinkable to her.
Q: Why do you think the play only last for just over four days, and what
effect does this have on the play’s development?
Ideas: It is clear that Shakespeare wished to provide impact for his
audience in the late sixteenth century in London, England. In telling this tragic tale over such a short period of time, he has to provide the audience with much information, thus making it a fast-moving
Many of the characters are volatile and in between the love scenes,
Shakespeare introduces conflict between the warring factions, which produce death and sorrow.
The love that Romeo and Juliet have for each other is full of passion and
desire, which cannot be extinguished by the forces put on them by the Veronese society. They cannot keep their love secret for long because they must be together and not keep it hidden away, so to meet
occasionally in secret is not an option, so if they cannot be together in life, they will be together in death. This is not a love, therefore that grows over months and years, but this is a love that happened
immediately in keeping with the short time scale.
Our heroes’ fate is sealed when the original time scale of five days is
reduced to four, when the wedding of Juliet to Paris is brought forward, thus condensing the action even further.
Q: Whilst the main plot deals with the love of Romeo and Juliet, what does
the character Mercutio bring to the play?
Ideas: Mercutio is an almost unique character in Shakespeare’s plays, being
full of imagination and wit, punctuating his dialogue with puns, some having sexual connotations.
There is also a dark side to this character, which is quick to anger and is not frightened to speak his mind. He often satires the Veronese society and singles out notable figures for criticism. By studying this character one might obtain an understanding of the author himself.
Mercutio acts as a foil for Romeo and he is one of the few characters able
to mock Romeo and still remain his friend.
He regards love as mere physical pursuit and ridicules Romeo’s view of love
as a poetic and emotional pursuit.
Mercutio is very witty and uses clever punning throughout the play e.g.
‘If love be rough with you, be rough with love’
‘Prick love for pricking and you beat love down’
Throughout the play he brings comic relief to the tragedy.
Even in his death speech he makes comment regarding the fatal wound he has received saying ‘No ‘tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door, but ‘tis enough, ‘twill serve’. This actually marks a turning point in the play as the main comical character has died, and tragedy now subdues comedy for the remainder of the play.
Despite Mercutio’s jibes at Romeo’s manliness ‘And is he such a man to
encounter Tybalt?’ and on hearing Romeo’s refusal to fight Tybalt, calling it ‘O calm dishonorable, vile submission’ he is totally loyal to Romeo, dying in the cause of defending his friend’s name.
Q: Why do you think that this play and others by Shakespeare have stood the
test of time?
Ideas: Good storylines, some based on fact and some fictional
Colorful characters covering the full social spectrum from kings to servants
Dealing with age-old subjects, love, social status, prejudice, conflict
The subjects of the plays are things that the audience can relate to
Well-constructed prose and poetry
Majority of his work is fast moving with detailed plots and many characters
Much of his work satirized the society of sixteenth century Europe, but many of the failings at that time are still with us today and still have relevance.