Romeo and Juliet -> Key Smart Concepts

  • Created by: MRJREAD
  • Created on: 07-05-19 14:55

Duality and Doubleness

One idea we can draw out from Romeo and Juliet is that of double value:

  • Potion/poison --> In reality these are the same thing, but Juliet's potion is a means of escape and a sign of hope, whereas Romeo's is a sign of finality and death.
  • Friar Laurence --> His actions are pure in intention. He just wants to resolve the feud and allow Romeo and Juliet to be together. Unfortunately they have severe consequences that conflict with his puporse and faith.
  • Capulet --> Tells Paris that he cannot marry Juliet as she is too young, then reverses his decision to bring some happiness following Tybalt's death.
  • Romeo --> his 'womanish tears' are a subject of criticism, and at other times, his masculine aggression is excessive leading to his banishment. 

So why is everything neither one thing or another? Maybe it's Shakespeare's way of saying that life simply isn't binary; that the complexities of life mean that nothing is truly good or evil, masculine or feminine, pure or corrupt, but rather somewhere inbetween. 

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The Ending

Hugely significant, but what is there to say to really explore the significance. 

  • Just as Friar Laurence predicted, the marriage of Romeo and Juliet does bring peace to Verona.
  • The fathers make grand gestures to build golden statues of their children to honour their sacrifice. 

So... maybe it was all worth it. Afterall, fate had set this all up, so surely the divine reasoning was that the families learnt the importance of peace through this ultimate sacrifice. We can feel a sense of reconciliation by know that Romeo and Juliet got to be together forever and the fed was settled. 

But what else?

  • An immediate sense of one-up-man-ship has us slightly unnerved. 
  • Capulet's hand of friendship is trumped by Montague's offer of a statue, then matched by Capulet.

Is this Shakespeare's way of telling us that the peace is only temporary and the force of the feud is to strong to be laid to rest - despite the ulitmate tragic sacrifice of our central protagonists. 

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Juliet and Nurse Act 3 Scene 5

In Act3 Scene5 Juliet feels Nurse has betrayed her by suggesting she should marry Paris as Romeo has been banished.

 Potential quotes to focus on:

  1. I think it’s best you marry with the County. O he’s a lovely gentleman! – think about Nurse’s motives. Why does she change her mind? What is she trying to do? How certain does she sound? How does she describe him compared to how she described Romeo?
  2. I think you as happy in this second match for it excels your first: or if it did not, Your first is dead. -  Look at the repetition… certainty? Did we believe her? Why say it then? Agree with you identification of the foreshadowing.
  3. Well, thou hast comforted me marvellous much – What do you think Juliet’s tone is here? Is she being sincere? What do you think has changed about the relationship between the two? How do you think Juliet is feeling now?
  4. Ancient damnation! O most wicked fiend! Look at how she now talks about Nurse. Why is this religious insult more influential to a Jacobean audience? Fiend = enemy – How is she feeling? How has the relationship changed? How does the punctuation reinforce her feelings?
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Juliet and Nurse across the play

Play as a whole:

Act 2: Lady Capulet uses Nurse to talk to Juliet about potentially marrying Paris. Nurse talks about how she knows her age to the hour. What is their relationship like here compared to the relationship with her mother?

Act 2: Nurse helps Juliet to secretly marry Romeo behind Capulet’s back. Juliet sends Nurse to speak to Romeo to see if he will marry her the day after the party. When Nurse returns, she teases Juliet by making her wait for the answer, complaining that her back is sore and she is tired. What does this show about their relationship? What about their trust?

Act 4: Nurse tries to intervene when Capulet is raging at Juliet for refusing to marry Paris, going against the patriarchal society and role of women. What does this show about Nurse’s feelings for Juliet?

 When describing Paris to Juliet, she describes him as a ‘man of wax’ and she also tells her to ‘seek happy nights’ à what does this show about her priorities for Juliet and maybe how her views differ?

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The Power of Fate:

  1. The prologue tells us immediately that fate will lead them to tragic deaths ‘A pair of star-cross'd lovers’ ‘The fearful passage of their death-marked love’
  2. Even at the very beginning of the play before they head to the party, Romeo feels that something ominous is coming: ‘I fear too early, for my mind misgives; Some consequence, yet hanging in the stars, Shall bitterly begin’ (ACT1.SCENE4)
  3. They wouldn’t have been able to get into the Capulet’s party had it not been for the servant being illiterate
  4. The party happened to be masquerade otherwise they would have been recognised - JULIET ‘Go ask his name. The Nurse goes. If he be marrièd. My grave is like to be my wedding bed.’ Foreshadows her own death through her marriage.
  5. ‘Oh I am fortune’s fool’ - Romeo blames fate for his own actions once Tybalt is killed.
  6. The plague stops the message reaching Romeo
  7. Romeo never knows enough to be able to work out the situation.

With regards to context and messages you can definitely include ideas about religion and superstition (mortal sins). You should also be able to look at masculinity for Romeo due to his poetic pacificism. Shakespeare shows us that fate is more powerful than free will and how the decisions we make are merely circumstantial.

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