Romeo and Juliet Questions

Act I:

1. Carefully read the “Prologue” to the play, and note that Shakespeare has written it in one of his favorite poetic forms–the sonnet. What are the keywords you see in the sonnet? What does it make us anticipate about the action of the play?

2. Who separates Benvolio and Tybalt? Who else arrives to intervene in the “civil strife” between these warring families? The Prince speaks of a “sentence” at 1.1.81–what is it? With what crime is he charging the two families?

3. Lady Montague asks “O where is Romeo”? What is the answer? We find out a little later on why Romeo has been behaving strangely–why?

4. Note the string of oxymoronic paradoxes Romeo expresses in 1.1.169-175. How is Shakespeare employing this figure of speech here? What else do you notice about the way Romeo speaks in 1.1?

5. Paris has asked Lord Capulet for something at the opening of 1.2. What is it? What is his reply?

7. Lord Capulet asks Peter, his servant, to deliver invitations to the feast he is holding that night. Why is this a bad plan? What is the consequence?

8. How does the nurse know Juliet’s age “unto an hour” (1.3.12)?

9. Romeo is immediately identified by Tybalt and Lord Capulet. Why don’t they throw him out of the party?

Act II:

  1. 2.1 takes place mainly in an orchard, a fact noted several times throughout the scene. What do you think is the significance is of this setting? (And pay attention for the return of this setting later in today’s reading!)
  2. After a joking exchange between Benvolio and Mercutio (mostly at Romeo’s expense), act two opens with one of the most famous scenes in the play (indeed, in all of Shakespeare): Juliet at her balcony. In the scene, Juliet utters the famous line: “that which we call a rose / By any other word would smell as sweet” (2.1.85-6). Give some thought to this implicit metaphor. How does it relate more generally to the scene and the play?
  3. What is the plan that Juliet proposes to Romeo at l. 185 ff.?
  4. Compare the Friar’s description of the “weak flower” at 2.2.23-30 to the metaphor referred to in question #2 above. How do these lines complicate the sentiment expressed by Juliet earlier?
  5. The Friar “chides” Romeo for his quick change in love interest, but ultimately agrees to participate in his plan (see #3 above)–why?
  6. We learn in the opening of 2.3 that Mercutio has received a letter. From whom? What does it say?
  7. Romeo instructs the Nurse to expect a delivery from his “man” (2.3.169-70)–what is it?! Note when it appears in act three.
  8. “These violent delights have violent ends, / And in their triumph die like fire and powder” (2.5.9-10). What does the Friar mean by these lines?

Act III:

  1. Go back to the “Persons of the Play” and be sure you understand how Benvolio and Mercutio are related to Romeo. Why do you think Mercutio’s death is particularly significant? How does Romeo respond to his death? What is the immediate consequence of his action?
  2. Note Romeo’s sudden action described after 3.3.107. What is the Friar’s plan for Romeo, expressed in his long speech that follows?
  3. Paris’s chances with Juliet improve greatly in 3.4. What happens to bring about this change? What is Juliet’s response to the news in 3.5?

Act IV:

  1. At the opening of Act IV, we find Paris pursuing his marriage with Juliet. When are they to be married? What is Juliet prepared to do rather than marry him? What is the Friar’s “remedy” (l. 76) for this desperate situation (and note the irony in his use of that term!)?
  2. What is the cause of the commotion at Capulet’s house (see especially 4.2.10)? How is Lord Capulet responding to the emergency (4.2.42-3)?!
  3. There are many powerful foreshadowings of death throughout Romeo and Juliet, but none are perhaps so vivid as Juliet’s speech in 4.3.35-57. Where is Juliet when she delivers this speech? Why might that be significant?

Act V:

  1. After hearing the news of Juliet’s supposed death, Romeo goes where and for what purpose?
  2. In 4.1, Friar Laurence promises that he will send another friar to Mantua with letters for Romeo explaining the plan. In 5.2 we find out that the letter never arrived to Romeo–why not?
  3. Note at the opening of 5.3, Paris puts his Page on watch–how does this affect the scene later on? Why is Paris at the grave?
  4. According to a stage direction in 5.3, what are the three items that Romeo brings with him to the graveyard? How does he use them?
  5. Where does Romeo lay the body of Paris?
  6. When Juliet awakes, Friar Laurence tells her that he will take her where?
  7. As anticipated at the opening of the play, the tragic events that close the play lead to at least one positive outcome what is it? What do Capulet and Montague promise to one another (specifically) at the close of the play?
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