William Shakespeare*s Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare’s
What you need
to know
Romeo and
When you hear the name William
Shakespeare, what words, feelings
and ideas come to your mind?
2 questions my students usually have…
1. Why are we studying Romeo and Juliet?
▫ What’s in it for me?
2. What do I have to know? (or, a nicer way of seeing
it is: what new information will I be learning that will
profoundly alter my life forever?)
do you literary
think wefigure
still study
• Heanswer:
is, by far, Why
the greatest
in the
years after his death?
history of the
• A question of culture…
• “A man for all time”
▫ His characters, stories and themes have been, and
still are, a source of meaning and significance for
every generation. His work is still relevant to us,
despite our differences and time period. We can
all find something that we can relate to because we
are part of the human race.
• Appreciation of the language
Important factoids:
As a whole, we know very little about William Shakespeare’s life
– but here are some important facts that we do know:
• Born and raised in England during Queen Elizabeth’s reign,
(click on the link) which was called the Elizabethan Era.
• He was an actor, poet, and playwright
• BRILLIANT! A prolific writer
What do you know about William
▫ 37 plays, 154 sonnets (14-lined poem)
▫ His vocabulary was up to 4x larger than the average, educated
man today
• Teenage father and dead-beat-dad
• A man amidst controversy: Some scholars believe that
Shakespeare wasn’t the authentic author of his works. A
movie called Anonymous (click on the link) depicts the story
of who really wrote the plays and poems.
The theatre
The Globe Theatre
▫ Shaped like a globe = the world (all the world is a
▫ For actors: Open roof (no articificial light), split-stage
(different perspectives/scenes), few props and stage
▫ For audience: Set-up: balconies and the pit
▫ Took place during the day
All actors were MALE! 
▫ Being an actor or playwright was not considered to be
a prestigious profession at the time
Different colored flags indicated what type of play was
being performed:
red: history
black: tragedy
white: comedy
What do you know about Romeo and
• Greatest love story ever told…(again)
▫ Not an original story; re-vamped by Shakespeare
• Quite perverted at times!
▫ Lower-class, illiterate citizens appreciated the dirty jokes
• Tragi-comedy
▫ Elements of comedy sprinkled against the heaviness of the
dominating tragedy
▫ Other Shakespearean play genres are: histories, comedies,
• The ending is revealed in the first 14 lines of the play!
▫ Why do that? What’s the point in reading the rest?
Q2 answer: What you need to pay
attention to…
Important passages in the original text
Look for and understand:
1. Literary elements
 Plotline of a tragedy, characters (dramatic foils, flat vs round / static vs dynamic),
themes & symbols
2. Literary devices
 Simile, metaphor, personification, sounds of poetry, pun, foreshadowing, oxymoron,
3. Dramatic terms
 monologue, soliloquy, aside
***Red indicates new concepts
1. Literary elements
•Plot: sequence of events that take place in a
literary work.
Specifically, in a TRAGEDY, there’s the addition
of: complication, reversal and catastrophe.
▫ Exposition, COMPLICATION, rising action,
climax, REVERSAL , falling action,
CATASTROPHE, resolution (conclusion)
Tragedy Plot structure
2. reversal
Rising action
Falling action
1. complication
3. Catastrophe
Theme: the main lesson or life lesson of the play
1. Theme of FATE and DESTINY: our lives are at
the mercy of the stars
2. Theme of Love: love makes us do crazy things
 different types of love (unrequited, romantic,
friendship, familial)
Themes (cont.)
3. Theme of CONTRASTS: there is always a ying to every yang. In
life, you cannot have one thing without its opposite
This idea is CENTRAL to the entire play and is reflected
in every aspect of it.
When a recurring image or device presents itself in a play or work
which supports the theme, this is called MOTIF (pronounced moteef).
This play’s central motif is juxtaposition (opposites/contrasts)
 Love vs. Hate
 Young (children) vs. Old (parents)
 Peace vs. Violence
 Betrayal vs. Loyalty
 Light vs. Darkness
 Light vs. Heaviness
 Appearance vs. Reality (how things seem vs. how things are)
 Individuals vs. Society (doing what you want vs. what society
expects of you)
Theme of contrast
• This theme is also present in the literary element
of dramatic foils and also in figurative language
with oxymorons and irony.
• Montagues, Capulets, Others
• Every tragedy has a tragic hero:
Romeo is the tragic hero who suffers
from a tragic flaw which leads to his
• What could Romeo’s tragic flaw be?
Characters (cont.)
Dramatic foils (opposites attract)
• A character whose purpose is to show off
another character. Oftentimes, they have
opposing viewpoints which is why they are
foils of each other.
For example: Romeo’s view on love is opposite of his
friend Mercutio’s view on love.
Look for and take note of other instances of foils
throughout the play!
Characters (cont.)
• Characters can be categorized
into two levels:
▫ Round vs. flat characters
▫ Dynamic vs. static characters
There is a difference between the
Round vs. Flat = attention to detail
A character who is well-described, with details about
personality, characteristics, etc. is a ROUND character. If you
can take a character and list several pieces of information on
him/her, then it is most likely that you’ve got a round character.
A FLAT character is not well-defined and the reader doesn’t
have much information about him/her. The shorter the list of
information on a character, the flatter he/she is compared to
Usually a flat character serves one type of role throughout the
play. Sampson and Gregory are examples of flat characters.
Which characters in R&J are round? Which are flat?
Dynamic vs. Static
Dynamic vs. static has to do with a character’s change in personality,
perspective on life and/or values throughout the text. It is also known
as the character’s “growth.”
Dynamic characters go through an internal change in character during
the course of the story. There is an apparent change in
attitude/outlook on life that wasn’t present in the beginning of the
story but appeared as the story progressed (usually near or after the
Static characters do not change internally or “grow” – they remain the
same throughout the text.
Usually it is the main characters who are “dynamic”.
Take note of and look for examples of dynamic vs. static characters.
2. Literary Devices (tools the author uses)
Figurative Language: playing with language and
Literary Devices Review:
• Simile: a comparison of two unlike things using “like”, “as” or “than
▫ Juliet: (talking about the Nurse) “she is slow, heavy and pale as lead”
• Metaphor: same as a simile EXCEPT it doesn’t use like/as/than the.
It uses the verb “to be” in the affirmative and negative
▫ Romeo: but soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the
East, and Juliet is the sun.
• Hyperbole: an extreme exaggeration, not likely to happen, but used
to place emphasis on an idea/object
▫ Juliet: ‘tis twenty years till then (describing how long it will feel until the
next time she sees Romeo; even though it will only be a couple of hours
until next they meet)
• Personification: giving an object or idea human/animal-like
qualities and characteristics
▫ Romeo: Arise fair Sun, and kill the envious moon who is already sick
and pale with grief, that thou her maid are far more fair than she.
A pun is a humorous play on words.
Take a look at the puns from Act I, i.
SAMPSON Gregory, on my word, we’ll not carry coals.
SAMPSON Gregory, I swear, we can’t let them humiliate us. We won’t take their garbage.
GREGORY No, for then we should be colliers.
GREGORY(teasing SAMPSON) No, because then we’d be garbage-men.
SAMPSON I mean, an we be in choler, we’ll draw.
SAMPSON What I mean is, if they make us angry we’ll pull out our swords.
GREGORY Ay, while you live, draw your neck out of collar.
GREGORY Maybe you should focus on pulling yourself out of trouble, Sampson.
Collar = shirt collar – get your neck out of your shirt/trouble.
Look for and note down other puns that take place – especially with Mercutio!
is a reference to something that
will happen later in the story.
Romeo – I fear, too early: for my mind
misgives Some consequence yet hanging in
the stars Shall bitterly begin his fearful date
With this night's revels…By some
vile forfeit of untimely death (Act I, iv)
An oxymoron describes when two
juxtaposed words back-to-back have
opposing or very diverse meanings.
Ex: Juliet – “Beautiful tyrant! fiend angelical!”
(Act III, ii) “honourable villain”, “heavy
Ex: Jumbo shrimp, truthful liar, angelic devil,
poor rich-man, straight curve, etc.
•When the opposite of what
you expect to happen,
•3 types of irony: dramatic,
verbal, situational
• Note: Alanis Morrissette’s song, “Ironic” isn’t always about irony; it’s more
about bad luck.
Dramatic Irony
A contradiction between what a character
thinks/knows and what the
reader/audience knows to be true
The entire play drips and oozes with
dramatic irony because of what is revealed
in the Prologue (the first 14 lines of the
More on dramatic irony TedEd:
Verbal Irony
A contradiction or contrast of what is said and what is actually meant or
intended by the speaker.
• Think of it like deliberate sarcasm, or someone being two-faced with what
they say – they say one thing, but mean another. (Women are awfully good at
doing this. Am I right, ladies? )
Man: What’s wrong honey?
Woman: Nothing.
We’re thinking: Yeah, right.
Not all verbal irony is sarcasm, though. When the speaker is deliberately poking
fun of or being a little sassy/mean with his comment, this is sarcasm. But you can
also say the opposite of what you mean without being nasty 
More on this with a Ted-Ed video
Big Bang Theory: Sheldon attempting sarcasm:
Situational Irony
An event or action occurs that directly contradicts the
expectations of the characters, the reader, or the
ex: If a character intends to do good through his
action of his help, but the result is that his help in-fact
makes the situation worse, this is an example of
situational irony. It works both ways – you can intend to
do bad, but your intentions actually have a positive
More on situational irony:
What the difference between dramatic
irony and foreshadowing?
When the audience/reader has knowledge of what’s
going to happen that the characters do NOT have
Well…that’s pretty
much the whole play with Romeo
and Juliet…
When the characters have no idea that
what they’re saying is bringing them
closer to their fate…
But WE DO!
So any mention of marriage, death,
consequences, etc. by the characters that
hints at their doom is an example of
foreshadowing (and also dramatic irony).
Got that? Review your knowledge of
irony and some other figurative
language here:
3, Dramatic Terms: Speech
Since audience members can’t hear
the characters’ thoughts, the
characters must say them out loud.
There are three instances:
1. Monologue
2. Soliloquy
(Greek root: monos = one/single, legein = to speak = one person
• When one character has a lengthy speech
directed to the audience or to other characters in
the play.
• Nurse and Mercutio have some lengthy speeches
in Romeo and Juliet
(Latin word: solus = alone, loqui = to
• Similar to a monologue
• In a soliloquy, the character is speaking to
him/herself (solo) and reveals out loud his/her most
intimate thoughts and feelings – worries, hopes,
dreams, fears, etc.
• The character is ALONE and isn’t heard by others.
• Don’t get confused between a monologue and a
soliloquy – although both involve only 1 character
speaking, the soliloquy is much “deeper” in its
• Still confused? Here’s another explanation from Cliffnotes.