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William Shakespeare
'Romeo and Juliet'

 

 

  • Before you continue - have you read the Englishbiz page on how to write about a play?

  • This web page covers only 'Romeo and Juliet' - for free study guides to other Shakespeare plays, click here.

  • And here is a link to a further free Internet guide to writing an essay on 'Romeo and Juliet'.

 

Some easily corrected errors occur when students write about stage plays of this kind - avoid losing marks in your coursework and exam essays by following these basic tips:

 

ROMEO AND JULIET

Introduction to the play

An example essay question with notes

Links to resources on Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare's Life and Times

 

Introduction to the Play

'Romeo and Juliet' is thought to have been written in 1595 or 1596. The story was adapted by Shakespeare but it is his version that is known to old and young the world over. It is a tragic story of forbidden love. The whole episode of Romeo and Juliet's meeting, falling in love, marriage, and tragic end, takes place within five days.

In the Prologue we are presented with a brief summary of the play. Strangely, the summary includes mention of the tragic ending. This begs the question 'why?' - why would Shakespeare want us to know the ending before we have even watched the play? Nobody knows the actual answer to this but we can make educated guesses. Even though we know what the outcome of the play will be, we still want things to work out for Romeo and Juliet. We begin to look for someone to blame... Who is responsible for this tragedy? It is then that we begin to realise that the guilt does not rest with any one character.

What did Friar Lawrence think he was doing, secretly marrying two youngsters in the full knowledge that their parents would not agree? Why did the Nurse encourage Romeo, only to do a complete U-turn after Juliet and Romeo were married? How could Lord and Lady Capulet be so insensitive, expecting Juliet to marry Paris, a man she hardly knew, and so soon after her beloved cousin's death? And so we could go on...

The Prologue is written as a sonnet, and sonnets were a popular form of poetry in Shakespeare's time; they were a traditional and respected poetic form that usually dealt with a theme of requited love. A sonnet has 14 lines with a set rhyme scheme and a fixed rhythm called ' iambic pentameter' (di-dum/di-dum/di-dum/di-dum/di-dum); this helps to create a sense of harmony and acts to link the ideas expressed in the sonnet.

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An Example Essay Question with Notes

'Discuss the Importance of Act II Sc ii and Act IV sc. ii to the play'

Both scenes are crucial to the play for different reasons:

Act II Scene (ii)

Act IV Scene (iii)

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Shakespeare Resources on the Internet


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