Romeo and Juliet
By william shakespeare, romeo and juliet quiz 1.
- 1 Who speaks the Prologue? Chorus Juliet Romeo Lord Montague
- 2 What is the poetic form of the Prologue? epistle elegy rhyming couplets sonnet
- 3 Who wrote the source material for ROMEO AND JULIET? Seneca Christopher Marlowe Arthur Brooke William Shakespeare
- 4 What do the Capulet servants NOT discuss in 1.1? sex legality violence money
- 5 What is the genesis of the feud between the Montagues and Capulets? Lord Montague killed Lady Capulet's father. The reason is not given. The Capulets cheated the Montagues out of a business. The Montagues support the Prince.
- 6 Why do Sampson and Gregory not attack the Montague servants in 1.1? Street violence is illegal. They mistake the Montagues for other people. They grow sick and must rush home. They are frightened.
- 7 How does Sampson start the fight in 1.1? He curses the Montagues. He bites his thumb. He calls the Citizens of the Watch. He stabs the Montagues.
- 8 Which is the only character from 1.1 who appears later in the play? Sampson Abram Gregory Balthasar
- 9 How is Benvolio different from the other men on the street in 1.1? He is a pacifist. He runs away. He insists everyone wait for Romeo. He calls for blood.
- 10 Who restrains Lord Capulet from joining the first street brawl? Lady Capulet Friar Laurence Juliet Romeo
- 11 Who has prohibited street violence in Verona? Prince Escalus King Hamlet Friar Laurence Citizens of the Watch
- 12 In 1.1, Benvolio explains to the Montagues that Romeo has been ________. hiding from violence avoiding his father pursuing Juliet in a strange mood
- 13 Which person does Romeo claim is the cause of his melancholy? Mercutio Rosaline Lady Capulet Juliet
- 14 Why is Rosaline not interested in a relationship? She says this solely to avoid Romeo. She is a lesbian. She wants to stay chaste. She is waiting for a rich husband.
- 15 Whom does Lord Capulet consider to be a good match for Juliet? Tybalt Paris Mercutio Benvolio
- 16 Why does Lord Capulet want to wait before granting Juliet's hand in marriage? She needs a rich husband. She is only thirteen. She is sickly. She is angry and sullen.
- 17 Why does Peter have trouble with the invitations? He loses the list. He hates Lord Capulet. He is illiterate. He is drunk.
- 18 Why is Romeo comfortable with crashing the Capulet party? He will go after everyone is drunk. He will watch from afar. It is a masked ball. He knows they will not harm Christians.
- 19 How does the Nurse embarrass herself in 1.3? She slaps Juliet without cause. She tells a weird, sexual story about Juliet. She laughs at the wrong jokes. She is caught telling a lie to Lady Capulet.
- 20 Which story does Mercutio tell Romeo to try to cheer him up in 1.4? Pyramus and Thisbe Queen Mab King Arthur Jonah and the whale
- 21 How does Tybalt recognize Romeo at the ball? his clothing his voice his face information from his servant
- 22 Why doesn't Tybalt attack Romeo at the masquerade ball? Lord Capulet stops him. Mercutio interferes. Juliet begs mercy. Romeo runs away.
- 23 What type of imagery do Romeo and Juliet use in their first conversation? scientific political religious violent
- 24 Who first tells Juliet about Romeo's identity? Mercutio the Nurse Lady Capulet Tybalt
- 25 Where does Romeo go after the masquerade party? to Friar Laurence's cell to the Capulet courtyard to Rosaline's home to Mercutio's home
Romeo and Juliet Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Romeo and Juliet is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Can you find verbal irony in the play? Where?
One example of verbal irony would be Romeo's reference to the poison he has purchased as a "sweet medicine". A cordial is a sweet liquor or medicine.
Come, cordial and not poison, go with me To Juliet's grave; for there must I use thee.
What do we learn about Mercutio in queen man speech?
The whole speech is based on pagan Celtic mythology. Mercutio’s speech is laced with sexual innuendo. The words “queen” and “mab” refer to whores in Elizabethan England. As his speech goes on we notice the subtext get increasingly sexual...
What does Romeo fear as he approaches Capulet house? What literary device would this be an example of?
Romeo feels something bad is going to happen.
I fear too early, for my mind misgives Some consequence yet hanging in the stars
Looks like foreshadowing to me!
Study Guide for Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet study guide contains a biography of William Shakespeare, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
- About Romeo and Juliet
- Romeo and Juliet Summary
- Romeo and Juliet Video
- Character List
Essays for Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.
- Unity in Shakespeare's Tragedies
- Fate in Romeo and Juliet
- Romeo and Juliet: Under the Guise of Love
- The Apothecary's Greater Significance in Romeo and Juliet
- Romeo and Juliet: Two Worlds
Lesson Plan for Romeo and Juliet
- About the Author
- Study Objectives
- Common Core Standards
- Introduction to Romeo and Juliet
- Relationship to Other Books
- Bringing in Technology
- Notes to the Teacher
- Related Links
- Romeo and Juliet Bibliography
E-Text of Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet e-text contains the full text of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.
- List of Characters
Wikipedia Entries for Romeo and Juliet
- Date and text
ELA / 9th Grade / Unit 11: Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet
Students hone their literary analysis and writing skills as they read Shakespeare's iconic Romeo and Juliet in the original Early Modern English.
This unit has been archived. To view our updated curriculum, visit our 9th Grade English course.
- Text and Materials
This end-of-year unit draws upon the literary analysis and writing skills that students have been honing over the course of the year and asks them to apply these skills to the complex language and style of Shakespeare. While students have previously read No Fear Shakespeare versions of other works by Shakespeare, this will be their first experience with reading in Shakespeare’s original, more archaic language. Additionally, the unit contains an emphasis on building the skills described in Common Core ELA standard RL.9.-10.9, "analyzing how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work." While reading Romeo and Juliet , students will analyze works by the fourteenth-century poet Petrarch, investigating how Shakespeare drew on some of Petrarch’s themes and characters and used them to develop his own play. They will also watch pieces of the 1996 film version of Romeo and Juliet , directed by Baz Luhrmann, and read excerpts of the novel Street Love , by Walter Dean Myers, analyzing how these two modern artists transform Shakespeare’s sixteenth-century play to inform their work. As part of their analysis, students will read, discuss, and write about the play itself and compare it to these other works.
When planning out the final days of the year, teachers should be sure to leave one or two class days for review for the final exam. That review is not included in the count of days for this unit.
At Match, students have a Composition class 4 days per week in addition to English class. Below, we have included Supplementary Composition Projects to reflect the material covered in our Composition course. For teachers who are interested in including these Composition Projects but do not have a separate Composition course, we have included a “Suggested Placement” to note where these projects would most logically fit into the English unit. While the Composition Projects may occasionally include content unrelated to English 9, most have both a skill and content connection to the work students are doing in their English 9 class.
In English 9 Unit 6, students will read Romeo and Juliet , by William Shakespeare. The major areas of focus in the English unit are: (1) decoding and comprehending Shakespeare’s archaic language and (2) comparing his original text to other works that have drawn on his original text. These supplemental Composition Projects will focus primarily on the latter, asking students to compare in writing how the newer works have drawn on and transformed Shakespeare’s original work. These writing focus areas mostly spiral from the earlier units, providing students with opportunities to apply their writing skills to new projects. The newer skill that students are asked to develop is to consider the structure of their essays and ensure that the structure lends itself well to the task and purpose.
Texts and Materials
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Play: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (Folger Shakespeare Library 2011 edition)
Movie: Romeo and Juliet (Directed by Baz Luhrmann, 1996)
Excerpt: Street Love by Walter Dean Myers
Article: “Petrarch” (Poetry Foundation)
Poem: “If No Love Is, Oh God, What Fele I So” by Petrarch (Poetry Foundation)
This assessment accompanies Unit 11 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.
Download Content Assessment
Download Content Assessment Answer Key
Suggestions for how to prepare to teach this unit
- Read and annotate the Folger edition of the play.
- Acquire and watch the Luhrmann version of the film.
- Read the novel Street Love , or at least the excerpts referenced in the unit plan.
- Answer the key thematic questions based on the film and play
- Take the end-of-unit exam.
- Read this explanation of Romeo as a Petrarchan lover.
The central thematic questions addressed in the unit or across units
- Love: What is true love? What should one sacrifice for true love? What should one never sacrifice for love? Is the love between Romeo and Juliet true love?
- Good and evil/love and hatred: Do we need hatred (evil) in order to truly appreciate love (good)?
- Fate: Is there such a thing as fate? If so, can a person avoid his or her fate? Is fate alone responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, or should certain characters be held responsible?
- The motifs of light and darkness run throughout the play. How do these motifs help to develop the themes of the play?
Writing Focus Areas
Specific skills to focus on when giving feedback on writing assignments
English Lessons Writing Focus Areas
Students will write an essay comparing two different works of literature, explaining how one draws upon and/or transforms the other. By this point in the year, students will have had experience crafting compare-and-contrast essays. However, this is the first time they will be explaining how one author draws upon another. For this reason, the following focus correction areas are recommended.
Literary Analysis Writing Focus Areas:
- Introduction and Thesis: Introduction and thesis are clear, compelling, and preview what is to come.
- Evidence: Evidence is well chosen to develop the topic/position.
- Analysis: Analysis reflects logical reasoning and progression of ideas.
Composition Projects Writing Focus Areas
Students will write a mix of literary analysis and narrative pieces in this unit, applying the writing skills they have practiced throughout the year. In these projects, many of the WFAs are review and should come more easily to students at this point. The “coherence” focus area may be newer and require more instruction and feedback.
- Thesis: Includes a clear and relevant thesis statement.
- Analysis: Demonstrates clear and logical reasoning.
- Evidence: Draws relevant evidence to support position.
- Coherence: Structure is aligned with purpose.
- Diction: Uses advanced and specific vocabulary.
- Professionally Revised: Complete and follows guidelines. Adequate revisions.
Related Teacher Tools:
Grades 9-12 Composition Writing Rubric
Literary terms, text-based vocabulary, idioms and word parts to be taught with the text
diction, structure, stage directions, theme, character motivation, motif, conflict, style, iambic pentameter, pun, Petrarchan lover, tone, mood
Prologue: foes (7) Act 1: valiant (9), partisan (13), pernicious (15), transgression (23), chastity (23), devout (33), heretic (33), obscured (39), tainted (47) Act 2: bewitched (65), discourse (69), entreat (71), impute (77), vile (85), rancor (89), affecting/affect (n.) (93) Act 3: apt (117), effeminate (123), calamity (139), banishment (141), perjury (149), vex (163), wretched (169) Act 4: haste (177), slander (179), treacherous (181), prostrate (187), stifle (193), solemnity (203) Act 5: unaccustomed (211), penury (213), distilled (221), beseech (223), ambiguities (237), enmity (243)
Idioms and Cultural References
bite my thumb (11), knaves (53), fool’s paradise (101), dirge (203)
Content Knowledge and Connections
Fishtank ELA units related to the content in this unit.
Students will learn to read Shakespeare in its original form.
Future Fishtank ELA Connections
- Students will need a familiarity with Shakespearean language in order to access the critical 10th grade unit 10th Grade ELA - Macbeth .
- Romeo and Juliet — Prologue (p. 7); Act 1, Scene 1 (pp. 9–15)
- Romeo and Juliet — Prologue
- Street Love — Prologue
Explain the function of the prologue in Romeo and Juliet .
Analyze the conflict in act 1, scene 1.
- Romeo and Juliet — Act 1, Scene 1 (pp. 17–25)
- “If No Love Is, Oh God, What Fele I So”
Analyze Shakespeare’s characterizations of Romeo and Benvolio.
Analyze how Shakespeare continues to develop the theme of fate in act 1, scene 2.
Analyze Shakespeare’s characterization of the three female characters introduced in act 1, scene 3.
Analyze Shakespeare’s characterization of Mercutio and describe his relationship with Romeo.
Analyze Shakespeare’s characterization of Romeo.
Explain in a well-crafted essay how Shakespeare and Luhrmann each create mood in act 1, scene 5.
Explain how the interactions between Romeo and Juliet develop the themes of the play.
Analyze how the interactions between Romeo and Friar Lawrence develop the conflict of the play.
Examine the differences between Romeo the lover and Romeo the friend.
Analyze how Shakespeare develops the theme of young love in act 2, scenes 5-6.
Identify instances of foreshadowing in act 2, scenes 5-6.
Analyze how the events of act 3, scene 1 further communicate the theme of fate.
Analyze the events of act 3, scene 2 and the impact they have on the plot development.
Compare Romeo’s and Juliet’s reactions to his banishment and analyze what these reactions reveal about character and theme.
Analyze the connections drawn between love and death in act 3, scene 5.
Analyze Juliet’s character development in act 3, scene 5.
Analyze Juliet’s actions and motivations for her actions in act 4, scenes 1–3.
Analyze how Shakespeare develops the theme of young love in act 4, scenes 1-3.
Explain how Myers draws on and transforms ideas from Romeo and Juliet to develop the themes, characters, and/or conflict of Street Love .
Analyze the individual characters’ reactions to Juliet’s death.
Identify how the tone shifts in act 4, scene 5.
Analyze how Shakespeare uses the plot to develop the theme of fate in act 5, scenes 1–2.
Analyze the degree to which fate shaped the deaths of the protagonists.
Develop an opinion about the significance of the final scene and its relationship to earlier scenes.
Discussion & Writing
Discuss and debate the essential thematic questions of the unit.
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The play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, the film version directed by Baz Luhrman, and the novel Street Lov e by Walter Dean Myers each contain a prologue designed to preview what is to come. Compare the choices each author makes about how to structure the prologue and the effect of these choices on the audience. Support your answer with evidence from all three sources.
An effective essay:
- includes a clear, relevant, and complete thesis statement;
- demonstrates clear and logical reasoning;
- draws relevant evidence to support position and provide context;
- aligns the structure of the essay to the purpose;
- uses advanced and specific vocabulary; and
- is professionally revised.
W.9-10.1.a W.9-10.1.b W.9-10.2.a W.9-10.2.b W.9-10.4 W.9-10.5 W.9-10.6 W.9-10.9
Select one the following pairs of characters: Mercutio and Romeo or Juliet and Lady Capulet. Write a journal entry from one member of the pair (i.e. Mercutio) in which you reflect on your relationship with the other member of the pair (i.e. Romeo). Be sure to characterize your relationship and the ways in which you are similar and different. Include specific references to the text in your journal entry.
- uses relevant evidence and details from the text, including establishing the setting;
- accurately portrays the relationship between the characters;
- is written in a tone and style that reflect the character; and
- uses specific and relevant diction to develop the narrative.
L.9-10.6 W.9-10.3 W.9-10.4 W.9-10.6
In both Street Love and Romeo and Juliet , the authors tell the story of young lovers caught between the desire to be together and family and group loyalties that are pulling them apart. Describe how Walter Dean Myers, the author of Street Love , draws on and transforms elements of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in the excerpt read today. Your answer may include references to setting, plot, characters, mood, themes, or author’s craft.
- includes a thesis statement that previews what is to come;
- supports the thesis with relevant evidence from both sources;
SL.9-10.1 W.9-10.2.a W.9-10.2.b W.9-10.4 W.9-10.6
Common Core Standards
The content standards covered in this unit
L.9-10.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9—10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
L.9-10.6 — Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
Reading Standards for Informational Text
RI.9-10.1 — Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
RI.9-10.2 — Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
Reading Standards for Literature
RL.9-10.1 — Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
RL.9-10.2 — Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
RL.9-10.3 — Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
RL.9-10.9 — Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare).
Speaking and Listening Standards
SL.9-10.1 — Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9—10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
SL.9-10.2 — Integrate multiple sources of information presented in diverse media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) evaluating the credibility and accuracy of each source.
W.9-10.1 — Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
W.9-10.1.a — Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
W.9-10.1.b — Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience's knowledge level and concerns.
W.9-10.2 — Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
W.9-10.2.a — Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
W.9-10.2.b — Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience's knowledge of the topic.
W.9-10.3 — Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
W.9-10.4 — Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
W.9-10.5 — Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.
W.9-10.6 — Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology's capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.
W.9-10.8 — Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.
W.9-10.9 — Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
W.9-10.10 — Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
Gender and Power in The Taming of the Shrew
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Romeo and Juliet
William shakespeare, everything you need for every book you read..
Romeo and Juliet - Entire Play
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Last updated: Fri, Jul 31, 2015
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The prologue of Romeo and Juliet calls the title characters “star-crossed lovers”—and the stars do seem to conspire against these young lovers.
Romeo is a Montague, and Juliet a Capulet. Their families are enmeshed in a feud, but the moment they meet—when Romeo and his friends attend a party at Juliet’s house in disguise—the two fall in love and quickly decide that they want to be married.
A friar secretly marries them, hoping to end the feud. Romeo and his companions almost immediately encounter Juliet’s cousin Tybalt, who challenges Romeo. When Romeo refuses to fight, Romeo’s friend Mercutio accepts the challenge and is killed. Romeo then kills Tybalt and is banished. He spends that night with Juliet and then leaves for Mantua.
Juliet’s father forces her into a marriage with Count Paris. To avoid this marriage, Juliet takes a potion, given her by the friar, that makes her appear dead. The friar will send Romeo word to be at her family tomb when she awakes. The plan goes awry, and Romeo learns instead that she is dead. In the tomb, Romeo kills himself. Juliet wakes, sees his body, and commits suicide. Their deaths appear finally to end the feud.
Find out what’s on, read our latest stories, and learn how you can get involved.
Romeo and Juliet is a play written by the English playwright William Shakespeare. It was published for the first time in 1597.
Romeo and Juliet is probably the most famous love story of all time. It is a tragic tale depicting the forbidden love shared by two young lovers coming from two feuding families. The story is, along with Hamlet , Shakespeare’s most popular and frequently performed play. Romeo and Juliet is regarded by many experts as a great example of Shakespeare’s early dramatic skill.
The play is set in the Italian city Verona where two noble families, the Montagues and the Capulets, have been sworn enemies for years on end. An unlikely turn of events results in Romeo (the son of Montague) and Juliet (Capulet’s daughter) falling in love and getting married in secret.
What ensues is a typical Shakespearean tragedy in which social norms, honor and pride irreversibly affect Romeo and Juliet’s love story. The play’s prologue calls the two protagonists “star-crossed lovers”, a most fitting description of their story – one in which the Universe seems to conspire against them.
Although the play draws lots of elements from classical Greek tragedies, William Shakespeare’s take on the theme of forbidden love is a unique, masterful piece of literature. This fact is proven by its endurance in the public’s conscience and by its numerous adaptations, spanning over four centuries
Throughout this lesson series, for the purpose of intelligibility, Romeo and Juliet will be presented in a simplified, mostly-narrative version and not in its original, traditional play form.
- A. to erase
- C. to describe something in words
- A. very cold
- C. not on a regular basis
- A. in a way that means something cannot be changed back to what it was before
- B. in a way that means something has broken down and needs to be fixed
- C. in a way that means something is extremely unusual and/or rare
Shakespeare is largely considered to be the greatest writer in the English language. Though we may find his writing an eloquent maze of prose today, we must remember that he was writing to every class and creed. 400 years in the future, a literary scholar may marvel over the complexity of rhyme and rhythm of a Jay Z song as we marvel over Shakespeare’s Sonnets. In his lifetime, William Shakespeare wrote thirty-nine plays, most of which are still read and performed today. Romeo and Juliet is one of the best known, and yet Shakespeare did not invent the story. The tragic tale of two star-crossed lovers existed for a few hundred years before Shakespeare took a stab at it, and audiences in the early modern era were familiar with the story before setting foot in the theater. It might seem surprising to modern audiences that this story wasn’t treading any new ground at the time of its “conception,” and some might wonder why the brilliant and mighty Shakespeare might have retold a story whose twisted ending came as no surprise to its audience. Shakespeare apparently felt driven to write the narrative all over again, and something about his version impacted audiences so intensely that it is today considered one of the greatest stories ever told. Why is it that Shakespeare’s version affected his audience deeply enough that it is still firmly lodged in the literary cannon? What about this story is so enduring? And most importantly: why is it so popular?
The time period in which Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet debuted was one of particular distress and turmoil. At the time, England was ravaged by the Bubonic Plague, which had a fatality rate of 50%. Theaters were closed during mass outbreaks, which likely impacted Shakespeare financially, since he lived off the revenue from theater admissions to his plays. England was also in the grips of the Catholic-Protestant divide, which often erupted into violence. Romeo and Juliet was written, directed, and enjoyed during a time characterized by fear, tension, and disease, effectively making it a play for people of any era, who grapple with their own catastrophes and terrors. The role of theatre and literature (in society at large. and in…ahem…classrooms) is hotly debated, and we cannot claim to have a definitive answer to this age-old question. We can, however, assert that the endurance of plays such as this one speaks to their ability to move people, to speak to them in ways that inspire their preservation through the ages. And so, we became inspired to make this age-old classic more readily accessible to you, both in the digital format that has made its way onto your screens, or paper copies that you hold in your hands, and in way that the content has been carefully collected and presented.
In an effort funded through Open Oregon State and with support from Oregon State’s School of Writing, Literature, and Film, a group of 20 students, led by Dr. Rebecca Olson, crafted this edition of Romeo and Juliet with the vision that it be easily read and accessed by high school students everywhere. As a group, we decided upon a set of guiding principles, which included an effort to modernize spellings that are no longer in use, encourage your interaction with the text, and support the Shakespeare-related Common Core educational goals. Above all, we hope that this edition will allow you, the reader, to move through the text with little need to stop and look up an unfamiliar word, or to try and figure out what in the world a “Lanthorne” is (it’s an old-fashioned word for “lantern.” Could you imagine using that word for a lantern? Neither could we, so we changed it).
To put all this together, we created a set of guidelines to get us started. We decided which text versions of the play to use as primary sources and we settled on using one Quarto and the First Folio1. We decided that we wanted to include some very important things like footnotes—necessary to clarify some words and concepts, but often intimidating and numerous—but we determined that we’d keep them brief and use them only when necessary. We also decided on some more mundane things, like the font we wanted, which is clean and easily readable instead of that nasty Times New Roman. What ever happened to Times Old Roman anyway? We made countless other decisions at the outset of this project, and after establishing these ground rules we separated into editing groups, each focusing on a particular act within the play.
When the groups had completed their edited acts, we met again as a large group to review all the work together. It was at this time that we discovered how differently each editing group had approached our individual edited acts and scenes, while still following the same set of established guidelines. Should we use bold for the character names? How much white space should we include? Should there be one space after a line of dialogue, or two? How far should we indent the stage directions? What is the impact of these seemingly trivial questions on the experience of the reader? The team set out to analyze these and many other questions. Our deliberations were lengthy, and at times unexpectedly heated. We learned much about ourselves (and about our apparent passion for uniform margins and un-bolded character names).
After arranging our edition into a single, consistent document, we set out to consider the other requirements that go along with creating a new edition of an old work. We again separated into groups to address the facets of this project. There was a group to draft out scene and location summaries; a group to establish the technical formatting of the finished work; a group to reach out to high school teachers and students to better understand their needs and concerns when engaging with a canonical work such as Romeo and Juliet ; and a group to ensure that there was consistency in formatting throughout the edition. We also created a group to draft this introduction. We also identified individuals to work on creating the cover of this edition (which, we are sure you will agree, is top notch). With the groupings settled, and the work underway, the edition that you hold in your very hands (or upon your very screen) began to take shape.
In 2020, another class, led by Dr. Olson, has endeavored to recraft this edition. We have added sensitivity footnotes to represent changing opinions and social standards. We have also put a lot of energy into creating supplemental material for students and teachers alike as they become more familiar and comfortable with reading Shakespeare.
We recognize that there are numerous other editions out there, and fervently hope that this one will be effectively suited to your educational needs. But this may beg the question: why are there so many editions? Why not just use the original? Great question! The answer is that there not just one original edition. The idea of a singular “original” Shakespeare text is a common misunderstanding. Shakespeare was a 17th Century playwright, so he didn’t necessarily intend his works to be published for broad literary audiences–most published versions were printed after his death. This being the case, there is much debate regarding the authority of different published versions. In the particular instance of Romeo and Juliet , there are multiple versions, all of which can be seen as authentic or “original,” but are dissimilar from each other in sometimes slight and sometimes significant ways. Some scholars believe that people who attended the play numerous times and recorded the dialogue in writing produced the earliest versions of the texts. Others believe that these texts were generated by a few of the play actors. Theories abound regarding the original production. Maybe several of them are correct, maybe none, but whatever the case, this allows modern editors to have a selection of authentic Shakespearean texts to draw from, which leads to some distinct differences from one edition to the next. (Spoiler alert!) Did Juliet awaken before Romeo was fully dead? The text seems to indicate that she didn’t, but others have interpreted it differently. This play has passed through the hands of many, many editors through the centuries, all of whom have left their own distinct marks; our hope is that our varied perspectives and orientation toward our readers’ needs will result in an edition that is relatable in the events and motivations of characters that you will encounter.
Shakespeare is famous for his plays. He is famous for the emotions and the responses that these plays inspire in those who interact with them. He is credited with creating over 1700 original words alone in the English language (you’re welcome, Jessica). And so, when we’re considering Shakespeare, we’re not looking just at the play, or the performance, or its history—we’re looking at the language.
Language has acted as Shakespeare’s central tool in creating some of the world’s greatest literary compositions. Both a powerful playwright and literary icon, the fundamental aspects of what makes Shakespeare’s work Shakespeare’s work in the first place—and what continues to perpetuate his worldwide fame—can be understood in some of his most recognizable moments. The average North American high school student can identify Romeo and Juliet as the source of “Wherefore art thou, Romeo?” as easily as they can fail a math test.
When we started out to create the world’s most accessible version of Romeo and Juliet , the biggest question that we were tasked to answer was: how do we treat the language? What needs to be changed? Should the text be completely modernized—removing early modern English altogether? What about iambic pentameter—the rhythmic meter that makes poetry of Shakespeare’s words? Is it necessary to preserve a rhythm that doesn’t seem so universal without the archaic pronunciation of the words within? Where does the line between historical preservation and accessibility meet, and how do we land at that crossroad?
The language in this edition is thus a compilation of the First Folio and Quarto, as well as the collective minds of dozens of students working diligently to achieve clarity and ensure comprehension. The language has been only slightly altered, so as to maintain Shakespeare’s original intent, and in order to also appeal to a more modern audience; punctuation has been updated where appropriate; spellings have been modernized. But the story is the same. The famous, dramatic, moving story of a forbidden love and its original contexts remains. If we have changed anything, it is so that such a story can be loved and adored (though, perhaps with a bit more reserve than either Romeo or Juliet display toward one another) and can be read by many, many more people.
Romeo and Juliet On Stage
“But soft, what light through yonder window breaks” is probably one of the most quoted and easily recognizable lines of Shakespeare. Good ol’ Romeo and Juliet have been around for centuries, brought to life again and again through the text that houses them. This text is read in high schools, watched on the stage, adapted for film, and even re-written in terms of a text conversation. But where did it all begin?
Originally, Romeo and Juliet was designed to be played on a thrust stage, which extends into the audience, allowing viewers to watch from three sides. Scenery was sparse to allow for quick action and a focus on the carefully crafted language. There was a rear balcony staged as Juliet’s window and a trapdoor for her tomb. The play ran briefly in London following the Restoration of Charles II when William Davenant, acclaimed “son of Shakespeare” (whether literary or biological, we’re still not sure), presented it at Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
Several adaptations made their way around, including a version set in ancient Rome and a version in which a father and daughter played the titular characters in 1744, which was not widely accepted (for obvious reasons, we think). In 1748, David Garrick, a man renowned in the world of theatre, staged a production of Romeo and Juliet at Drury Lane and removed all sexual references and jokes present in the text. Why someone would take the best bits out we do not know. However, this version became the standard for the next century.
When Shakespeare was staging performances of Romeo and Juliet , most all actors were men, which means that Juliet was traditionally played by men dressed up as women. This tradition persisted until the late 17th century. By the 19th century, playing the role of Juliet became an actress’s marker of success in the theatrical world, and by the mid-19th century women were even allowed to take on the role of Romeo as well.
Throughout the 1900s, several noted playwrights and producers adapted and toured the play. William Poel of the Elizabethan Stage Society created a version chock-full of fast-paced action and complicated stage directions, or blocking. Before directing the 1968 film version of the play, Franco Zeffirelli created an adaptation of the original script for the stage, and then his film premiered in 1968 at the Old Vic Theatre in London. The Old Vic was traditionally a venue for live theater, and had never before hosted a film screening. The Italian renaissance setting at the Old Vic was so realistic and natural that audience members were awed by the never-before-seen representational style of stepping into a virtual snapshot of Verona.
The film was adapted again for Baz Luhrman’s 1996 Romeo + Juliet , a lush cinematic experience that exemplified Lurhman’s decadent style. This version, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, brought the tale of tragic romance to a whole new generation of teenagers. To this day, the play is read, performed, and referenced at a massive scale, but echoes of the original production linger.
Reading Romeo and Juliet Today
The challenge presented to us in our editing of the second edition was simple: How to edit the text in a way that creates total accessibility. We were then presented with articles and journal entries speaking on the implied biases rooted deep within historical texts, including the one we present to you now. The task proved to be much more difficult than anticipated. The questions had much more nuanced solutions that required extensive discussion on how to effectively combat this biased writing. Questions like: Do we change the vocabulary? Can we remove iambic pentameter? What do we do with insensitive language? Through much deliberation, we decided to keep the core language used while adapting footnotes expressing the problematic usage of specific words and phrases. These “sensitivity footnotes” are meant to explain exactly why and how the noted section exercises human biases. We don’t want to ignore the problems of the past but recognize them and learn from them.
While everyone in the class acknowledged discomfort at passages that use human beings as a comparison base for worth, there was also a discomfort in changing the language. The language was problematic, but why hesitate? Through this awkward period, we decided to keep the language as a learning opportunity. It is important to look back on the problems of the past and see the harm caused by the bias infused writing. In order to counter those biases, the sensitivity footnotes have been added in their respective passages. These footnotes are meant to inform you where and how biases are slipped into the pages that have been read for centuries.
While we’re on the subject of important social ramifications of the play, we feel it’s important to talk about the crux of the play’s tragedy: the choice Romeo and Juliet make to die by suicide. To some it can seem strange, absurd, or even silly. Why would anyone kill themselves over someone they met only earlier that same week?
The suicides of Romeo and Juliet suggest that their love and subsequent marriage were more than the result of the exaggerated emotions of a first love. What other, less obvious factors were at play? What would drive someone to make the worst and most permanent of all mistakes? Rather than attempt to answer this question that has followed this text around like a phantom, we’ll leave you with some questions that help us contemplate the complicated tangle of intention and action in this play: How did Juliet view her future after being forced to marry someone she barely knew? Maybe Romeo felt locked into the family feud and was looking for an escape? By seriously considering the motivations that led these characters to a tragic end, can we learn how to better respond to those situations that inspire feelings of powerlessness?
We also wanted to recognize the medium of this work. A play is more than words on a page; a play is a story full of feelings and experiences that the actors and the audience bring to the table. A play like Romeo and Juliet is an experience that captivates and challenges the imaginations of people across generations, across centuries. Romeo and Juliet is not a static story about a boy and a girl. It is an open story about love between two people—a story that adapts and changes in the minds and bodies that contemplate and reenact it. We believe this play offers a chance to explore what love can actually mean, from a wide variety of genders, sexual orientations, and experiences. It is a story about the tragedies and triumphs of love, and its special power lies in its ability to inspire contemplation of these ideas in all who encounter it.
Slowly but surely, our world is warming up to the idea that love is universal regardless of the identity of the bodies involved with it. More and more, people are exploring characters with more flexible categories of analysis, opening up new (or centuries-old) avenues of sexuality that challenge a heterosexual-dominant narrative. Actors of all ages are subverting historically gendered roles to inspire audiences to question their implicit assumptions. Players and playgoers are not disregarding what these stories were, but are imagining new possibilities for what these stories could be. In other words, it can be tempting to think that the script is rigidly set, but in actuality there is a real freedom in the performance. We encourage students and teachers alike to embrace that freedom, to widen their perspectives and see Romeo and Juliet (and plays in general) as tools to help explore what it means to be human.
In any case, we’ll leave the answering of those questions to you. Just as we have enjoyed Romeo and Juliet in its many forms, and from the many angles through which we have viewed it, we hope that you will enjoy this newly revised edition!
Romeo and Juliet Copyright © 2021 by Rebecca Olson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.