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For more information, please see full course syllabus of Shakespeare: Plays & Sonnets
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Lecture Comments (2)

1 answer

Last reply by: Professor Hendershot
Wed Oct 2, 2013 9:11 PM

Post by Elizabeth Winn on September 22, 2013

Which film version do you most like? Which would you recommend for high schoolers? Thanks.

Romeo and Juliet

  • First Things First
    • This lesson will teach you how to read and understand a play by William Shakespeare, one of the greatest playwrights in the history of the English language (and the man who invented quite a lot of it).
    • These videos are not a substitute for reading Shakespeare, listening to Shakespeare, or watching Shakespeare performed.
    • Seriously. Don’t be that guy.
  • Background
    • Written 1591 – 1595
    • Based on an Italian romance, which Shakespeare expanded by adding supporting characters (Mercutio, Paris)
    • First published in 1597
    • One of Shakespeare’s most popular plays throughout his lifetime
  • Setting
    • Verona and Mantua
    • Powerful Renaissance princes and wealthy families
    • Feuds
  • Characters
    • Romeo—Young lover, member of the house of Montague
    • Montague—Romeo’s father and the leader of the family
    • Benvolio—Romeo’s cousin and friend
    • Prince Escalus—Prince of Verona
    • Count Paris—a kinsman of Prince Escalus
    • Mercutio—Kinsman of Escalus, friend of Romeo
    • Juliet—Young lover and only daughter of the Capulets
    • Capulet—Juliet’s father and the head of the house of Capulet
    • Tybalt—Juliet’s cousin
    • Rosaline—Lord Capulet’s niece, beloved of Romeo (at the beginning of the story)
    • Nurse—Juliet’s attendant and confidante
    • Friar Laurence—A Franciscan friar, would-be peacemaker, and Romeo’s confidante
  • Plot
    • The brawl
      • Montagues vs. Capulets
      • The Prince’s ruling: peace or death
      • Paris asks to wed Juliet
    • The party
      • Romeo, Rosaline, Benvolio, and Mercutio
      • Masks
      • Tybalt spots Romeo
      • Romeo and Juliet meet
    • The balcony scene
      • Names
      • Promises
      • Partings
    • Marriage arrangements
      • Friar Laurence
      • The nurse
      • The wedding
    • Lots and lots of fighting
      • Tybalt kills Mercutio
      • Romeo kills Tybalt
      • Everyone argues
      • Escalus exiles Romeo
    • Lots and lots of angst
      • Juliet is conflicted
      • Romeo tries to stab himself
      • Romeo flees to Mantua
    • Capulet arranges a wedding
    • Juliet refuses
    • Friar Laurence’s plan
    • Juliet drinks the potion
    • Friar John goes astray
    • The tomb
      • Romeo kills Paris
      • Romeo poisons himself
      • Juliet stabs herself
      • Everyone arrives too late
      • Explanations
      • Reconciliation also comes too late
  • Themes
    • Love—good, bad, and crazy
    • Fate and chance
    • Light and dark
    • Time
    • Dark parody?
  • Major Passages
    • “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
      It is the east, and Juliet is the sun …”

      -Act II, Scene 1, 44-64

    • “O Romeo, Romeo,
      Wherefore art thou Romeo? …”

      -Act II, Scene 1, 74-78

    • “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
      A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life,
      Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
      Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife …”
    • “O, I am fortune’s fool! …”
    • “Then I defy you, stars.…”

      -P 5-8; II.1.131; V.1.124

  • Jumping-Off Points
    • How does Shakespeare play with the idea of love within this play? Is it a good thing? A bad thing?
    • How does Shakespeare explore the idea of fate? Are Romeo and Juliet truly fated to die?
    • How does Shakespeare assign blame for the deaths in the play?
    • How does the metaphor of light and darkness play out over the course of the play?
    • Is Romeo and Juliet a tragedy or a dark comedy? How does it follow the usual rules of tragedy? How does it mock traditional romances?
    • Why does Shakespeare never explain the source of the feud between the Montagues and Capulets?
    • How does the story of Romeo and Juliet translate to other contexts? (See West Side Story, Romeo + Juliet, High School Musical, Shakespeare in Love, Romeo X Juliet) What changes? What stays the same?
  • The Secret of Understanding Shakespeare
    • Watch it performed (or on film if you can’t get to a theatrical production). All of Shakespeare makes more sense when it’s spoken by actors who have lived his words and know, bone-deep, what he’s talking about. Never underestimate the power of performance. Remember that this is how Shakespeare meant his work to be seen …

Romeo and Juliet

Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.

  • Intro 0:00
  • First Things First 0:10
  • Lesson Overview 0:44
  • Background 1:30
  • Setting 2:34
  • Characters 3:30
    • Romeo
    • Montague
    • Benvolio
    • Prince Escalus
    • Count Paris
    • Mercutio
    • Juliet
    • Capulet
    • Tybalt
    • Rosaline
    • Nurse
    • Friar Laurence
  • Plot 6:24
    • The brawl
    • The barty
    • The balcony scene
    • Marriage arrangements
    • Lots and lots of fighting
    • Lots and lots of angst
    • The plot thickens
    • The tomb
  • Themes 17:06
  • Major Passages 20:02
  • Jumping-off Points 21:40
    • Love
    • Fate
    • Blame
    • Light and Darkness
    • Tragedy or Dark Comedy?
    • Source of Family Feuds
    • Remakes
  • The Secret of Understanding Shakespeare 25:28