The Tragedy of Romeo and
by William Shakespeare
C. Edge
Drama – story that is written to be acted
for an audience
The action of a drama is usually driven by
a character who wants something and
takes steps to get it.
Elements of Dramatic Plot:
 Exposition
 Rising
Action (Complications)
 Climax (crisis, or turning point)
 Falling Action
 Resolution
Structure of the Play
Shakespeare’s plays are primarily written
in verse.
 The play is organized into five acts.
 Each act has several scenes.
The Montagues:
 Lord
 Lady Montague
 Romeo
 Benvolio
 Balthasar
 Abram
The Capulets:
Lord Capulet
 Lady Capulet
 Juliet
 Tybalt
 Nurse
 Peter
 Sampson
 Gregory
 An Old Man
The Others:
 Prince
 Mercutio
 Friar Laurence
 Friar John
 Count Paris
 An Apothecary
 Page to Paris
The Others (continued):
 Chief
 Three Musicians
 An Officer
 Non-speaking roles:
 Citizens
of Verona, Relatives of both families,
Maskers, Guards, Watchmen, and Attendants
Stage Directions
Stage directions – directions given to
the actors of a drama that indicate how a
character should look, move, and/or speak
These are usually written in brackets [ ]
and in italics in order to set them apart
from the dialogue.
Shakespeare’s Use of Language
Shakespeare used a variety of types of
language in his plays: blank verse, rhymed
iambic pentameter, sonnets, and prose.
 Each type of language used helps to
establish the characters and the scene.
Shakespeare’s Use of Language
The majority of the play is written in blank
 Sonnets and rhymed verses are used by
the upper classes who are more highly
 Prose is used by the lower class and at
times by some upper class characters
during times of anger or frustration.
Blank Verse
Blank verse – poetry written in
unrhymed iambic pentameter
Blank means that the lines are unrhymed.
 Iambic pentameter means that each
line contains five iambs, or metrical feet
that consist of an unstressed syllable
followed by a stressed syllable.
 Shakespeare wrote the majority of his
plays in this verse form.
Sonnet – fourteen line lyric poem that is
usually written in iambic pentameter and
that has one of several rhyme schemes.
The Shakespearean Sonnet
 Has
three four-line units, or quatrains
followed by a concluding two-line unit, or
 Rhyme scheme:
 abab
cdcd efef gg
monologue – one character speaking
with others onstage
Dialogue – conversation between two or
more characters in a story or drama
Soliloquy – an unusually long speech in
which a character who is onstage alone
expresses his or her thoughts aloud
Act I, The Prologue
Spoken by the Chorus.
The chorus is a relic of ancient Greek drama.
The chorus represents the current society’s view of
the events and brings the audience up to date on
what has happened.
Reveals the entire plot of the play in a sonnet.
 The children of two wealthy, but fueding,
families in Verona, Italy meet and fall in love.
They are doomed from the beginning and their
deaths end the fued between the two families.
 ACTIVITY: Summarize the Prologue, line by line.
Act I, The Prologue
 Where is the play set?
 Verona, Italy
 What previous events does the chorus
explain to help the audience understand
the play’s plot?
 There is an “ancient grudge” between two
families and that the feud is being
Act I, Scene 1
SUMMARY: Within this scene, we see the servants
and members of each family waging war on
each other in the city streets. The prince arrives
to break up the fray and issues an decree that
anyone caught fighting would be put to death.
We meet Romeo and learn that he is a victim of
unrequited love (in love with a woman who does
not love him in return). His friend Benvolio
promises to show him other lovely ladies who
will make him forget about the object of his
Act I, Scene 1
Puns – a play on the multiple meanings of a
word or on two words that sound alike but have
different meanings
 Puns are used often in jokes:
Q: What has four wheels and flies?
A: a garbage truck.
Most of Shakespeare’s puns are unrecognizable
to us today because of the changes in word
meanings over time.
Act I, Scene 1
Puns are used by the servants of the families at
the beginning of scene 1.
 “carry coals,” “colliers,” “choler,” and “collar.” (ll.
 “moved to strike,” “to move is to stir,” “thou art
moved, thou run’st away” (ll. 6-11)
 “I will be civil with the maids—I will cut off their
heads,” “the heads of the maids or their
maidenheads (a euphemism meaning to take
their virginity)” (ll. 19-26)
Here were the servants of your adversary
And yours, close fighting ere I did approach.
I drew to part them. In the instant came
110 The fiery Tybalt, with his sword prepared,
Which, as he breathed defiance to my ears,
He swung about his head and cut the winds,
Who, nothing hurt withal, hissed him in scorn.
While we were interchanging thrusts and blows,
115 Came more and more, and fought on part and part,
Till the prince came, who parted either part.
Does Benvolio seem to be telling the truth about what happened?
Yes, he has given an accurate summary of the street brawl,
but he is leaving out details that would show how willing
most of the Montague people were to fight.
Lady Montague.
O, where is Romeo? Saw you him today?
Right glad I am he was not at this fray.
How might you describe Lady Montague’s personality at this point?
She seems anxious and worried about her son; she is a
concerned mother.
…Should in the farthest East begin to draw
The shady curtains from Aurora’s bed,
Away from light steals home my heavy son
And private in his chamber pens himself,
140 Shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out,
And makes himself an artificial night.
Notice the images of light and darkness. These elements play
an important role in this love story. At this point, Romeo’s
yearning for darkness and solitude recalls the Elizabethan
stereotype of the courtly lover; whose affection is typically
… Why then, O brawling love, O loving hate,
O anything, of nothing first created!
O heavy lightness, serious vanity,
180 Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms,
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,
Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
A figure of speech that combines two contradictory elements is called
an oxymoron. An example is “deafening silence.” List the oxymorons
in this passage.
Brawling love, loving hate, heavy lightness, serious vanity,
feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health, stillwaking sleep.
Well, in that hit you miss. She’ll not be hit
210 With Cupid’s arrow. She hath Dian’s wit,
And, in strong proof of chastity well armed,
From Love’s weak childish bow she lives uncharmed.
Allusion—reference to a statement, a person, a place, or an
event from literature, history, religion, mythology, politics,
sports, science, or pop culture.
In Roman mythology, Cupid is the god of love. Usually
represented as a winged boy with bow and arrow. Cupid is
said to cause people to fall in love by striking them with his
arrows. His image is often used around Valentine’s Day.
Act I, Scene 2
SUMMARY—Count Paris asks Lord Capulet for permission to
marry his daughter, Juliet. Capulet hesitates because he
feels that Juliet, not quite fourteen, is too young for
marriage. He relents, however, advising Paris that he
must win Juliet’s heart, for Capulet has agreed to let his
daughter have some degree of choice in choosing the
mand she will marry. Capulet invites Paris to a feast that
he is giving that evening. He hands his servant a list of
the names of the people to be invited and exits with
Paris. The illiterate servant is at a loss, and when
Romeo and Benvolio enter, he asks them for help.
Romeo reads the guest list and discovers that Rosaline,
Capulet’s niece, has been invited. Benvolio, hoping his
friend will fall in love with someone else, convinces
Romeo that they should “crash” the party.
But saying o’er what I have said before:
My child is yet a stranger in the world,
She hath not seen the change of fourteen years;
10 Let two more summers wither in their pride
Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride.
At what age does Lord Capulet consider it proper for Juliet to
Attitudes regarding the proper age for marrying and starting a
family vary across cultures and throughout history. During
Elizabethan times, life expectancy was much shorter than it is
today, so people usually married at a younger age.
Servant. Find them out whose names are written here?
It is written that the shoemaker should meddle with
40 his yard and the tailor with his last, the fisher
with his pencil and the painter with his nets; but I
am sent to find those persons whose names are here
writ, and can never find what names the writing
person hath here writ. I must to the learned. In
45 good time!
The servant cannot read, but is sent to find the people listed on
the invitation to invite them to the Capulet party. Servants
were often used for comic relief—comic scene or event that
breaks up a serious play or narrative— during Shakespeare’s
Now I’ll tell you without asking. My master is
the great rich Capulet; and if you be not of the house of
Montagues, I pray come and crush a cup of wine. Rest
you merry.
The servant has no idea he is speaking to the only son of Lord
Montague. But Romeo, Benvolio, and the audience are aware
of the irony of the servant’s revelation. This is an example of
dramatic irony – the audience or the reader knows something
important that a character in a play or story does not know.
Act I, Scene 3
SUMMARY – Lady Capulet asks Juliet’s nurse to
summon Juliet, who subsequently enters. Her
initial address to her mother shows that she is
submissive and obedient. The nurse rambles
on, telling a story about Juliet as a child. Lady
Capulet tells the nurse to be quiet and then tells
Juliet of Paris’s marriage offer, asking her
daughter to consider his proposal. Both the
mother and the nurse praise Paris’s appearance,
and Juliet dutifully agrees to her mother’s
Even or odd, of all days in the year,
Come Lammas Eve at night shall she be fourteen.
Susan and she (God rest all Christian souls!)
Were of an age. Well, Susan is with God;
20 She was too good for me. But, as I said,
On Lammas Eve at night shall she be fourteen;
That shall she, marry; I remember it well.
’Tis since the earthquake now eleven years;
And she was weaned (I never shall forget it),
25 Of all the days of the year, upon that day;
For I had then laid wormwood to my dug,
Sitting in the sun under the dovehouse wall.
My lord and you were then at Mantua.
Nay, I do bear a brain.
The nurse’s long speech provides background information about Juliet’s family and
upbringing and about the nurse’s position in the family. Why might the nurse feel
especially strong affection for Juliet?
Her own daughter, who would have been the same age as Juliet, died,
probably making the nurse feel much closer to Juliet.
Lady Capulet.
What say you? Can you love the gentleman?
80 This night you shall behold him at our feast.
Read o’er the volume of young Paris’ face,
And find delight writ there with beauty’s pen;
Examine every married lineament,
And see how one another lends content;
85 And what obscured in this fair volume lies
Find written in the margent of his eyes.
This precious book of love, this unbound lover,
To beautify him only lacks a cover.
The fish lives in the sea, and ’tis much pride
90 For fair without the fair within to hide.
That book in many’s eyes doth share the glory,
That in gold clasps locks in the golden story;
So shall you share all that he doth possess,
95 By having him, making yourself no less.
This is an example of an extended metaphor. What two things are being
Paris and a book without a cover.
Irony in Act I, Scene 3
A new complication is being added to the
plot. While Romeo will be searching for
Rosaline at the party, Juliet is supposed to
be looking over Paris to see if she thinks
he will make a suitable husband.
Ironically Romeo and Juliet will find each
other instead of the ones they are looking
Act I, Scene 4
SUMMARY –Romeo, Benvolio, and their friend
Mercutio don masks in preparation for attending
the Capulets’ party. Romeo is still lovesick and
tells his friends that a dream has filled him with
forebodings about the party. Mercutio, trying to
get Romeo to forget his troubles, fancifully
explains what happens when a person dreams.
In an extended conceit, he describes Queen
Mab, who is the fairy in control of the dream
world. Romeo chides his friend for prattling on,
but Mercutio insists that dreams have no bearing
on reality. Romeo, who foresees his own
“untimely death” (l. 111), disagrees but decides
to confront whatever fate awaits him and sets
off for the party with his friends.
When you compare, you show how two or more items are alike.
When you contrast, you show how items are different.
Shakespeare’s plays are full of contrasting pairs of characters, called
foils, whose differences strengthen our impression of each character.
Differences between characters can be determined by what they say
and do, by their outward appearance, and by what others say about
Compare and contrast the following pairs of characters:
• Romeo and Mercutio
• the nurse and Lady Capulet
•Benvolio and Tybalt
•the nurse and Mercutio
•Lord Capulet and Tybalt
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love;
On courtiers’ knees, that dream on curtsies straight;
O’er lawyers’ fingers, who straight dream on fees;
O’er ladies’ lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are.
Sometime she gallops o’er a courtier’s nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometime comes she with a tithe pig’s tail
Tickling a parson’s nose as ’a lies asleep,
Then dreams he of another benefice.
Sometime she driveth o’er a soldier’s neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted, swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again.
What connection is there
between the different
visits that Queen Mab
All of the people
visited by Queen
Mab end up
dreaming about
what they secretly
Act I, Scene 5
SUMMARY – Three servants enter, bantering with each
other as they set up for the Capulets’ party. Lord
Capulet cheerfully greets his guests, welcomes the
maskers, and reminisces about his youth. Romeo sees
Juliet and falls in love with her at first sight. Although
he inquires about her, he does not learn her identity.
Tybalt, recognizes his enemy’s voice, prepares for a
fight. He is restrained by Capulet, however, who
compliments Romeo’s manners. Tybalt obeys his uncle’s
command but swears he will have revenge. Romeo
confesses his love to Juliet; their exchange forms a
sonnet, which uses religious imagery to describe the
passionate devotion of lovers. They kiss but are
separated by the nurse, who summons Juliet to her
mother. Romeo finds out from the nurse that Juliet is
Lord Capulet’s daughter, laments his bad fortune, and
departs with his friends. Juliet questions her nurse as to
Romeo’s identity; discovering that he is a Montague, she,
too, mourns her bad luck in love.
O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
As a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear—
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!
50 So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows
As yonder lady o’er her fellows shows.
The measure done, I’ll watch her place of stand
And, touching hers, make blessèd my rude hand.
Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
55 For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.
Notice once again, the use of images of darkness and light.
What is your response to Romeo’s declaration about
Juliet’s beauty?
It seems as if he falls in love very easily. He was so
attracted to Rosaline before, Juliet must have a truly
stunning appearance.
This is an example of
If I profane with my unworthiest hand
an extended
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:
metaphor. What is
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
being compared?
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Pilgrims who are
Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
devoted to a
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
religious duty and
For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
lovers who are
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.
devoted to each
Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
Romeo and Juliet’s
105 O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do!
conversation is
They pray; grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
written as a sonnet
they say together.
Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.
Then move not while my prayer’s effect I take.
Thus from my lips, by thine my sin is purged.
Question 1, p. 762
Did you find the “love at first sight” scene
convincing? Why, or why not?
Question 2, p. 762
Scene 1 is a brilliant example of how information
can be conveyed through theatrical activity. Look
at these three segments of the scene: GregorySampson and the Montague servants; BenvolioTybalt; and the prince’s warning. To examine the
scene, use a chart like the following one. List
each episode on the left. On the right, explain
how the episode clarifies the forces at work in
the play (some of them deadly).
Question 3, p. 762
Before Romeo and Juliet meet in Scene 4,
Shakespeare must set up obstacles to
their love, so that when they do meet, we
will groan at the problems they are going
to face. What problem, or complication,
is presented in Scenes 2 and 3?
Question 4, p. 762
Scene 4 introduces us to Mercutio, who
will play an important part in the play.
How would you characterize Mercutio
based on what he has said and done? Is
he a believable character? Have you
known people like him?
Question 5, p. 762
Mercutio is used as a foil to Romeo. The
word foil in drama means “a character or
scene that is set up as a contrast to
another so that each will stand out
vividly.” In what specific ways is Mercutio a
foil to Romeo?
Question 6, p. 762
Scene 4 sets up a sense of foreboding —
a feeling that something bad is about to
happen. Identify Romeo’s specific
expressions of foreboding, as he sets off
for the party.
Question 7, p. 762
By the end of Act I, a lot of suspense has
been generated. If you were watching this
play, what questions would you be asking
at this point?
Question 8, p. 762
Although the action of this play takes
place in Italy in the fourteenth century, we
can still recognize similarities between the
culture of that time and that of our own.
Which episodes in Act I could you imagine
taking place today? What details would
have to change, if any?

The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare