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1 Exciting Romeo and Juliet Study Guide for Teachers

This comprehensive Romeo and Juliet study guide for teachers thoroughly explores the play, covering its context, characters, themes, performance style, conventions, and lasting influence on modern theatre. Unlike other guides that have a literary focus and are directed at students, this one is aimed at the Drama and Theatre Arts teacher with design tasks, directing activities, discussion questions, staging notes, character interpretations, and additional classroom resources that will help deepen your students’ understanding and appreciation of this prominent Shakespearean play from the Elizabethan period. This document also highlights the play’s premiere and notable productions, both historical and contemporary. Its aim is not just to be a theoretical guide but a practical companion for the Drama and Theatre Arts classroom.

Romeo and Juliet Study Guide for Teachers

Title: Romeo and Juliet
Author: William Shakespeare
Written: 1591-1595
Publication: 1597 (First Quarto), 1599 (Second Quarto)
Premiere: Unknown, but likely between 1591 and 1595
Genre: Tragedy, Romance

Overview

  • “Romeo and Juliet” is one of Shakespeare’s most famous and enduring plays, celebrated for its timeless themes of love, fate, and the consequences of feuding.
  • The play has had a significant impact on literature, theatre, and popular culture, inspiring countless adaptations, references, and retellings across various mediums.

Plot Synopsis

In the Italian city of Verona, two wealthy families, the Montagues and the Capulets, have been engaged in a long-standing feud. Romeo, a young Montague, attends a Capulet masquerade party and falls in love with Juliet, the daughter of the Capulets. With the help of Friar Laurence, they secretly marry, hoping to reconcile their families through their union.

However, tragedy strikes when Romeo is banished for killing Juliet’s cousin, Tybalt, in a duel after Tybalt kills Romeo’s friend, Mercutio. Unaware of the secret marriage, Juliet’s parents arrange for her to marry Count Paris. Desperate, Juliet seeks Friar Laurence’s help, and he devises a plan for her to drink a potion that will make her appear dead, allowing her to escape the arranged marriage and reunite with Romeo.

Miscommunication leads to Romeo believing Juliet is truly dead. Grief-stricken, he returns to Verona and takes his own life by her side. When Juliet awakens and finds Romeo dead, she, too, takes her own life. The tragic deaths of their children lead the Montagues and Capulets to reconcile, finally ending their long-standing feud.

Contextual Background

William Shakespeare

Born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest playwright in the English language. He wrote approximately 39 plays and 154 sonnets, covering a wide range of genres and themes. Shakespeare’s works have been translated into every major language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. He married Anne Hathaway at the age of 18 and had three children. Shakespeare spent most of his career in London, where he was a member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a theatre company that later became the King’s Men under the patronage of King James I. He died in 1616 at the age of 52, leaving behind a legacy that continues to shape literature and theatre to this day.

Historical and Cultural Context

“Romeo and Juliet” was written during the Elizabethan era, a time marked by a flourishing of the arts under the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. The play draws upon various sources, including Arthur Brooke’s narrative poem “The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet” (1562) and William Painter’s “Palace of Pleasure” (1567).

Influences on Shakespeare and the Play

Shakespeare was influenced by the conventions of Elizabethan theatre, which often featured plays with themes of love, tragedy, and the consequences of feuding. He was also inspired by the works of classical authors such as Ovid and Plutarch, as well as contemporary Italian novellas.

Character Analysis

Main Characters

Romeo Montague

The young, passionate protagonist who falls deeply in love with Juliet. Initially heartbroken over his unrequited love for Rosaline, Romeo’s impulsive nature leads him to pursue Juliet and marry her in secret.

Juliet Capulet

The young, innocent heroine who falls in love with Romeo despite her family’s hatred for the Montagues. Juliet’s loyalty to Romeo and her willingness to defy her family’s wishes demonstrate her strength and determination.

Friar Laurence

A well-intentioned but ultimately misguided mentor to Romeo and Juliet. Friar Laurence agrees to marry the couple in secret, hoping to reconcile their feuding families, but his plan tragically unravels.

Mercutio

Romeo’s witty, quick-tempered friend. Mercutio’s death at Tybalt’s hands is a turning point in the play, leading to Romeo’s banishment and the tragedy that follows.

Romeo and Juliet Study Guide

Key Relationships

Romeo and Juliet

The central relationship of the play, characterised by intense passion and devotion. Their love is tested by the obstacle of their families’ feud.

Romeo and Mercutio

Close friends whose relationship is marked by witty banter and loyalty. Mercutio’s death has a significant impact on Romeo.

Juliet and the Nurse

The Nurse serves as Juliet’s confidante and mother figure, helping to facilitate her secret marriage to Romeo.

Character Interpretation and Portrayal for Actors

Romeo

Actors portraying Romeo must convey his passion, impulsivity, and the depth of his love for Juliet, as well as his grief and despair when faced with tragedy.

Juliet

Actresses playing Juliet should capture her innocence, loyalty, and inner strength as she navigates the complexities of love and family duty.

Friar Laurence

Actors depicting Friar Laurence should portray his good intentions and wisdom, as well as his flaws and poor judgment in his attempts to help the young lovers.

Themes and Motifs

Exploration of Major Themes

  • Love and Passion: The play explores the intensity and transformative power of love, as exemplified by Romeo and Juliet’s devotion to each other despite the obstacles they face.
  • Fate and Free Will: The play grapples with the tension between the characters’ free will and the sense that their tragic fate is inescapable, as foreshadowed by the prologue.
  • The Consequences of Feuding: The long-standing feud between the Montagues and Capulets serves as the backdrop for the play’s tragic events, underscoring the destructive nature of hatred and conflict.
  • Youth and Impetuosity: The play highlights the rashness and impulsivity of youth, as seen in Romeo and Juliet’s hasty decisions and the tragic consequences that follow.
  • Discussion of Recurring Motifs and Symbols
  • Light and Dark: The play uses imagery of light and dark to symbolize love, life, and death, as well as the contrasts between the young lovers’ passion and the darkness of their fate.
  • Time: References to time throughout the play underscore the fleeting nature of life and love, as well as the sense of urgency that drives the characters’ actions.
  • Poison: Poison serves as a symbol of both love and death in the play, as seen in the potion Juliet drinks to feign death and the poison Romeo consumes to join her in death.

Staging and Performance

Notable Productions and Performances

Historical Productions
  1. David Garrick’s 1748 Production at the Drury Lane Theatre, London: This production is notable for Garrick’s adaptation of the play, which heavily altered Shakespeare’s original text and included a more elaborate tomb scene.
  2. Henry Irving’s 1882 Production at the Lyceum Theatre, London: Irving’s production featured lavish sets and costumes and starred Ellen Terry as Juliet. It was praised for its visual spectacle and the performances of its lead actors.
  3. John Gielgud’s 1935 Production at the New Theatre, London: Gielgud directed and starred as Romeo opposite Laurence Olivier as Mercutio and Peggy Ashcroft as Juliet. The production was celebrated for its clarity and the strength of its ensemble cast.
Modern Productions
  1. Franco Zeffirelli’s 1960 Production at the Old Vic, London: Zeffirelli’s production featured a young Judi Dench as Juliet and was praised for its youthful energy and innovative staging.
  2. Kenneth MacMillan’s 1965 Ballet Production for the Royal Ballet, London: MacMillan’s ballet adaptation of the play, featuring Rudolph Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn, has become a classic in the ballet repertoire.
  3. Rupert Goold’s 2010 Production at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon: Goold’s production was set in a modern-day Verona and emphasized the youthful passion and recklessness of the central characters.
  4. Kenneth Branagh’s 2016 Production at the Garrick Theatre, London: Branagh’s production, featuring Richard Madden and Lily James as the titular lovers, was notable for its traditional staging and the chemistry between its lead actors.
  5. Ola Ince’s 2021 Production at Shakespeare’s Globe, London: Ince’s production, set in modern times, featured a diverse cast and explored themes of mental health, suicide, and the impact of social media on young people’s lives.

Notable Films

  • 1936 MGM Film: Directed by George Cukor and starring Norma Shearer and Leslie Howard, this film adaptation was known for its lavish sets and costumes.
  • 1968 Franco Zeffirelli Film: This popular film adaptation starred Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey and was praised for its youthful, passionate portrayal of the lovers.
  • 1996 Baz Luhrmann Film: This modernised adaptation, titled “Romeo + Juliet,” starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes and featured a contemporary setting and soundtrack.

Staging Challenges and Opportunities

Balcony Scene: The famous balcony scene (Act 2, Scene 2) requires careful staging to convey the intimacy and romance of Romeo and Juliet’s exchange.

Fight Scenes: The play’s several fight scenes, including the duel between Romeo and Tybalt, demand skillful choreography and execution to maintain safety and dramatic tension.

Design Elements

Set Design: Sets for “Romeo and Juliet” often aim to capture the romantic atmosphere of Verona, with elements such as balconies, gardens, and grand halls.

Costume Design: Costumes can reflect the Elizabethan period, the Italian Renaissance setting, or be adapted to suit modern or alternative interpretations.

Lighting Design: Lighting can be used to create mood, symbolize the play’s themes of light and dark, and highlight key moments, such as the balcony scene or the tomb.

Sound Design: Music and sound effects can enhance the emotional impact of the play, from romantic melodies to the clashing of swords in fight scenes.

Props: Key props include the vial of poison, the dagger, and the love letters exchanged between Romeo and Juliet.

Make-up: Make-up can be used to enhance the youthful appearance of the actors playing Romeo and Juliet, as well as to create the pallor of death in the tomb scene.

Directing Choices and Interpretations

Directors often focus on the youthful passion and impulsivity of the central characters, emphasising the intensity of their love and the tragedy of their fate.

Some productions highlight the contemporary relevance of the play’s themes, such as the consequences of prejudice and violence, by updating the setting or drawing parallels to modern conflicts.

Performance Styles and Theatrical Movements Associated with the Play

“Romeo and Juliet” is associated with the tradition of Elizabethan theatre, characterised by its use of poetic language, soliloquies, and a focus on the complexities of human nature.

The play has also been adapted to suit various theatrical movements, such as Romanticism, which emphasised the power of emotion and the individuality of the artist, and Modernism, which sought to break from traditional forms and conventions.

Conventions of Shakespearean Tragedy

  1. A tragic hero of high status whose downfall is brought about by a tragic flaw or error in judgment.
  2. The use of soliloquies and asides to reveal characters’ inner thoughts and motivations.
  3. The inclusion of subplots that mirror or contrast with the main plot.
  4. The use of dramatic irony, where the audience knows more than the characters.
  5. A sense of inevitability or fate that overshadows the characters’ actions.
  6. The use of poetic language and imagery to convey the depth of emotion and the significance of the events.

Discussion Questions

Questions to Encourage Deeper Engagement with the Play

  1. How does the play explore the theme of love and its transformative power? Is the love between Romeo and Juliet truly “star-crossed,” or are they victims of their own impulsive actions?
  2. In what ways does the feud between the Montagues and Capulets contribute to the play’s tragic events? How might the story have unfolded differently if the families were not enemies?
  3. How does Shakespeare use language and imagery to convey the depth of emotion and the significance of the events in the play? What are some of the most striking examples of poetic language and imagery?
  4. Analyse the character of Friar Laurence. What motivates his actions, and how do his good intentions ultimately contribute to the play’s tragic outcome?

Questions on Character Interpretation and Performance Choices

  • How might an actor portray Romeo’s transition from lovesick youth to passionate lover to tragic hero? What are the key moments that define his character arc?
  • Discuss the challenges and opportunities of portraying Juliet’s complex character. How can an actress convey her innocence, strength, and devotion to Romeo while also navigating her relationships with her family and societal expectations?
  • What are some of the most significant choices a director might make when staging “Romeo and Juliet”? How can different interpretations of the play impact its themes and emotional resonance?

Comparative Analysis

Comparison and Contrast with Other Works in the Same Genre

  • Compare and contrast “Romeo and Juliet” with other Shakespearean tragedies, such as “Hamlet” or “Othello.” How do these plays explore similar themes of love, fate, and the consequences of human flaws?
  • Examine how “Romeo and Juliet” has influenced other works of literature, such as Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, and Stephen Sondheim’s musical “West Side Story.” How do these adaptations reinterpret or reimagine the original play?

Discussion Questions

  • “Romeo and Juliet” is one of Shakespeare’s most famous and enduring plays. What qualities have contributed to its lasting appeal and relevance across different cultures and time periods?
  • Analyze how “Romeo and Juliet” has been adapted and reinterpreted across various mediums, such as film, ballet, and opera. What do these adaptations reveal about the play’s universal themes and cultural significance?

Classroom Activities

  • Activity 1: Divide the class into small groups and assign each group a key scene from the play. Have the groups rehearse and perform their scenes, focusing on conveying the emotions, motivations, and relationships of the characters. After each performance, discuss how the actors’ choices impacted the interpretation of the scene and its contribution to the overall play.
  • Activity 2: Ask students to write a soliloquy from the perspective of a character at a pivotal moment in the play. For example, they could write Juliet’s soliloquy before she drinks the potion, expressing her fears, hopes, and devotion to Romeo. Have students perform their soliloquies and discuss how they deepen our understanding of the characters’ inner lives.
  • Activity 3: Assign small groups of students to different theatrical movements or performance styles (e.g. Melodrama, Epic Theatre, Expressionism, Poor Theatre). Have each group plan and perform a short scene from the play in their assigned style, considering how elements such as acting techniques, staging, and design might be adapted. Discuss how these different approaches impact the interpretation and emotional resonance of the play.
Romeo and Juliet Film

Design Activities

Set Design

  • Activity 1: Have students create a mood board or collage that represents their vision for the set design of a specific scene in the play, such as the balcony scene or the Capulet’s ball. Ask them to consider the colors, textures, and architectural elements that would best capture the romantic atmosphere of Verona and the mood of the scene.
  • Activity 2: Divide the class into small groups and assign each group a different location in the play, such as the Capulet’s house, the Montague’s house, or Friar Laurence’s cell. Have each group design a set for their assigned location, considering how the set can reflect the characters, themes, and conflicts associated with that space.
  • Activity 3: Have students create a set design for a key scene in the play, such as the balcony scene or the tomb scene. Ask them to consider how their design choices (e.g., colors, levels, textures) contribute to the mood, themes, and character relationships in the scene. Have students present their designs and explain their creative choices.

Costume Design

  • Activity 1: Ask students to design costumes for the main characters in the play, either in the traditional Elizabethan or Italian Renaissance style or in a modern interpretation. Have them consider how the costumes can reflect the characters’ personalities, social status, and relationships.
  • Activity 2: Have students create a fashion show or costume parade featuring their designs for the characters in the play. Ask them to present their designs and explain their creative choices, discussing how the costumes contribute to the overall interpretation of the play.

Lighting Design

  • Activity 1: Have students create a lighting plot or storyboard for a key scene in the play, such as the balcony scene or the final tomb scene. Ask them to consider how the lighting can create mood, symbolize the play’s themes, and highlight the characters’ emotions and actions.
  • Activity 2: Divide the class into small groups and assign each group a different lighting design concept, such as using colours to represent the Montagues and Capulets or using shadows to create a sense of foreboding. Have each group create a brief presentation showcasing how they would apply their assigned concept to the play’s lighting design.

Sound Design

  • Activity 1: Ask students to create a playlist or soundtrack for the play, selecting music that reflects the themes, moods, and characters of “Romeo and Juliet.” Have them consider how different musical genres and styles can be used to enhance the emotional impact of the play.
  • Activity 2: Have students design sound effects for a fight scene in the play, such as the duel between Romeo and Tybalt. Ask them to consider how the sound effects can be used to create tension, convey the characters’ emotions, and enhance the overall impact of the scene.

Props

  • Activity 1: Have students create a prop list for the play, identifying all the essential props needed for each scene. Ask them to consider how the props can be used to enhance the characters’ actions, convey the play’s themes, and create a sense of realism on stage.
  • Activity 2: Assign students to design and create a key prop for the play, such as the vial of poison or the love letters exchanged between Romeo and Juliet. Have them present their prop designs and discuss how the props contribute to the overall interpretation of the play.

Make-up

  • Activity 1: Ask students to create a make-up design for one of the main characters in the play, considering how the make-up can be used to enhance the character’s age, emotional state, and physical appearance. Have them present their designs and discuss how the make-up contributes to the overall interpretation of the character.
  • Activity 2: Have students create a make-up tutorial or demonstration video showcasing how to create a specific make-up look for a character in the play, such as Juliet’s youthful beauty or the pallor of death in the tomb scene. Ask them to explain their creative choices and discuss how the make-up enhances the character’s portrayal.

Directing

  • Activity 1: Divide the class into small groups and assign each group a key scene from the play. Ask each group to reimagine and direct their assigned scene in a different setting or time period (e.g. a gritty urban environment) while still preserving the essence of the scene. Encourage students to consider how their chosen setting and time period might influence the characters’ motivations, relationships, and actions, as well as the overall tone and visual representation of the scene. Have each group present their reimagined scene to the class, explaining their directorial choices and how they aimed to capture the spirit of the original scene while offering a fresh interpretation.
  • Activity 2: Select a pivotal scene in the play. Divide the class into small groups and assign each group a different interpretation or motivation for the character’s actions within the scene. Have each group rehearse and perform the scene based on their assigned interpretation, focusing on how they use subtext, body language, and vocal delivery to convey the characters’ motivations and underlying emotions. After each performance, encourage a class discussion on how the different interpretations impacted the scene’s emotional quality and the audience’s understanding of the characters’ actions and relationships.

Script Excerpt Activities

Balcony Scene (Act 2, Scene 2):

ROMEO
He jests at scars that never felt a wound.

[Juliet appears above at a window.]

But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!
Arise fair sun and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she.
Be not her maid since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
It is my lady, O it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!
She speaks, yet she says nothing. What of that?
Her eye discourses, I will answer it.
I am too bold, ’tis not to me she speaks.
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand.
O that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek.
Activity

Have students perform the balcony scene, focusing on conveying the romance, passion, and poetry of Romeo and Juliet’s exchange. Discuss how the language and imagery contribute to the scene’s mood and the characters’ relationship.


Mercutio’s Queen Mab Speech (Act 1, Scene 4):

MERCUTIO
O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Over men’s noses as they lie asleep:
Her waggon-spokes made of long spinners’ legs;
The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers;
Her traces, of the smallest spider’s web;
The collars, of the moonshine’s watery beams;
Her whip of cricket’s bone; the lash, of film;
Her waggoner, a small grey-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Prick’d from the lazy finger of a maid:
Her chariot is an empty hazelnut,
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o’ mind the fairies’ coachmakers.
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love;
O’er 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, ambuscados, 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. This is that very Mab
That plats the manes of horses in the night;
And bakes the elf-locks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which, once untangled, much misfortune bodes:
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them, and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage:
This is she,—
Activity

Ask students to analyze Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech, considering how it reveals his character, foreshadows the play’s events, and contributes to the play’s themes of dreams and imagination. Have students perform the monologue, experimenting with different delivery styles and interpretations.


The Fight Scene (Act 3 Scene 1):

[Enter Mercutio, Benvolio, Page and Servants.]

BENVOLIO.
I pray thee, good Mercutio, let’s retire:
The day is hot, the Capulets abroad,
And if we meet, we shall not scape a brawl,
For now these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.

MERCUTIO.
Thou art like one of these fellows that, when he enters the confines of a tavern, claps me his sword upon the table, and says ‘God send me no need of thee!’ and by the operation of the second cup draws him on the drawer, when indeed there is no need.

BENVOLIO.
Am I like such a fellow?

MERCUTIO.
Come, come, thou art as hot a Jack in thy mood as any in Italy; and as soon moved to be moody, and as soon moody to be moved.

BENVOLIO.
And what to?

MERCUTIO.
Nay, an there were two such, we should have none shortly, for one would kill the other. Thou? Why, thou wilt quarrel with a man that hath a hair more or a hair less in his beard than thou hast. Thou wilt quarrel with a man for cracking nuts, having no other reason but because thou hast hazel eyes. What eye but such an eye would spy out such a quarrel? Thy head is as full of quarrels as an egg is full of meat, and yet thy head hath been beaten as addle as an egg for quarrelling. Thou hast quarrelled with a man for coughing in the street, because he hath wakened thy dog that hath lain asleep in the sun. Didst thou not fall out with a tailor for wearing his new doublet before Easter? with another for tying his new shoes with an old riband? And yet thou wilt tutor me from quarrelling!

BENVOLIO.
And I were so apt to quarrel as thou art, any man should buy the fee simple of my life for an hour and a quarter.

MERCUTIO.
The fee simple! O simple!

Enter Tybalt and others.

BENVOLIO.
By my head, here comes the Capulets.

MERCUTIO.
By my heel, I care not.

TYBALT.
Follow me close, for I will speak to them.
Gentlemen, good-den: a word with one of you.

MERCUTIO.
And but one word with one of us? Couple it with something; make it a word and a blow.

TYBALT.
You shall find me apt enough to that, sir, and you will give me occasion.

MERCUTIO.
Could you not take some occasion without giving?

TYBALT.
Mercutio, thou consortest with Romeo.

MERCUTIO.
Consort? What, dost thou make us minstrels? And thou make minstrels of us, look to hear nothing but discords. Here’s my fiddlestick, here’s that shall make you dance. Zounds, consort!

BENVOLIO.
We talk here in the public haunt of men.
Either withdraw unto some private place,
And reason coldly of your grievances,
Or else depart; here all eyes gaze on us.

MERCUTIO.
Men’s eyes were made to look, and let them gaze.
I will not budge for no man’s pleasure, I.

Enter Romeo.

TYBALT.
Well, peace be with you, sir, here comes my man.

MERCUTIO.
But I’ll be hanged, sir, if he wear your livery.
Marry, go before to field, he’ll be your follower;
Your worship in that sense may call him man.

TYBALT.
Romeo, the love I bear thee can afford
No better term than this: Thou art a villain.

ROMEO.
Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee
Doth much excuse the appertaining rage
To such a greeting. Villain am I none;
Therefore farewell; I see thou know’st me not.

TYBALT.
Boy, this shall not excuse the injuries
That thou hast done me, therefore turn and draw.

ROMEO.
I do protest I never injur’d thee,
But love thee better than thou canst devise
Till thou shalt know the reason of my love.
And so good Capulet, which name I tender
As dearly as mine own, be satisfied.

MERCUTIO.
O calm, dishonourable, vile submission!
[Draws.] Alla stoccata carries it away.
Tybalt, you rat-catcher, will you walk?

TYBALT.
What wouldst thou have with me?

MERCUTIO.
Good King of Cats, nothing but one of your nine lives; that I mean to make bold withal, and, as you shall use me hereafter, dry-beat the rest of the eight. Will you pluck your sword out of his pilcher by the ears? Make haste, lest mine be about your ears ere it be out.

TYBALT.
[Drawing.] I am for you.

ROMEO.
Gentle Mercutio, put thy rapier up.

MERCUTIO.
Come, sir, your passado.

[They fight.]

ROMEO.
Draw, Benvolio; beat down their weapons.
Gentlemen, for shame, forbear this outrage,
Tybalt, Mercutio, the Prince expressly hath
Forbid this bandying in Verona streets.
Hold, Tybalt! Good Mercutio!

[Exeunt Tybalt with his Partizans.]

MERCUTIO.
I am hurt.
A plague o’ both your houses. I am sped.
Is he gone, and hath nothing?

BENVOLIO.
What, art thou hurt?

MERCUTIO.
Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch. Marry, ’tis enough.
Where is my page? Go villain, fetch a surgeon.

[Exit Page.]

ROMEO.
Courage, man; the hurt cannot be much.

MERCUTIO.
No, ’tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door, but ’tis enough, ’twill serve. Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man. I am peppered, I warrant, for this world. A plague o’ both your houses. Zounds, a dog, a rat, a mouse, a cat, to scratch a man to death. A braggart, a rogue, a villain, that fights by the book of arithmetic!—Why the devil came you between us? I was hurt under your arm.

ROMEO.
I thought all for the best.

MERCUTIO.
Help me into some house, Benvolio,
Or I shall faint. A plague o’ both your houses.
They have made worms’ meat of me.
I have it, and soundly too. Your houses!

[Exeunt Mercutio and Benvolio.]

ROMEO.
This gentleman, the Prince’s near ally,
My very friend, hath got his mortal hurt
In my behalf; my reputation stain’d
With Tybalt’s slander,—Tybalt, that an hour
Hath been my cousin. O sweet Juliet,
Thy beauty hath made me effeminate
And in my temper soften’d valour’s steel.

Re-enter Benvolio.

BENVOLIO.
O Romeo, Romeo, brave Mercutio’s dead,
That gallant spirit hath aspir’d the clouds,
Which too untimely here did scorn the earth.

ROMEO.
This day’s black fate on mo days doth depend;
This but begins the woe others must end.

Re-enter Tybalt.

BENVOLIO.
Here comes the furious Tybalt back again.

ROMEO.
Again in triumph, and Mercutio slain?
Away to heaven respective lenity,
And fire-ey’d fury be my conduct now!
Now, Tybalt, take the ‘villain’ back again
That late thou gav’st me, for Mercutio’s soul
Is but a little way above our heads,
Staying for thine to keep him company.
Either thou or I, or both, must go with him.

TYBALT.
Thou wretched boy, that didst consort him here,
Shalt with him hence.

ROMEO.
This shall determine that.

[They fight; Tybalt falls.]

BENVOLIO.
Romeo, away, be gone!
The citizens are up, and Tybalt slain.
Stand not amaz’d. The Prince will doom thee death
If thou art taken. Hence, be gone, away!

ROMEO.
O, I am fortune’s fool!

BENVOLIO.
Why dost thou stay?

[Exit Romeo.]

Enter Citizens.

FIRST CITIZEN.
Which way ran he that kill’d Mercutio?
Tybalt, that murderer, which way ran he?

BENVOLIO.
There lies that Tybalt.

FIRST CITIZEN.
Up, sir, go with me.
I charge thee in the Prince’s name obey.

Enter Prince, attended; Montague, Capulet, their Wives and others.

PRINCE.
Where are the vile beginners of this fray?

BENVOLIO.
O noble Prince, I can discover all
The unlucky manage of this fatal brawl.
There lies the man, slain by young Romeo,
That slew thy kinsman, brave Mercutio.

LADY CAPULET.
Tybalt, my cousin! O my brother’s child!
O Prince! O husband! O, the blood is spill’d
Of my dear kinsman! Prince, as thou art true,
For blood of ours shed blood of Montague.
O cousin, cousin.

PRINCE.
Benvolio, who began this bloody fray?

BENVOLIO.
Tybalt, here slain, whom Romeo’s hand did slay;
Romeo, that spoke him fair, bid him bethink
How nice the quarrel was, and urg’d withal
Your high displeasure. All this uttered
With gentle breath, calm look, knees humbly bow’d
Could not take truce with the unruly spleen
Of Tybalt, deaf to peace, but that he tilts
With piercing steel at bold Mercutio’s breast,
Who, all as hot, turns deadly point to point,
And, with a martial scorn, with one hand beats
Cold death aside, and with the other sends
It back to Tybalt, whose dexterity
Retorts it. Romeo he cries aloud,
‘Hold, friends! Friends, part!’ and swifter than his tongue,
His agile arm beats down their fatal points,
And ’twixt them rushes; underneath whose arm
An envious thrust from Tybalt hit the life
Of stout Mercutio, and then Tybalt fled.
But by and by comes back to Romeo,
Who had but newly entertain’d revenge,
And to’t they go like lightning; for, ere I
Could draw to part them was stout Tybalt slain;
And as he fell did Romeo turn and fly.
This is the truth, or let Benvolio die.

LADY CAPULET.
He is a kinsman to the Montague.
Affection makes him false, he speaks not true.
Some twenty of them fought in this black strife,
And all those twenty could but kill one life.
I beg for justice, which thou, Prince, must give;
Romeo slew Tybalt, Romeo must not live.

PRINCE.
Romeo slew him, he slew Mercutio.
Who now the price of his dear blood doth owe?

MONTAGUE.
Not Romeo, Prince, he was Mercutio’s friend;
His fault concludes but what the law should end,
The life of Tybalt.

PRINCE.
And for that offence
Immediately we do exile him hence.
I have an interest in your hate’s proceeding,
My blood for your rude brawls doth lie a-bleeding.
But I’ll amerce you with so strong a fine
That you shall all repent the loss of mine.
I will be deaf to pleading and excuses;
Nor tears nor prayers shall purchase out abuses.
Therefore use none. Let Romeo hence in haste,
Else, when he is found, that hour is his last.
Bear hence this body, and attend our will.
Mercy but murders, pardoning those that kill.

[Exeunt.]
Activity

Divide the class into two groups. Discuss the concept of blocking and how physical movement can reflect character motivations and relationships. Discuss how this ‘”fight scene” effectively requires choreographing the actors’ movements, akin to a dance sequence. Allow each group to block their version of the scene, paying special attention to the fight sequence and how characters react to the escalating tension. Perform each group’s scene before the class. Offer feedback, dicuss, and review.


Juliet’s Soliloquy (Act 4, Scene 3):

JULIET
Farewell. God knows when we shall meet again.
I have a faint cold fear thrills through my veins
That almost freezes up the heat of life.
I’ll call them back again to comfort me.
Nurse!—What should she do here?
My dismal scene I needs must act alone.
Come, vial.
What if this mixture do not work at all?
Shall I be married then tomorrow morning?
No, No! This shall forbid it. Lie thou there.

[Laying down her dagger.]

What if it be a poison, which the Friar
Subtly hath minister’d to have me dead,
Lest in this marriage he should be dishonour’d,
Because he married me before to Romeo?
I fear it is. And yet methinks it should not,
For he hath still been tried a holy man.
How if, when I am laid into the tomb,
I wake before the time that Romeo
Come to redeem me? There’s a fearful point!
Shall I not then be stifled in the vault,
To whose foul mouth no healthsome air breathes in,
And there die strangled ere my Romeo comes?
Or, if I live, is it not very like,
The horrible conceit of death and night,
Together with the terror of the place,
As in a vault, an ancient receptacle,
Where for this many hundred years the bones
Of all my buried ancestors are pack’d,
Where bloody Tybalt, yet but green in earth,
Lies festering in his shroud; where, as they say,
At some hours in the night spirits resort—
Alack, alack, is it not like that I,
So early waking, what with loathsome smells,
And shrieks like mandrakes torn out of the earth,
That living mortals, hearing them, run mad.
O, if I wake, shall I not be distraught,
Environed with all these hideous fears,
And madly play with my forefathers’ joints?
And pluck the mangled Tybalt from his shroud?
And, in this rage, with some great kinsman’s bone,
As with a club, dash out my desperate brains?
O look, methinks I see my cousin’s ghost
Seeking out Romeo that did spit his body
Upon a rapier’s point. Stay, Tybalt, stay!
Romeo, Romeo, Romeo, here’s drink! I drink to thee.

[Throws herself on the bed.]
Activity

Have students perform Juliet’s soliloquy, focusing on conveying her fear, determination, and devotion to Romeo. Discuss how this moment reveals her inner strength and the sacrifice she is willing to make for love.


Romeo’s Final Speech (Act 5, Scene 3):

ROMEO: For here lies Juliet, and her beauty makes
This vault a feasting presence full of light.
O my love, my wife!
Death that hath sucked the honey of thy breath,
Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty:
Thou art not conquered, beauty’s ensign yet
Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,
And death’s pale flag is not advancèd there.—
Tybalt, liest thou there in thy bloody sheet?
O, what more favour can I do to thee
Than with that hand that cut thy youth in twain
To sunder his that was thy enemy?
Forgive me, cousin.— Ah, dear Juliet,
Why art thou yet so fair? I will stay with thee,
And never from this palace of dim night
Depart again. Here, here will I remain
With worms that are thy chambermaids:
O, here Will I set up my everlasting rest,
And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars
From this world-wearied flesh. Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace! And, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing death!
Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide!
Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
The dashing rocks thy sea-sick weary bark!
Here’s to my love. O true apothecary,
Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.

[Dies.]
Activity

Ask students to analyse Romeo’s final moments, considering how they reflect his character arc and the play’s themes of love, fate, and sacrifice. Have students perform Romeo’s final speech, experimenting with different emotional states and motivations.

Further Reading and Resources


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