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Act Summaries, Important Ideas and Questions

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1 Act Summaries, Important Ideas and Questions
Romeo and Juliet Act Summaries, Important Ideas and Questions

2 Act I Exposition and Complication
Scene I Sunday morning; Verona Play opens with violence/ conflict/ feuding Sampson and Gregory’s Speech They boast about their manhood They boast about what they'll do to the men and “maids” of the Montague household They take on the quarrel for their master (the “ancient grudge” mentioned in prologue and deliberately provoke a fight) They daren’t go beyond the law (“Is the law on our side…”) They only get really aggressive when they see Tybalt coming (“one of my master’s kinsman”)

3 Prince Escalus’ Speech
Numerous references to violence Three previous civil brawls (violence is affecting all of Verona, not just two feuding families) Threatens next disturbance of peace will mean death

4 Act I continued Scene IV Streets of Verona
Romeo is still very depressed Romeo seems convinced that his death will result from going to feast Mercutio tries to joke Romeo out of misery; uses Queen Mab (Fairies’ Midwife who brings dreams to birth) speech Masks: the host of a feast in sixteenth century was flattered if masquers arrived uninvited. Thus, Benvolio suggests they go to the dance, pay compliments to the host and then depart, no harm done Friends want Romeo to look for new beauties, which he thinks is impossible

5 Act I continued Scene V: Capulet’s Feast Note quickness of time
Servants are busy Guests arrive and are welcomed by Capulet Capulet talks to his old cousin about the past Romeo sees Juliet and speaks about her beauty Tybalt overhears Romeo and sends for his rapier to kill him ( notice- answer is violence), but Capulet stops him (even says Romeo has a good reputation). Tybalt departs, swearing revenge (foreshadowing)

6 Act I continued Capulet Feast continued
Romeo takes Juliet’s hands, speaks to her and kisses her Romeo asks Nurse who Juliet is and is shocked to discover she’s a Capulet Capulet says farewell to guests Juliet is shocked to discover that Romeo is a Montague COMPLICATION to play: Romeo and Juliet discover they each have fallen in love with their enemy

7 Act I Discussion Questions
Note Romeo’s sudden change of love. How do you react to it? How seriously can we take their love? Romeo goes from depressed teen pushing away friends and family to someone convinced he is in love. He is quite fickle!

8 Act II Rising Action Scene I: Sunday night after feast, in streets outside Capulet orchard Romeo cannot bear to leave Juliet He does not answer to Mercutio and Benvolio’s calls Mercutio, of course, uses words and humor to attempt to conjure him to appear- using Rosaline’s name, unaware Romeo no longer cares for her

9 Act II continued Scene II: Balcony Scene (Sun. Night- Monday dawn)
Juliet proposes marriage to Romeo, who agrees to tell her messenger the next morning of arrangements he has made Notice time- they are swept up by time. Also notice how different they are in thought, language and experience She is thoughtful, rational He is more fickle, rash, and emotional

10 Act II continued When Romeo sees her at balcony, she appears to him to be a source of light; for him she is so beautiful that the only worthy things to compare her with are the moon, stars and sun. He is looking up not just at her, but also the sky- so the heavenly bodies are natural points of comparison. Would she not be upset he is stalking her? Note their lines describing love (and differences)

11 Act II continued Juliet and the problem of names
Juliet’s words, on the other hand, follow a logical argument. She attempts to find away out of the impossible situation she realizes she is in. She sees the problem as one of names. She tries to separate the name from the person However, it has been made clear that there is no escaping your name and what it stands for. Would it work for them to be together by simply shedding their names?

12 Act II continued Juliet asks him serious questions, which shows her fear for his safety. He does not take her concerns seriously. She doesn't talk about him like he does about her. While she is young and naïve in love, she is more practical (the smart, thoughtful one) “Dost thou love me…” She knows her love for him is deep and dependable. Notice his responses.

13 Act II continued Scene III: Early Monday morning Fr. Laurence's cell
Fr. Laurence, Romeo’s confessor, agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet in order to bring about reconciliation between the two households. His relationship with Romeo mirrors that Nurse and Juliet. What is his perception of Romeo’s new feelings? What does he say? Why does Romeo love Juliet? (She loves him, she is beautiful, he would love anyone that would respond to him?) Is Friar Laurence a bit presumptuous that he can end feud with marriage? Hubris?

14 Act II continued Scene IV: Monday morning before midday, Verona streets Arrangements for marriage made. Tybalt has also sent a challenge to Romeo (foreshadowing). This is the only scene in which Romeo talks cheerfully to his friends Mercutio and Benvolio do not know about Juliet and neither of them ever finds out. Mercutio thinks it’s still Rosaline he loves Tybalt sends challenge. Mercutio jokes as to whether Romeo is man enough to encounter Tybalt. Mercutio says Romeo is as good as dead (foreshadowing)

15 Act II continued Scene V: Monday midday Capulet’s house
Nurse tells Juliet the arrangements for the marriage. She holds back the news at first, which makes Juliet very impatient. Nurse- comic relief; clearly cares about Juliet as her own “daughter” Scene similar to that of Friar Laurence and Romeo

16 Act II continued Scene VI: Monday afternoon; Friar Laurence’s cell, Verona Romeo and Juliet meet at Friar Laurence’s cell. He, marrying them secretly but with the best of intentions, will not leave them alone together until they have been married in the sight of God. How do Romeo and Juliet express their love? Both Friar Laurence and Romeo express fears about the future. Should he have married them behind their parents’ back? (another complication)

17 Act III Climax Scene I: Monday afternoon, an hour or so after marriage. Streets of Verona Turning point of play/climax Before Romeo arrives, events that will lead to his banishment have already been sparked. His friend Mercutio and his “new” cousin Tybalt are killed, and all the promise of his marriage to Juliet are destroyed.

18 Act III continued Why does Tybalt call Romeo “villain”? Is this justified? Romeo refuses to rise to Tybalt’s insults, even though Tybalt twice tries to provoke him. “What would’st thou have with me?” Tybalt takes up Mercutio’s challenge instead of going after Mercutio. How does Mercutio makes sure that Tybalt must answer him? What is Mercutio fighting about? Tybalt’s insults to Romeo or Romeo’s calm, “dishonorable vile submission”?

19 Act III continued Was Mercutio wounded deliberately or by mistake? How odes Romeo play a part in it? “A plague on both of your houses”- foreshadowing, repeated three times, prophecy will be fulfilled

20 Act III continued Once Romeo hears Mercutio’s death, he forgets his previous own owrds. Fury gives Romeo upper hand, even though Tybalt is better swordsman What does Romeo mean when he says, “Oh, I am fortune’s fool”? (fate).

21 Act III continued Prince’s decision
He has himself already forbidden any more brawling in streets on pain of death Lady Capulet is demanding Romeo's life as price for Tybalt’s death His kinsman Mercutio has been one of the victims And, as he says himself: “Romeo slew him; he slew Mercutio/ Who now the price of his dear blood doth owe?” He decides on a compromise- banishment. BUT as Prince/order, should he have followed through with command? Do further unnecessary deaths occur as a result of this?

22 Act III continued Romeo’s Emotional changes (in 24 hours- again, TIME)
Out of love’s favor with Rosaline Meets and falls in love with Juliet Marries Juliet Genuinely doesn’t know what Tybalt wants with him- he does not know that Tybalt saw him at the Capulet feast and was prevented from attacking him He gives the best answer he can to the challenge- and it is true He does expect Mercutio to step in and fight for him- in fact, he ahs no way of knowing that he has walked into a situation which is already on the boil He tries to stop the fight unsuccessfully He doesn’t realize that Mercutio is wounded to death. When he does, he knows what he must do, has to throw off his genteel behavior. He realizes that eh will have to fight for two reasons: to redeem his reputation and to avenge Mercutio's death.

23 Act III continued Has Romeo any control over any of the events in the play? Capulet feast? Meeting Juliet Balcony scene Marriage to Juliet Street fight with Tybalt Is it emotion controlling these or FATE?

24 Act III continued Act II: Monday evening, Capulet's house, Verona
Romeo and Juliet have been married for three hours. Juliet knows nothing of what has happened in the street and is eagerly awaiting the night. The joyful mood at the start of the scene changes suddenly to misery when the Nurse brings the news of Tybalt’s death. Juliet’s love for Romeo is put the test.

25 Act III continued Scene begins with Juliet during night to come quickly so that she can be with Romeo Nurse comes and says what’s on her mind: “He’s dead…” Doesn’t prepare Juliet for the news. A feature of her speech is to go off the point and not to say at once everything she knows. She is grief-stricken.

26 Act III continued Juliet must now come to terms with what has happened. Her “dearest cousin” has been killed by her “dearer lord” How could Romeo’s hand shed Tybalt’s blood? Expresses conflicting emotions. However, when Nurse says shame to Romeo she knows where her loyalties are. What does banishment mean to Juliet?

27 Act III continued Scene III: Mon. evening, Fr. Laurence’s cell
Romeo ran straight to Fr. Laurence’s cell for refuge after he killed Tybalt, so he doesn’t yet know his fate of banishment. Fr. Laurence tells him and persuades him that all is not lost Only when the nurse comes and talks about Juliet does he stop crying.

28 Act III continued Banishment: Verona is walled town with heavy gates guarding the entrances from outside world, making it difficult to escape notice on the way in or out. Both Romeo and Juliet are well aware of what banishment means: never to have the right of freedom to return to Verona. The idea of banishment terrifies them. They both see it as death.

29 Act III continued Romeo cannot say nor believe that the Prince’s sentence is better than death. Again note emotional change. When Nurse comes, Romeo focuses on the only thing he can think of which explains what has happened. They both realize that they cannot be separated from their names. Fr. Laurence is forced by Romeo’s suicidal behavior to argue him out of his despair. He gives him reasons to be happy, trying to show him that things could be worse. Fr. Laurence devises a plan, but again does not go to parents for help (hubris).

30 Act III continued Scene IV: Very late Monday evening. Capulet’s house
Paris comes to woo Juliet the day after the feast. Both he and Capulet completely ignore what Capulet said earlier about Juliet’s youth. While they are talking, audience is aware that Juliet is waiting for Romeo, or that they are upstairs (dramatic irony)

31 Act III continued Notice how quickly Paris is “moved” to like Juliet- whom he just met/saw yesterday Why does he want to marry her? Capulet speaks in a disjointed way in this scene. What is wrong with him? What does he say that might threaten danger or difficulties for Juliet in the future?

32 Act III continued Scene V: Early Tuesday morning, Capulet house.
Juliet parts from Romeo- don’t know if they’ll see each other again By the end of the scene she is totally isolated from her parents and the Nurse and has only the Friar to turn to

33 Act III continued Lady Capulet, on her husband’s order (Great Chain of Being), has come to talk to Juliet about marriage to Paris. She finds Juliet weeping, things she is crying for Tybalt (which only happened that afternoon). However, we know Juliet is speaking the truth- about losing Romeo. Announcement of marriage is dreadful shock to Juliet. But to be true to Romeo and her marriage vows, she refuses to marry Paris Notice parents’ treatment/attitude to Juliet, their daughter. Capulet says, “I’ll ne’er acknowledge thee..” Is his anger justified? What options does Juliet have? Neither Lady Capulet nor Nurse can help Juliet. Is the nurse talking sense, should Juliet have listened? Why doesn’t’ she?

34 Act IV Falling Action Scene 1: Tuesday afternoon.
Friar Laurence's cell At the very place where she goes to seek help, Juliet meets the man who is the cause of her distress. Friar's original good intentions are already disrupted, and he is forced to set Juliet off on a very dangerous course.

35 Act IV continued Paris: this is the only opportunity he has to woo Juliet. He speaks directly to her, for the first time, about their marriage. Juliet is forced to speak with double meaning (verbal irony) to avoid revealing her true situation. He tries to find out if she loves him

36 Act IV continued Suicide: Juliet speaks of suicide to Fr. Laurence (as Romeo had). At this time, a man of the church would have done anything in his/her power to prevent it. Elizabethans thought suicide was a sin against God, and the souls of suicide were eternally damned. They could not be buried in tombs or graveyards, but rather in a crossroads with a steak driven through them. Thus, Fr. Laurence has to do whatever he can to save their lives. If he fails, he knows what punishments their souls will receive.

37 Act IV continued What are her fears of the plan?
Foreshadowing: Fr. Laurence’s description of Juliet's’ false death shows in advance what her real death later will be like.

38 Act IV continued Tuesday evening. Capulet’s house.
Capulet is overjoyed with Juliet’s new obedience Brings marriage forward to Wednesday morning. Capulet cannot know that Juliet and “this reverend holy friar” are planning to thwart him. When he says “my heart is wondrous light” the audience knows that it won’t be for long. Juliet speech has become much more formal. Is it because she is obedient or feeling dead/unemotional?

39 Act IV continued Tuesday night.
In spite of her terror at what might go wrong, Juliet takes the potion. Her fear of waking before Romeo comes is the opposite of what finally happens. She does not consider that the Friar’s plans for contacting Romeo in Mantua might go awry.

40 Act IV continued Juliet’s words to her parents are very formal- unlike before Fr. Laurence talked about the ancient vault. Vault/tomb would have been a large, underground chamber, marked with a stone monument above ground, in which the buried dead Capulets were laid on stone biers. They were never actually buried in the ground. Juliet knows this, so she can imagine the bones of those long-dead ancestors, lying on their biers or stacked on shelves, and some idea of how corpses rot in their shrouds. She expresses her terror in long, incomplete sentences, asking questions for which she has no convincing answers. Her image of death, if it is in the tomb, is full of horror.

41 Act IV continued Scene IV: Early Wed. morning. Capulet house
The importance of this scene is to provide a time gap between Juliet's taking the potion and her being found “dead.” It highlights the futility of Capulet's busy activity; the daughter he is doing this for is already “dead.” Household busy preparing for wedding feast.

42 Act IV continued Scene V: Early Thursday morning, Capulet house
This scene shows Juliet’s death, and it gives place for mourning ritual, which could not be appropriate at the end of the play. Juliet’s real death is mourned before it happens. Parents and Nurse lament for Juliet's’ death privately. Lady Capulet, Nurse, Paris and Capulet now each express their grief in a formal, public way, in comparison to the private scene Friar Laurence's plan depends on him writing a letter to Romeo with all this news and with instructions about what Romeo should do next.

43 Act IV continued Notice film version changes to scene Scenes cut
Family and Paris not allowed to mourn for Juliet. Why would Hollywood make these changes?

44 Act V Dénouement and catharsis
Scene I: Wed. afternoon (notice entire play takes place in days!). Mantua After being in Mantua for one day Romeo receives news of Juliet, but the wrong news (her death instead of word from Fr. Laurence) from the wrong mouth (Balthasar instead of Fr. John) He has no means of knowing that the information is false.

45 Act V continued Balthasar, as a Montague servant, can only see Juliet’s funeral at a distance. In spite of his promise earlier, Fr. Laurence has not found Balthasar to tell him of the change in Juliet’s situation, or to give him letters for Romeo

46 Act V continued Romeo reaction is immediate and final
“Then I defy you, stars [fate].” Up to this point, Romeo had left his life in the hands of Fate/stars. Why is now defying the stars? What are his thoughts about Juliet and the end of all he had hoped for? Romeo resolves to kill himself to lie with Juliet in the tomb. He needs a mortal drug, which is illegal. What makes him think the apothecary will sell it to him? Why is the apothecary willing to sell it to him, eventually?

47 Act V continued Scene II: Wed. night. Friar Laurence's cell. Verona
Short scene contains the most crucial piece of information. Fr. Laurence's letter to Romeo has never even left Verona. It is now impossible for him to have Romeo at Juliet’s side when she awakens. What is Fr. John’s reasons for not delivering letter? Is it a weakness in plot or character? Is his story convincing? Dilemma: Romeo doesn’t know truth. Fr. Laurence doesn’t know he received inaccurate information. Does anyone in the play know all the right information about both Romeo and Juliet? What should Fr. Laurence do at this point? (hubris)

48 Act V continued Scene III: Wed. night. Churchyard. Verona.
In last scene of the play, all must be explained and resolved. Friar Laurence's plan goes completely astray. Paris, Tybalt, Romeo and Juliet all lie dead in the same tomb, but at last the two households are shamed into making peace.

49 Act V continued Romeo’s indecisiveness makes him very aggressive in this last scene. Notes his behavior to Balthasar and Paris. Does Balthasar suspect something is up? Romeo and Paris meet for the first time. Paris recognizes him, but Romeo doesn’t recognize him until it's too late. What reasons does Paris give for not liking Romeo? “Tempt not a desperate man.” What is he desperate to do? “A grave? O no, a lantern.” These words begin his farewell to the world. What is his state of mind? Who do you know? Does he die happy?

50 Act V continued Fr. Laurence arrives to be at Juliet’s side when she wakes. He has no idea of what he will find. At what line, does Fr. Laurence begin to fear that all is not as it should be? Is he filled with fear?

51 Act V continued When Juliet kisses Romeo what does she realize?
She has no time to do anything except react to the noises and voices she can hear around her. How is she feeling/acting?

52 Act V continued The watch turns these private deaths into a public tragedy; they order the Prince, the Capulets and the Montagues to be woken up and brought to the tomb. They also order anyone found in the churchyard to be arrested. The only people who know, at this point, all that has happened is the audience (dramatic irony). What does Fr. Laurence say? How do you feel about his actions now?

53 Great Chain of Being Order Restored
Prince Escalus says, “All are punish’d.” What took him so long to restore order? Is he, too, to blame at all?

54 Denouement Civil strife in Verona spread to kill many.
It killed all the young people in the play except Benvolio. Tybalt, Mercutio, Paris, Romeo and Juliet are all dead. Now all the older generation are feeling its effects Lady Montague is dead. (“Grief of Romeo’s exile hath stopp’d her breath.”) Lady Capulet says, “This sight of death is as a bell, that warns my old age to a sepulcher.” Fr. Laurence says, “Let my old life be sacrific’d, some hour before his time.” Fathers make gestures. What are they?

55 Catharsis In the end, as needs to occur in Shakespeare, order has been restored, but not without loss of life. Were these deaths unnecessary? Why/why not? Could they have been prevented? How? Did they parents learn? As it is a tragedy, who are the tragic heroes? What are their fatal flaws?

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