DramaWorks. A Teaching Guide. for. The Tragedy of. Romeo and Juliet. A joyous dramatic adventure brought to you by Teacher s Pet Publications

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1 DramaWorks A Teaching Guide for The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet A joyous dramatic adventure brought to you by Teacher s Pet Publications Copyright 1998 All rights reserved

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3 THE TRAGEDY OF ROMEO AND JULIET written by William Shakespeare 3

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5 This teaching guide was created by Marion B. Hoffman and William L. Hoffman With special thanks to Mary B. Collins for inspiration and unfailing support

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7 This Guide is gratefully dedicated to all of the classroom teachers without whom we would not be the lifelong students we are today. We thank you. 7

8 TABLE OF CONTENTS 8

9 INTRODUCTION TO THE DramaWorks GUIDE 13 What DramaWorks is Who the DramaWorks Guide is for What the DramaWorks Guide Contains How to use the DramaWorks Guide What the DramaWorks Guide is Not ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT AND HIS ART 23 A SYNOPSIS OF ROMEO AND JULIET 33 LEARNING AND TEACHING 47 How to Read the Play The Language of the Play The Characters in the Play The Plot of the Play Some Thematic Ideas for Discussion The Costuming, the Props, and the Set USING VOCABULARY WORDS FROM THE TEXT 85 SCENES FOR MODERN REWRITES 103 9

10 Table of Contents 2 THE WRITTEN WORD Writing from Personal Experience 135 Writing from Research Writing from Interviews THE EXERCISES 149 Improvisations Presentations Acting MORE AND MORE ACTIVITIES 187 TEACHER ORGANIZERS 197 Pedagogical Methods #1 - #5 THE EPILOGUE

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13 Introduction to the DramaWorks Guide What DramaWorks is DramaWorks has been created to meet the needs of classroom teachers. We have found that many teachers want resource materials directly related to presenting dramatic literature in their classrooms. They want information for themselves about specific plays, help in teaching the plays in the classroom, a large selection of in- and out-of-class activities geared to students working at different learning levels, and some practical guidance in putting all of that material together as quickly and as effortlessly as possible for applied use. In response to those needs, we have created DramaWorks. It is designed, in a single guide, to give teachers a working understanding of a play, in this instance The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, a high level of comfort in making an interesting and informative presentation of the play to their students, and numerous activities of varying kinds that can be done in class or at home. All activities come with suggestions for the teacher as well as directions for students. The directions are so flexible that the teacher can copy them and hand them out to the students, give them out orally, or adapt them to a variety of different purposes. The activities include vocabulary exercises that focus on application of the words; classroom presentations; close examination of specially chosen parts of the text; modernizing of Shakespearean prose; classroom presentations; acting exercises; writing assignments for the personal, interview, and research paper; and improvisations. There are, in addition, many extra activities that encourage students to practice their skills in gathering and thinking about information, presenting information verbally, working with various media, and writing information in a variety of forms. Students also are encouraged to try to learn new skills such as the elements of acting. Accompanying those materials are very practical suggestions for ways to allot classroom time for direct teaching, interactive discussions, and assigned activities, as well as ways to use out-of-class activities to the best advantage in furthering students understanding and enjoyment of the play. 13

14 Introduction 2 Everything is presented in ways that conserve the teacher s time and at the same time capitalize on every opportunity to make the classroom interesting and dynamic. Many opportunities are given to actually act out parts of the play in class. What is unique about DramaWorks is that it places emphasis on classroom teaching, discussion, and activity. We hope it gives teachers the confidence to create a dynamic, interactive classroom environment. We know it will help them to introduce Romeo and Juliet to their students with minimal preparation but maximal results. Because DramaWorks actually teaches users about the play while coaching them in teaching their students, it requires relatively little additional preparation time. There is no need to put hours and hours into creating lengthy lesson plans from scratch. And because it gives teachers many specific activities and suggestions about assigning them and often gives estimates regarding time required to carry them out, teachers can simply pick and choose from among many pre-designed activities without having to create new ones and to devise lengthy instructions for their students. Who the DramaWorks Guide is For DramaWorks can be used by any busy teacher who wants to introduce drama into the classroom. The most obvious users are probably teaching English, although they might be in another of the humanities or in some area of language arts. Our teachers enjoy teaching and being with young people. They are likely to be relatively new teachers looking for some support while they gain experience, although they could easily be ten- or fifteen-year veterans looking for help in preparing to teach a new play or one they haven t taught for a while. What we know for sure is that this DramaWorks Guide will be used by teachers who believe it will enhance their teaching of Romeo and Juliet while saving them some much-needed time in preparation. 14

15 Introduction 3 We hope our teachers see great value in teaching drama dramatically. Though they probably are teaching drama as part of an overall curriculum, we hope they want to go beyond acquainting students with the play in the same way that they would read a novel, poem, or short story. Good teachers know through experience that the only true way to understand drama is to see at least some of it acted out before our eyes. They know that hearing actors voices, watching characters move, seeing costumes, and looking at sets--even in the imagination-- will make more of an impression on students than a million words on a page. Our teachers also want to introduce theatre into the classroom to acquaint their students with great works of drama and help them to understand their plots, language, characters, and ideas. Our teachers want to make their classroom presentations interesting. They want to keep the attention of their students and impress upon them some of the pleasure of learning that brought the teachers into the classroom in the first place. They know there is no better way to capture and keep students attention than through the natural dynamics of drama. Our teachers also know that drama is one way to open students eyes to an understanding of real life. If students understand the motivations of a play s characters, they will be better armed to assess the motivations of people they meet in their own lives. If they see models of both trustworthy and untrustworthy behavior, they will be able to make more informed decisions about the behavior of others and about how they themselves behave If they understand more about language and historical periods and have discussed some new ideas, students will perhaps be just a little better prepared to live their lives in ways that will give satisfaction to themselves and others. What the DramaWorks Guide Contains The Guide contains several sections. The first section, About the Playwright and His Art, contains a brief write-up on the life and art of William Shakespeare. Next is A Synopsis of Romeo and Juliet that both teachers and students may use to gain a quick and easy understanding of the play s overall plot. Although some teachers may object to giving students notes on the plot of the play because doing so seems somehow like cheating, we 15

16 Introduction 4 believe that it is very helpful to read and to have on hand to refer to. But, as with all of the parts of the Guide, teachers decide which parts to use and which not. In the section entitled Learning and Teaching, really the heart of the Guide, teachers will learn about Romeo and Juliet at the same time that they gain techniques for teaching the play to their students. There is information on choosing a good text; reading the play for enjoyment and for teaching preparation; considerable information about the play s characters, plot, thematic ideas, costuming, props, and set; and interesting and informative ways to present those aspects of drama to students. Throughout this section, we talk with teachers and share our thoughts on each part of Romeo and Juliet. Also included in Learning and Teaching are ways to act out parts of the play in the classroom using the sketchiest of props, sets, and costumes or no props, sets, or costumes at all. If teachers want to use the acting portions of the Guide, then the ideas in props, sets, and costumes will be very beneficial. Throughout the Learning and Teaching section, teachers will find many casual suggestions for activities that can be used with students at varying learning levels. What Learning and Teaching really is is a section of coaching for the teacher. As educators with many years of experience in a variety of settings with lots of different students, we try to give teachers as many ideas as possible for ways to learn about the play and to pass that learning along to their students in as dynamic and informative a way as possible. By combining their own ideas and methodology with ours, teachers will create a vast assortment of ideas, approaches, and teaching techniques. And that brings us to an important note: we don t propose that our suggestions are the only way(s) to teach this or any other play. As teachers approach Romeo and Juliet and other dramas, they will no doubt add notes, thoughts, and activities that will change their teaching over the years. What Learning and Teaching represents is a beginning, a variety of ways to approach Romeo and Juliet that we believe will be successful in many classrooms. Following the Learning and Teaching section are a series of more formally presented activities. Some may be done with students at varying learning levels while others require substantially capable and interested students. 16

17 Introduction 5 Vocabulary Words from the Text is designed to make students more familiar with the meanings of over 60 words from the play s text. Each word is quoted as it is used in Romeo and Juliet and is accompanied by a clear dictionary definition. Students apply the words in interesting ways to assist them in understanding them and becoming more familiar with their use. Some of these activities may be done individually at home and some may be done in pairs and small groups in class. The section called Scenes for Modern Rewrites is intended primarily to combat the accessibility problems presented by language that is over 400 years old. But what teachers will find about the Rewrites section is that focusing so narrowly on individual scenes will open ways for teachers and students to discuss the play s characters, plot, and major ideas. The Rewrites lend themselves to either individual or group work and should be approached as a fun activity, if at all possible. The Written Word is included for teachers who are most comfortable with evaluating students through traditional writing assignments. There are multiple suggestions for writing based on personal experience, writing that evolves from investigation and research, and writing based on interviews. The writing itself is an individualized activity done by students either in or outside of the classroom, but in the interest of time, we assume that most of the writing will be completed at home. The Exercises are of three types. Some ask for investigation followed by a classroom presentation. And because we are learning about drama, other exercises involve creating theatrical improvisations and presenting them in class while still others give students the opportunity to act out parts of the play in class with or without costumes, props, and sets. Some of the exercises can be done individually while some are group activities. The section was created to give teachers a wide choice of each type of activity. The Exercises is a section that can be used in its entirety, in part, or not at all. Although we hope that teachers will use some of the activities in the section, it is entirely possible to teach Romeo and Juliet interestingly and successfully without doing the exercises at all. Regardless of how they are used, it is unlikely that any classroom teacher will have the luxury of enough class periods to use the entire Exercises section. 17

18 Introduction 6 One of the last sections is called More and More Activities, which includes a list of extra activities that teachers might want to consider. There are fifty activities listed. Many of them have multiple parts. All told, there probably are more than seventy-five activities in the section. We conclude with The Epilogue and a note on the text of Romeo and Juliet that we used in creating the Guide. Every activity section contains SUGGESTIONS FOR THE TEACHER, which depending on the type of activity--gives teachers ideas about how to work with the activities, information about why we chose the particular activity, what we hope it will accomplish with students, and things for teachers to think about as they assign the work. Although we make practical suggestions on ways to teach the activities, we always leave all final decisions to teachers because they know their particular students, classrooms, and schools better than anyone else can. For every series of activities and most individual activities, we offer DIRECTIONS FOR STUDENTS, which gives guidance about how to complete the activity, how to approach it, and what we hope will be learned from it. We have tried to assure that the directions are very informative but always supportive of teachers. Our desire is that our directions never encroach upon teachers freedom to use the activities in any way that they please. As teachers give directions for an activity, they will give students whatever information they think is needed. If they think in some cases that just giving students our directions and letting them get started on the activity is appropriate, that is fine. Students often will be able to do the work by just referring to DIRECTIONS FOR STUDENTS. When teachers want additional information in making assignments, they will find the basis for it in the SUGGESTIONS FOR THE TEACHER sections. How to Use the DramaWorks Guide We want teachers to feel free to use the DramaWorks Guide however they choose. But we also understand that teachers are busy people who don t always have time to wade through pages of information and then make hundreds of choices about how to present the material to their students. 18

19 Introduction 7 We suggest, then, that teachers spend as much time as possible reading the play and the Guide. Then, if they want some practical applications of the material, they will find those under Teaching Organizers. In that section are a variety of ways to organize the actual teaching of Romeo and Juliet. In the Organizers, we break the teaching of the play into relevant parts and suggest pedagogical methods. All five methods require that the teacher start by giving an overview of what will be taught during the whole unit and how the teaching will be done. Generally, too, teachers will want to be sure that students understand their expectations. We suggest that copies of the synopsis of Romeo and Juliet be given to students prior to the first class. Our pedagogical methods are all based on fifteen class periods of approximately 50 minutes each. If teachers have more or fewer than fifteen class periods to devote to the play, they will necessarily need to adapt the Organizers to their own purposes. Teachers may find these Organizers helpful time savers, especially if they are preparing to teach Romeo and Juliet for the first time. Some users of the Guide may even be teaching their first play ever. But if teachers know ways that help them to present the material more effectively, then they should do it in whatever way seems best to them. The Organizers presented as a way to save the teachers time. They are meant to help teachers, not dictate to them. What is special about the DramaWorks Guide is that it has been created to be used by a variety of teachers in a variety of ways. We assume that all teachers and all classes and all classrooms are different. We invite teachers to use all or parts of the Guide exactly as we present them. But we also urge teachers to modify the Guide in any way that they please whenever they see the need. Every step we have taken in creating the DramaWorks Guide was chosen to make teachers professional and personal lives easier. It s not, after all, as though teachers can t present dramatic literature without our help. But if we do some of the work for them, they will have more time to think about presenting information to their students, working with them in groups and individually, and seeing that the classroom experience is as valuable as possible for everyone. 19

20 Introduction 8 What the DramaWorks Guide Is Not Now that we have said what the DramaWorks Guide is, it might be helpful to mention what we are not trying to do. We are not trying to give a synopsis of everything that has ever been written about Romeo and Juliet. There is no way that anyone could do that. We are not writing an academic critique of the play. There are lots of journals available if that s what teachers want and need. We aren t trying to compile the latest literary criticism on the play. Again, that information is readily available. We re not trying to make teachers instant experts on either Romeo and Juliet or William Shakespeare. If teachers choose to spend a lot of time researching Shakespeare and his plays, there is sufficient information for them to choose from. The DramaWorks Guide is not intended to be the final word on any aspect of Romeo and Juliet. It is intended to provide help for teachers and their students. We hope it is viewed as a useful resource supportive of an informative, enjoyable, and enlightened teaching process. We hope that teachers enjoy using it as much as we enjoyed writing it. 20

21 About the Playwright and His Art 21

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23 About the Playwright and His Art William Shakespeare is arguably the best known playwright in the history of modern civilization. Certainly in the United States everyone from nonagenarians down to teenagers and perhaps young children has heard his name. Many can name at least a couple of his plays. Frequently they have actually read some if not all of the works as well. But even those who have never read a page of a Shakespearean play have a feel for the man and his works. Look at a partial list of quotations from Shakespeare and see if you recognize more than a few. We re not going to mention where every quote appears nor even attempt to make every quote exactly accurate because those niceties aren t important to our point here, which is that most readers will recognize at least half a dozen quotes or near quotes from major Shakespearean plays. Beware the Ides of March! Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse! Out, damned spot! Neither a borrower nor a lender be This above all, to thine own self be true That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet Star-crossed lovers What a piece of work is a man The milk of human kindness Something is rotten in the state of Denmark Frailty, thy name is woman Every inch a king Parting is such sweet sorrow Beware of jealousy the green-eyed monster Double, double toil and trouble The course of true love never did run smooth As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods What fools these mortals be All the world s a stage A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury The lady doth protest too much 23

24 About the Playwright 2 See what we mean? There are hundreds to choose from, all of which Shakespeare either made up himself or was among the first to use. Even people who have never read a line of Shakespeare and it is hard to find such people given the fact that Shakespearean drama has long been a mainstay of the high school classroom feel somehow that they know Shakespeare and his writings. And given the vast reservoir of quotes that he left us, it is understandable that people feel knowledgeable about his words. Actually Shakespeare is credited with thirty-seven plays as well as a group of narrative poems and well over a hundred sonnets. His plays, which are what concern us here, are generally divided into The Comedies, The Histories, The Tragedies, and The Romances (or Tragi-Comedies). Some of the best known of the histories and romances are King Richard the Third, The Life of King Henry the Fifth, The Life of King Henry the Eighth, The Winter s Tale, and The Tempest. The comedies and tragedies are even better known. Perhaps comedies recognized by the largest number of people are The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night s Dream, As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, and The Merchant of Venice. The names of the tragedies, on the other hand, are known to just about everybody. Plays such as Hamlet, Othello, Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and King Lear are known to multitudes of play readers and theatre goers alike. All of which is remarkable considering that William Shakespeare s plays were all written approximately 400 years ago. His work is performed on the New York stage, in small community theatres all over the country, in churches, in senior citizen centers, and in local parks. They are a mainstay of high school, college, and university classrooms and main stage performances. And they can, of course, be seen in the movies and on television with great frequency. It s a truism that many people have seen one or more Shakespearean plays rewritten for movie theatres or the television screen and think that they really know a Shakespearean work. And perhaps they do. For what would plays be worth 400 years after their creation if not to bring laughter, tears, smiles, anger, horror, understanding, fear, confusion, and knowledge to their audiences? 24

25 About the Playwright 3 Everyone who has read Shakespeare has a favorite play. Some people adore A Midsummer Night s Dream because they saw a fantastic version performed in a local park one summer night. Others are enchanted by Romeo and Juliet because it was the first real play they read in high school. Still others will have none of the comedies because they believe the tragedies are the only real Shakespeare. And some wouldn t dream of bothering with a production of Pericles because it is so widely believed that Shakespeare wrote only parts the good parts naturally of that charming play. Our personal favorites are King Lear and Hamlet, mostly because they have some wonderful associations in our personal lives. One of us claims that reading Lear is certain to change the life of the reader because it once changed hers, and the other believes that anyone at any level can benefit from studying Hamlet because he once taught the play to a clever group of inner-city GED students. But she also believes that Henry IV, Part I is really wonderful because it was the first Shakespearean play she ever read seriously and it was taught to her by a very talented English Lit professor. And he would add that Henry V does have that fantastic prologue that sums up the very essence of theatre. So you see, everybody but everybody has a proprietary feeling about this author. We can quote from his plays, we can at the very least name a bunch of his works, and we all can recognize his image in a variety of pictures and poses. We know William Shakespeare. We mention all of this information because we don t know how all teachers and students feel about Shakespeare. We suspect that a few teachers and quite a few students might not share our enthusiasm for this writer. But we like knowing that the plays are being taught and, in the vast majority of cases, taught well because we know personally how much growth can occur in young people who indulge in good drama. And to indulge in Shakespearean plays is to indulge in the best. We might add that despite his great popularity, there is not a great deal that is definitively known about William Shakespeare. Some things, on the other hand, are so well known that they are taken for granted. And other things have been so long believed that it almost doesn t matter anymore whether they are true or not. 25

26 About the Playwright 4 Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England, in 1564 during the time that Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne of England. It is accepted that he was christened on April 26 of that year in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford, but the date of his birth is unknown. People who celebrate or at least acknowledge his birthday do so on April 23. Shakespeare was the third child of John and Mary Shakespeare. His father was a glove maker in Stratford. He also dressed, or tanned, leather. John Shakespeare held numerous public offices, such as alderman, and finally he became high bailiff, which made him something like a modern mayor. Near the end of his life, John Shakespeare lost a great deal of his money somehow. He ceased his political and civic and church involvement and, when he died in 1601, was able to leave only a little real estate to his son William. It is known that Shakespeare s mother, named Mary Arden at birth, came from a prominent Catholic family. It is generally accepted that her family was wealthier than her husband s. Mary and John Shakespeare had eight children, two of whom died before William Shakespeare was born. Shakespeare was the third child and the oldest son. Except for one sister, Shakespeare outlived all of his siblings. There is no real evidence that Shakespeare attended school at all, but it is generally speculated that he did attend at least grade school. Although nothing definitive is known about his early boyhood, one would gather from his plays that he probably knew a good deal about the outdoors. He frequently mentions information about such things as the woods, fields, forests, birds, animals, trades, country working people, and outdoor sports and festivals. It has been noted that he seems to have known a lot about hunting, hawking, fishing, dancing, folk music, astrology, medicine, and law as well as many other subjects. Shakespeare s marriage to Anne Hathaway is recorded as having taken place in He was approximately 18, she 26. On May 26, six months after the marriage, William and Anne s first child, Susanna, was born. Two years later, in 1585, twins Judith and Hamnet were born. Nobody really knows what Shakespeare did between 1585 and 1592, although there has, of course, been much guessing about his whereabouts and his occupations. It has been supposed that he was a teacher, a tutor, a clerk, or a 26

27 About the Playwright 5 member of a traveling theatrical troupe. There are, however, those who believe he was a coachman, a gardener, a printer, or a lawyer. One often told story is that in about 1584 Shakespeare and some of his friends were caught trespassing and poaching on the estate of a wealthy landowner and were forced to leave town. No one seems to know for sure if the story is true. Once in London and it is believed he was definitely in that city by 1588 it is thought that he might have held horses for theatre patrons and done other jobs in and around the theatre. It is well known that before he was known as a dramatist, he was an actor and that he continued to act in his own plays and those of other dramatists long after his own writing became known. By the time Shakespeare was 28 years old, he was in London and was already recognized both for his acting and his playwriting. Plays such as The Comedy of Errors, Titus Andronicus, and The Taming of the Shrew were among his first performed plays. But then between 1592 and 1594 the plague kept the theatres in London almost completely closed. Repertory companies continued to travel and to perform, but the call for new plays would temporarily have been far less than it was when the London theatres were open. It was during that time that Shakespeare wrote some of his non-dramatic poetry. Two narrative poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece were written during this time. Shakespeare worked with The Lord Chamberlain s Men, a company formed in For the next decade this was the important acting company in London. In addition to plays performed in castles, most of the drama of the era took place in two playhouses, The Theatre and The Curtain, both of which were managed by James Burbage. It is thought that Shakespeare lived near these two theatres until approximately 1596 when he moved to an area called Bankside. The two theatres there, The Rose and The Swan, were built by Philip Henslowe, a theatrical competitor of James Burbage s. In 1596 the Burbages also moved to Bankside and built the famous Globe Theatre. For the rest of his life Shakespeare was associated with The Globe Theatre. 27

28 About the Playwright 6 Through the years William Shakespeare became relatively wealthy through his work in the theatre and through his real estate purchases. He continued throughout his lifetime to maintain strong ties to his native Stratford. In 1596 Shakespeare was granted a coat of arms on behalf of his father. The family crest shows a spear and a falcon with his wings and claws extended. In 1597 William Shakespeare purchased New Place, the second largest house in Stratford, and in 1599 he was made a principal shareholder in The Globe Theatre. At that point he was considered to be a well-established businessman. When Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, King James I ascended the throne of England. At that time Shakespeare s theatrical company was placed under King James patronage and became The King s Company. The company was by far the most successful and most respected of its day. In 1608 the company acquired the Blackfriars Theatre and after that time the company alternated between Blackfriars and The Globe Theatres. Plays by Shakespeare were performed at both of the theatres, at the court of King James, and in various castles of noblemen. Shakespeare himself continued to act for many years although he did so less and less as the years passed. In about 1610 Shakespeare retired from the theatre and returned to his home in Stratford. He was a wealthy and well respected member of that community. William Shakespeare died in The day of his death is the same as the one accepted as his birthday, April 23. He is buried in Stratford. Shakespeare s plays were published in the First Folio in This is the first collected edition of his plays, which were gathered together for publication by John Heminges and Henry Condell, two of Shakespeare s fellow actors in the King s Men. Many people have speculated for many years about exactly when the plays were written and performed. Clearly half of them have no definite date of composition although scholars have tried to deduce evidence from a whole array of sources. The fact remains that there is much about Shakespeare that we may never know. 28

29 About the Playwright 7 One thing that has long been in dispute is whether a person named William Shakespeare actually wrote the plays attributed to him. As with the dates of composition and performance, critics have long guessed about the authorship of the plays, and some have even attributed his plays to other authors or to joint authorship. It seems to us not to matter much 400 years later exactly who wrote these plays. We need not to learn such information in order to enjoy and profit from the beautiful plays that we call Shakespearean. Certainly this is nowhere more true than in the case of Romeo and Juliet. The play was written between 1594 and It is speculated that it was first performed in about The play was certainly among the first group of Shakespearean plays to be composed and performed, and it was definitely included as one of the tragedies of William Shakespeare in the First Folio. 29

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31 A SYNOPSIS OF ROMEO AND JULIET 31

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33 A Synopsis of Romeo and Juliet List of Major Characters Romeo Montague, his father Lady Montague, his mother Benvolio, their kinsman Juliet Capulet, her father Lady Capulet, her mother Nurse to Juliet Tybalt, kinsman to the Capulets Petruchio, Tybalt s companion Escalus, Prince of Verona Paris, the Prince s kinsman and Juliet s suitor Mercutio, the Prince s kinsman and Romeo s friend Friar Lawrence Friar John There are, in addition, the Chorus, various servingmen, the Apothecary, Paris page, and some citizens, musicians, and watchmen. THE PROLOGUE The Prologue, presented by the Chorus, establishes the premise of the play for the audience. There are, the Chorus reveals, two Verona households both of high dignity who long have been engaged in a grudge that has caused them to shed each other s blood. The old grudge has caused new violence. From these families were born two star-crossed lovers whose deaths at their own hands were the only things that could end their parents quarrels. The audience learns that the play will take two hours to unfold on the stage and are asked to attend to the unfolding story. 33

34 A Synopsis 2 ACT 1, Scene 1 The scene opens with Sampson and Gregory, servingmen, engaging in conversation at the House of Capulet. Their talk soon includes Abram who works in the House of Montague. The subsequent fighting of these servants from the two houses foreshadows the fighting between the Capulet and Montague factions that will follow. As the servants begin to fight, they are interrupted by Benvolio, a kinsman of the Montagues, who urges peace. Tybalt, a kinsman of the Capulets, then challenges Benvolio and begins a fight with him. Citizens of Verona observe and begin crying for clubs and other swords and hollering, Down with the Capulets! Down with the Montagues! Old Capulet and Old Montague enter with their wives. The old men s shouts of violence, though seeming as ineffective as the bragging of their servants, indicate a very long-standing rivalry but one that the older men are still supporting out of habit more than purpose. The fighting is broken up by Escalus, the Prince of Verona, who points out that the families have had three civil brawls recently that have gotten citizens as old as Capulet and Montague involved to stop the fights. The Prince says that any future fighting will mean death to the participants. He says he will meet with Capulet right away that morning and with Montague later that afternoon. Escalus sends all of the fight s participants on their way. Everyone but Benvolio, Montague, and Lady Montague leave the scene. Benvolio recounts what just happened. When Lady Montague inquires of Romeo s whereabouts, Benvolio says that he has seen but not talked with Romeo. It seems that Romeo has been acting in a melancholy manner but no one knows why he is upset. Romeo enters. As he is questioned by Benvolio, he explains that he is in love but that his love is not returned by the woman of his affections. 34

35 A Synopsis 3 Act I, Scene 2 Count Paris engages in conversation with Capulet and asks for permission to marry Juliet. Capulet explains that Juliet is just fourteen years old. He wants to wait two more years before she is married. However, he suggests that Paris should strive to win Juliet s affections now and that he will have opportunity to do so at a party that Capulet is giving that night. Capulet sends his servingman off into the town to issue the invitations to the party. The servant cannot read, so when he runs into Romeo and Benvolio, he asks if they can read the invitation list. When a look at the list reveals that Rosaline, the woman loved by Romeo, will be at the supper party, Romeo and Benvolio decide to attend the party themselves without invitation. Act 1, Scene 3 A conversation takes place between Juliet, her nurse, and her mother, Lady Capulet. After some playful conversation from the nurse, Lady Capulet tells Juliet that Count Paris would like to marry her. Juliet says that she has not even begun to consider marriage yet. Lady Capulet says that Paris will be at the party that evening and that Juliet should look at him and attempt to see his attributes. Juliet says that she will try to please her parents by looking at Paris and trying to like what she sees. Act 1, Scene 4 Romeo, Benvolio, Mercutio, and other young men are on their way to the Capulet party. As maskers, they wear masks and plan to enter the party, dance, and then leave. Romeo talks about being burdened with love. He is teased by his companions. Romeo says that going to this party might not be wise because he has had an ominous dream that he will die an untimely death. 35

36 A Synopsis 4 Act I, Scene 5 The young men are welcomed warmly by Capulet, who does not recognize them due to the masks they are wearing. There is music and dancing. Romeo sees Juliet, is immediately smitten with her beauty, and inquires as to who she is. He makes a speech about her beauty and is overheard by Tybalt, who recognizes Romeo s voice. Tybalt immediately tells his uncle Capulet that Romeo is at the party. Capulet responds that Romeo seems to be behaving himself and that the younger man is well thought of in Verona. Only Capulet s age and authority keep Tybalt from challenging Romeo then. Romeo then actually meets Juliet, and they fall in love with each other. Following some romantic banter between them, Romeo kisses her twice. When Romeo again inquires about Juliet, he finds that she is the Capulet daughter. Romeo and his friends prepare to depart. Capulet tries to convince them to stay longer but then bids them farewell. As the men are leaving, Juliet inquires and learns that Romeo is a Montague. Thus by the end of the first act Romeo and Juliet have fallen in love but have also learned that they each love a member of a rival family. Act 2, Scene 1 The second act opens with the Chorus. The first speech points out what has happened in the play so far. Although Romeo has been leaving the Capulet grounds with his friends, he decides that he cannot leave Juliet. He thus steps into the darkness alone. His friends seek him out while making teasing comments about Romeo s unreturned love for Rosaline. They are, of course, unaware that Romeo has fallen in love with Juliet. Finally, when Romeo seems nowhere to be found, the other men leave. 36

37 A Synopsis 5 Act 2, Scene 2 Romeo comes forward. Juliet enters onto a balcony above him. While Juliet begins to speak of Romeo, he speaks quietly in asides. At first she is talking to herself and he is responding in a voice that only the audience would have heard. Then Juliet becomes aware that Romeo himself is below. The young lovers talk with each other and acknowledge their love. Juliet s nurse calls to her. Juliet goes into the house but promises to return. When she comes back, she says that if his love is honorable and he wants to marry her, he will send her word the next day where and when their marriage will take place. The nurse calls again, and Juliet goes inside. But once again she returns to the balcony as he prepares to leave. They exchange words of love, and she asks when she should send someone to get his answer the next day. He says that she should send someone by nine o clock. Romeo leaves, planning to visit Friar Lawrence to arrange the marriage. Act 2, Scene 3 Romeo hurries to Friar Lawrence and speaks to him of his love. At first Friar Lawrence thinks that Romeo is speaking of Rosaline, but he quickly learns that Romeo has fallen in love with Juliet. Romeo then asks for Friar Lawrence s agreement to marry the lovers that very day. Friar Lawrence agrees to perform the marriage in the hope that it will resolve the difficulties between the two families. Act 2, Scene 4 Benvolio and Mercutio run into Romeo on the street. The friends exchange witty remarks back and forth. Juliet s nurse and her man Peter enter and greet the friends. 37

38 A Synopsis 6 After his friends depart, Romeo tells the nurse that Juliet should come to Friar Lawrence s cell that afternoon to be married. Romeo also tells the nurse to wait, that he will see that she gets a rope that he will use to climb up to Juliet room after the marriage ceremony. Act 2, Scene 5 Juliet is waiting anxiously for the nurse to return to her. Although it takes the nurse a long time to impart the message from Romeo, she finally tells Juliet that she should go to Friar Lawrence s that afternoon to be married to Romeo. She also tells her that the ladder will enable Romeo to climb up to her. Act 2, Scene 6 Friar Lawrence tells Romeo that he hopes this holy wedding will not bring sorrow later. Romeo says that even if sorrow follows, it will be worth it if he can call Juliet his. Juliet arrives. They speak briefly, and then all three depart so that Friar Lawrence can marry the lovers. Act 3, Scene 1 Benvolio and Mercutio are walking together when they encounter Tybalt, Petruchio, and others of the House of Capulet. When Tybalt asks if Mercutio consorts with Romeo, Mercutio answers wittily. Benvolio urges that they take their private conversation away from public observance. Mercutio refuses to budge. Romeo enters, and Tybalt immediately challenges him. Although Romeo says that he doesn t want to fight, Mercutio accepts Tybalt s challenge to defend Romeo s honor. Mercutio draws. Tybalt draws also, and they fight. Romeo draws his sword in an attempt to stop the fight. He reminds Tybalt and Mercutio of what the Prince had earlier decreed. But as Romeo tries to stop the fight, Tybalt stabs Mercutio under Romeo s arm. Then Tybalt, Petruchio, and their followers leave. 38

39 A Synopsis 7 Mercutio says that he is badly wounded and that it happened because Romeo stepped into the fight. He curses both houses, Capulet and Montague. Then Mercutio is carried off for medical treatment. Romeo, alone briefly, observes that Mercutio was wounded on his behalf and to preserve his [Romeo s] honor. Benvolio returns to say that Mercutio is dead. Tybalt comes back to the scene, and this time Romeo challenges him to take back his taunts. They fight, and Tybalt is killed by Romeo. As Benvolio urges Romeo to leave, Romeo exits. Citizens, along with the Prince, old Montague, Capulet, and their wives, enter. Benvolio tells all of them what happened. The Capulets demand Romeo s death for killing Tybalt. Instead, the Prince exiles Romeo to Mantua. Act 3, Scene 2 Juliet enters alone. Much in love, she is waiting for Romeo to come to her. Juliet s nurse enters with the rope. She tells Juliet what has happened in the street and what the Prince s verdict was. At first Juliet denounces Romeo because of her familial feelings for Tybalt. But then she takes back those thoughts and begins to grieve over the fact that Romeo has been exiled by Prince Escalus. The nurse says that she will find Romeo and bring him to comfort Juliet. She says that she knows that Romeo is hiding at Friar Lawrence s cell. Juliet asks the nurse to find Romeo and gives her a ring to give to him. Act 3, Scene 3 Friar Lawrence calls Romeo out of hiding. Although Romeo is grief stricken at the thought of his banishment and his inability to be with Juliet, the Friar begs him to keep his wits about him. Juliet s nurse enters and explains her errand. When Romeo finds that Juliet is also grieving, he draws his dagger to kill himself for what he has done to her. Friar Lawrence tells Romeo that he can spend the night with Juliet and then go to 39

40 A Synopsis 8 Mantua in the morning. In time Romeo may be allowed to return to Verona. The nurse gives Romeo Juliet s ring and departs. Romeo leaves Friar Lawrence s. Act 3, Scene 4 Paris speaks with Capulet and Lady Capulet and again says that he wants to marry Juliet. This time, Capulet almost immediately agrees that Paris will be able to marry Juliet in three days. Capulet believes that Juliet will obey him because he is her father. Act 3, Scene 5 After being together during the nighttime hours, Romeo and Juliet reluctantly separate just at the first light of day. Lady Capulet enters and begins to call Romeo names such as traitor murderer. Juliet plays along and pretends to share her mother s feelings. She says ironically that she will never be satisfied until she sees Romeo dead. Lady Capulet then tells Juliet that her father has agreed to her hasty marriage to Paris. Juliet responds that she will marry the hateful Romeo before she agrees to marry Paris. When Juliet tells her father that she will not marry Paris, he becomes very angry and says that either she will marry Paris at the appointed time or he [Capulet] will put her out on the streets to starve and die. When Juliet appeals to her mother to delay the promised wedding to Paris, Lady Capulet says she will not do that. Juliet s nurse urges Juliet to do what is expedient: marry Paris because he is a good catch and because Romeo is as good as dead to her since they cannot be together. Juliet, though, decides to seek out Friar Lawrence s help in figuring out what to do. 40

41 A Synopsis 9 Act 4, Scene 1 Paris is at Friar Lawrence s cell talking about his impending wedding to Juliet. The Friar, of course, has much more information about Juliet than Paris does. As they talk, Juliet herself arrives. Paris is under the impression that Juliet is suffering great grief because of Tybalt s death. By his words to her, he also indicates that he believes that he and Juliet are going to be married on the coming Thursday. There is parrying of words between Paris and Juliet. As Paris leaves, Juliet shares with Friar Lawrence her dismay over the potential wedding. She shows him her knife and explains that she is willing to use it on herself to avoid marriage to Paris. When he realizes how determined Juliet is, Friar Lawrence gives her a vial of liquid that will put her into a deathlike trance. He explains that she will be thought dead by her family and will be placed in the family tomb. But Romeo, informed by Friar Lawrence of what Juliet is doing, will be there at the tomb to rescue her when she awakes from the trance. Act 4, Scene 2 Capulet has become very involved in carrying out the wedding plans. On her return, Juliet says that during her visit with Friar Lawrence she has learned obedience. She kneels before her father and begs his pardon. He is so pleased by her change of heart that he moves the wedding up a day and sends someone to tell Paris of the new date. Act 4, Scene 3 So that she will be able to take the potion in private, Juliet sends her nurse away for the night. Juliet says that she has many prayers to say. She likewise sends her mother away to finish her planning for the wedding celebration. 41

42 A Synopsis 10 For a while Juliet talks to herself about the awful experience of waking up in the family burial vault. She thinks about all of the terrible things that could go wrong with the Friar s plan, including the Friar himself being somewhat dishonest and trying to cover up for his own actions. But finally she decides to take the potion. She calls Romeo s name, drinks, and falls upon her bed inside of the curtains. Act 4, Scene 4 The Capulet family spends the entire night planning the festivities. There is mention of their expecting Paris to arrive with music for the wedding celebration. As Capulet hears the music, he directs the nurse to hurry and waken Juliet. Act 4, Scene 5 The nurse, of course, finds Juliet in her trance-like state and assumes that she is dead. Lady Capulet enters the bed chamber followed by Capulet. The parents discover that Juliet is dead. With that, the musicians, Paris, and Friar Lawrence arrive. Capulet breaks the news of Juliet s death to Paris. When everyone else dissolves in grief, Friar Lawrence suggests that they bear Juliet to the church. Capulet says that everything that they have planned for a marriage will now be used for Juliet s funeral. At the end of the scene, Capulet s servant Peter is quipping with Paris musicians. Act 5, Scene 1 Romeo enters and speaks about how cheerful he feels. Ironically, he has had a dream in which Juliet found him dead and breathed life back into him by kissing his lips. With that, Romeo s man, Balthasar enters in riding boots and abruptly breaks the news of Juliet s death to Romeo. Romeo directs Balthasar to get them horses so that they can immediately return to Verona. Romeo asks for letters from Friar Lawrence but is told that there are none. As Balthasar leaves, Romeo visits a penniless Apothecary to get a dram of fast-acting poison so that he will be able to follow Juliet in death. 42

43 A Synopsis 11 Act 5, Scene 2 Back in Verona, Friar John joins Friar Lawrence, bringing with him the letter from Friar Lawrence that would have told Romeo that he needed to rescue Juliet. Friar John explains that he was kept in a house where an infectious disease was found and could not deliver the letter. Thus Friar Lawrence learns for the first time that Romeo has never received the information he needed to rescue Juliet. As Friar John leaves, Friar Lawrence discloses that he will go alone to the vault and rescue Juliet. Friar Lawrence believes that he can still right the situation. Act 5, Scene 3 Paris and his page enter the area of the Capulet family vault. Paris directs his page to stand watch and listen for anyone s arrival. As Paris is strewing flowers on Juliet s grave, his page alerts him that someone is coming. Romeo and Balthasar enter. Romeo is giving Balthasar a letter for Montague to read following Romeo s death. Then he sends Balthasar away, warning him not to return. Instead of leaving, Balthasar steps aside and waits out of Romeo s sight. As Romeo forces open the family tomb, Paris sees him and assumes that Romeo is going to do something shameful to the dead bodies inside. Paris steps forward, challenges Romeo, and says Romeo must come with him for he [Romeo] must die. Again Paris is lacking pertinent information. Romeo agrees that he must indeed die and says that he came to the site of the tomb for that very reason. He tries to get Paris to leave without engaging in a fight. Paris, though, is determined to apprehend Romeo. Thus they both draw their swords and fight. Paris page observes their fight and then runs to find the watchman. Romeo slays Paris and then opens the tomb and lays Paris inside. Romeo sees Juliet and assumes her dead. Then he observes Tybalt s body nearby wrapped sheet and asks forgiveness for having slain Tyalt. Then Romeo kisses Juliet, drinks the poison, and dies. 43

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