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Background for Romeo and Juliet

To introduce the major themes of the play

Dana Linde

on 10 September 2018

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Transcript of Background for Romeo and Juliet

Secrets abound in R&J, and many times they are purported and supported by trusted adults. Many adults have opportunities to prevent the tragedy:
The Nurse
the Friar
The Parents (especially Romeo's father)
FURTHERMORE, there are many other authority figures who influence the action of the play:
Prince Escalus
Lord Capulet
the Friar again
These three men represent government, patriarchal, and religious authority in the play.
Romeo and Juliet
The History
Not an original?
Shakespeare more than likely read Ovid's "The Story of Pyramus and Thisbe"
Based on an ancient tragic Italian tale
1531-Early Italian version by Luigi da Porto called "Newly Found Story of Two Noble Lovers" named Romeus and Giulietta
1562-First translated into verse as "The Tragical History of Romeus & Juliet" by Arthur Brooke
1582-First translated into prose as "Palace of Pleasure" by William Painter
1590-Spanish version by Lope de Vega
Shakespeare's version appears around 1595, but dates vary
Shakespeare's is known to have adopted many of his storylines from the novellas of Matteo Bondello
Other versions include William Davenant's version during the Restoration, Thomas Otway's 1679 version called "The History of the Fall of Caius and Marius," Theophilus Cibber's 1744 version, and hundreds of others
Not to Mention...
Romeo and Juliet
has been made into many movie versions, and the story has been adapted into contemporary novels, symphonies, and operas.
The Greatest Love Story...
Ever Told???
The Montagues
The Capulets
The Families
Light and Dark
Experience vs. Immaturity
Fate/Fortune vs. Providence vs Passion vs Free Will/ Character Flaw
Secrecy and the Role of Adults: AUTHORITY
One of the most often repeated image patterns in R&J is the interplay of light and darkness:
"Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright."(I.5.43)
"More light and light: more dark and dark our woes."(III.5.36)
You probably didn't know...
that Juliet is only 13 at the beginning of the play
that Romeo is in love with someone else when he meets Juliet
that the action of the entire play takes place over a total of five days
that Juliet begs her mother NOT to have to have a suitor at the beginning or our story

Do Romeo and Juliet have true love, or the flighty infatuation of fickle teenagers?

Watch for signs of their growing maturity as they break ties with childhood guides or make decisions on their own requiring great maturity and/or courage.
Shakespeare portrays Romeo and Juliet as "star-crossed lovers doomed by fate to a tragic end. But perhaps they merely suffer the consequences of the bad choices they make. Could it possibly be that a power greater than themselves is pulling the strings? Don't forget that Elizabethans thought passion was bad. Is their deaths the consequence for giving into that passion rather than keeping it under control?You decide!
Time, like references to light and dark, is a much-repeated motif in the play. What is the significance of these recurring references? How does the idea of time relate to other themes in the play such as fate and secrecy?
Revenge is a plot catalyst in R&J. Pay close
attention to references to the feud.
What is the feud about?
Who are the primary parties in the feud?
To whom does the feud seem most important?
How old is the feud?
How serious is the feud?
Who perpetuates the feud?
How do individuals react when they feel they have been insulted or slighted in any way?
Form and Function
As you know, Shakespeare wrote three types of plays: Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Tragedies are marked by several distinctive characteristics:
Written in verse (Iambic Pentameter)
verse vs prose
Foreshadowing, foreshadowing, foreshadowing
The hero(es) are noble but flawed
The hero(es) experiences a sudden reversal of fate (ill-fortune is contrasted with previous happiness)
This reversal evokes pity in the audience
Act III marks the turning point
Frequently the end of the play finds almost everyone dead on the stage.
The Nature of a Tragedy
14th Century
Verona, Italy
Love in its Many Forms
Love will be explored in many ways:

Love vs Hate- the love Romeo and Juliet share will constantly be contrasted with the hate of the two families.

False Love vs True Love-We will always wonder about the sincerity of Romeo's love since at the beginning of the play he was enamored with Rosaline.
Furthermore, is the love he shares with Juliet true and spiritual, or is it based in infatuation and because finally there is somebody who loves Romeo back?

The nurse and Mercutio also have incomplete ideas about love. They both link it exclusively to sex, and don't forget about Lady Capulet's idea of love which is finding someone who has standing and wealth.

Romantic Love-The play is a great example of marrying for love, which was almost unheard of until almost the end of the 14th century. Is it possible Juliet's love stems from the fact that Romeo is the last person her parents would have ever chosen for her to marry? You know the old expression: We always want most what we can't have!
Appearance vs Reality
What we see isn't always what it appears to be!
Do R&J really share true love?
Is Lord Capulet a good parent or a bad parent?
So often what is said is not what is meant- double speak
This theme also appears in the way people withhold information.
Finally, people will interpret speech in the manner they choose.
(Kinsman to the Prince and hopes to marry Juliet)
References to "stars" are indicative of fate controlling one's life.
Teenagers live in a world of extremes.
However, the end will leave the audience with a tiny kernel of hope
The audience will know how it ends, by the way. There will be many predictive elements to reinforce this.
Structure of the TRAGEDY- in Five Acts...
Act I: There is some disorder or complication which leads to two sides.
Act II: Development of this rivalry mixed with further disorder.
Act III: Climax; point of no return. Something happens which cannot be reversed which will lead to the final tragedy.
Act IV: Reflective act;beginning of self-realization, setting up finale
Act V: Final Climax- restoration of order/resolution (with the absence of the protagonist(s), of course!
Here are some guiding questions to help make the play relevant today:
How do you handle conflict?
Have you ever feuded with your family members?
What does love mean to you?
Have you ever found it hard to communicate with your parents?
Is Juliet an obedient or disobedient child?
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