Romeo and Juliet (Sample Lesson)
‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a tragedy that was written by William Shakespeare in his early career. The play itself (which is set in the city of Verona) is known to be about two feuding families whose children, Romeo and Juliet, fall in love with one another. The story of Romeo and Juliet has been adapted many times throughout history and has been performed on stage, as a film and as an opera. ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is known and studied around the world and contains many themes that still endure today.
Explore the Globe Theatre, where Romeo and Juliet would have first been performed.
⚠ MISSION OBJECTIVE
Your mission is to explore the Capulet Home and the tomb that marked Romeo and Juliets final moments to find out everything you can about the play’s settings and key ideas. Through this scene, you will be exploring four key parts of the play and some of the main themes within them:
- Opening Scenes – Young Love
- The Masquerade Ball – Love at First Sight
- The Balcony – Marriage and Unity
- The Ending – Until Death Do Us Part
The story begins on an early Sunday morning when a fight occurs between two servants from the feuding families of the Capulets and the Montagues. Benvolio, a Montague, tries to stop the fighting, but is himself entangled when the rash Capulet, Tybalt, arrives on the scene. After many of the local citizens are outraged by the constant conflicts between the two families, Prince Escalus, the ruler of Verona, attempts to prevent any further fighting between the families by declaring anyone who disturbs the peace in the future, would face death. At that moment, Romeo – the son of Montague – runs into his cousin Benvolio in the main street and informs him that he is in love with Rosaline, a woman who does not return his affections. Benvolio tries to advice Romeo to forget about this woman, and to find another more beautiful one, but Romeo does not appear to be keen.
Additionally, in the beautiful city of Verona, Juliet Capulet is a young and attractive woman of whom Paris, a kinsman of the Prince, wants to marry. Asking her father for her hand in marriage, Juliet’s father tells Paris he would be happy with the arrangement but would need to wait a further two years. However, being fond of the match, Lord Capulet sends his servants a list of people to invite to a masquerade ball, hoping that Pairs will use this opportunity to win over Juliet’s heart. As the servants bear the invitations throughout the city, Romeo and Benvolio decide to attend the ball to allow Romeo the opportunity to compare his current love interest with another woman in the city of Verona.
Inside the Capulet household, Juliet discusses with her mother about the possibility of marrying Paris. Not yet considering marriage, Juliet decides that the ball would be the perfect occasion to look at Paris and decide whether, or not, she could fall in love with him. As the feast begins, Romeo sees Juliet from a distance and immediately falls in love with her; he very quickly forgets about Rosaline.
Unfortunately, as soon as Romeo sees Juliet, a young Capulet recognizes Romeo and prepares to attack him. However, as soon as both Romeo and Juliet meet, a deep connection occurs between them. They then share a kiss, not even knowing each other’s names. When Juliet learns that the young man she has just kissed is the son of Montague, she becomes very upset.
Look closely at the scene and see if you can find any symbols of love.
- How else could these symbols be interpreted?
- How does Benvolio suggest that Romeo cures his unrequited love for Rosaline?
As Benvolio leaves the estate after attending the ball, Romeo decides to leap over the Capulets’ orchard wall into the garden, to try and find Juliet. From his secret hiding place in the orchard, Romeo notices Juliet in a window above the orchard. He quietly waits and hears her speak of his name. He calls out to Juliet, and whilst she is on the balcony, they exchange vows of love to each other.
Elated by each other’s affection, Julie asks Romeo to arrange secret marriage to enable them to become man and wife. Romeo quickly runs to find Friar Lawrence, who agrees to marry the young lovers in secret as he can see the love that they share and the possibility of ending the long-term feuds between the families.
One of the play’s recurring motifs is the contrast between light and dark, or night and day. It is important to note that light is not always good, and dark is not always evil. One of the most important examples of this motif can be found here on the balcony scene where Romeo meditates (at length) about the sun and the moon, comparing Juliet to the Sun , banishing the “envious moon” and transforming night into day.
Look closely at the scene and find where Romeo sat while thinking about Juliet.
- Can you identify any examples of light and dark imagery here?
- When else in the play do we hear Romeo and Juliet using the language of light and dark?
Toward the end of the play, Romeo is challenged to a fight by Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin who is still angry that Romeo had attended the Capulet’s masquerade ball. Romeo pleads with Tybalt and explains how he does not want to fight. However, Mercutio decides he will fight Tybalt instead and as a result, is stabbed by to death. Very quickly an enraged Romeo kills Tybalt. Consequently, the prince declares Romeo to be banished from Verona forever. That evening, after hearing this news, Friar Lawrence arranges for Romeo to spend his wedding night with Juliet.
That evening, Romeo sneaks into Juliet’s room and they consummate their marriage. As the morning comes, the lovers bid farewell, unsure whether they will ever see each other again. Uncertain what to do, Juliet seeks advice from her Nurse. She advises Juliet to proceed as if Romeo were dead and to marry Paris. Appalled with her nurse’s betrayal, Juliet goes to find Friar Lawrence. Friar Lawrence invents a plan to reunite Juliet with Romeo in Mantua. The night before her wedding to Paris, Juliet must drink a potion that will make her appear to be dead. Then, after she is laid to rest in the family’s tomb, the friar and Romeo will secretly retrieve her, and she will be free to love with Romeo, away from their family’s feud.
Juliet returns home to discover that her supposed wedding to Paris has been moved to the very next day and realizes that she must be married to Paris soon! That night, Juliet drinks a potion ( as agreed with Friar Lawrence as a part of her and Romeos escape) , and her Nurse discovers her, apparently dead, the next morning. Hearing of this discovery, the Capulets grieve the death of their daughter and decide to move Juliet to their family tomb. In the meantime, Romeo is waiting to begin a new future with Juliet. However, Friar Lawrence’s messages explaining the plan to Romeo for them to rescue her alive from the tomb, never reach him. Therefore, Romeo hears that Juliet is dead.
After hearing of Juliet’s death Romeo decides that he can no longer live without Juliet. He decides to visit the local apothecary, where he buys a vial of poison to take his own life at Juliet’s tomb. On the way to the Capulets tomb, Romeo comes across Paris, who has recently visited the tomb to lay flowers for Juliet. They both fight and Romeo kills Paris. Inside the tomb, Romeo observes Juliet’s peaceful body and whilst distraught, consumes the poison. He dies by her side.
Unknown to Romeo, Juliet is not dead and awakes suddenly. She sees Friar Lawrence’s entering the tomb looking for Romeo. Friar Lawrence informs Juliet that Romeo has died. He tells her that she must flee and run away with him to avoid being caught by the city’s watchmen. Juliet sees her beloved Romeo on the floor and realizes that he has killed himself with poison. She tries to kiss Romeo hoping that will seal her fate, but when it does not, she thrusts his dagger into her chest, and she falls dead upon his body.
Immediately, the local watch arrives, followed by the Prince, the Capulets, and the Montagues. Montague declares that Lady Montague has died because of Romeo’s exile. Seeing their children’s bodies inside the tomb, and understanding their fate, both Capulet and Montague agree to end their long-term feud and decide to build gold statues of their children in the new peaceful Verona