Study Questions


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  1. I have said little about the broader social context of the play. If Romeo and Juliet die partly through their own excess (sympathetic though we may be to it), and partly through accident, their life is also doomed by the intemperance of the society they are a part of. Look at the speeches of Prince Escalus (1. 1. 84-106, and 5. 3. 287ff.).

    How important do you think the wider issues of society are in the personal tragedies of Romeo and Juliet?

    What is the effect of the final reconciliation of the families?

  2. Are there some parts of the play you find less effective than others? I am personally unable to read wholly seriously the passage where the members of the Capulet household lament Juliet's apparent death (4. 5. 17-64).
    Weeping at Juliet's death
    Weeping at Juliet's death

  3. I have mentioned something of the use of the images of light and dark in the play, and the way that their values become inverted (light is threatening, darkness welcoming). You may want to make note of other places in the play where similar images are developed.

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Further Reading

  1. Eastman, Arthur M. A Short History of Shakespearean Criticism. New York: Random House, 1968.
  2. Halliday, F. E. Shakespeare and His Critics. London: Duckworth, 1958 (rev. ed.).
  3. Levenson, Jill L. Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare in Performance. Ed. J. R. Mulryne. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1987.
  4. Marder, Louis. His Exits and His Entrances: The Story of Shakespeare's Reputation. London: J. Murray, 1963.
  5. Muir, Kenneth. "Changing Interpretations of Shakespeare." In The Age of Shakespeare. Ed. B. Ford. New Pelican Guide to Engl. Literature. Harmonsdworth: Penguin Books, 1982.
  6. Newman, Karen. "Renaissance Family Politics and Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew." English Literary Renaissance 16 (1986): 86-100.
  7. Vickers, Brian. Shakespeare, The Critical Heritage: I, 1623-1692. 6 vols. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974. PR2975/S45/V.1.

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This page last updated April 16, 1997. Enquiries to Michael Best, mbest1@uvic.ca.
© Michael Best, The University of Victoria, and the Open University of B.C.