Romeo & Juliet Comprehension Questions
As you work through the questions below, keep in mind our unit question:
How do the characters in Shakespeare’s plays broaden our understanding of real people?
Our ability to use fictional texts as a way understanding our real world is an important application of our Human Ingenuity. What we make matters. We make things in order to understand ourselves and our world.
To help you to understand the play, I recommend referring to the No Fear Shakespeare by Sparknotes. It will help you understand what Shakespeare’s lines mean, but you still have to pay attention to Shakespeare’s original text to understand how his language is working in terms of word-play (puns and homonyms) and rhythms.
Your homework for each class will be to choose ONE of the questions from the section of the play we read in class that day, from the list below – click on it and leave your response as a comment in the post. Then, choose ONE of the remaining questions and respond to the thoughts of one of your classmates, by REPLYing to her/his initial comment. Both your comments – your initial repsonse to one question and your response to a classmate’s answer to another – are due BEFORE the next class.
1. Why do you think the play begins the way that it does? Why begin the play with minor characters? What is their purpose?
2. What is the situation with the Montagues and the Capulets and the City of Verona? Who are the stakeholders and what does each have at stake?
3. At the end of the scene, we are introduced to our male protagonist, Romeo. What is your first impression of him? Is he the romantic hero you are expecting?
* DUE before class on Thursday 23 February.
1.2 – 1.4
1. From the point of view of establishing a character and the audience’s relationship with that character, why is it important that Romeo was not at the big brawl that begins the play?
2. We spend a bit more time with Romeo through the rest of Act One. What is his mood, and what is causing it? Be specific and quote from the text.
3. What are the conditions that apply to the possibility of Juliet’s marriage? Who do you think benefits most from these conditions? Do you think they are fair?
4. How would you describe the character of the Nurse? What function does she serve in the story (I don’t mean her function to the Capulets, which is to be a nurse; I mean her function to Shakespeare in terms of providing the necessary elements of a good story).
* DUE before class on Friday 24 February.
1.5 – 2.2
1. 1.5 ends with the return of the Chorus in another sonnet. Remember that the Chorus act as observers and commentators on the play. They remind us of the action and comment on what’s happening. So how does the chorus feel about the meeting of Romeo and Juliet? Be specific and quote the text so we know why you think what you think.
2. What is the dramatic purpose of 2.1? Why does the story need it?
3. 2.2 is, perhaps, the most famous scene in Shakespeare. Why do you think it has endured? What is it that’s so appealing about this romance? Support your ideas with specific reference to the text.
4. Do you believe Romeo and Juliet? Do you believe in them? In what ways do you feel that these are realistic characters, and what ways to you feel they are unrealistic? Provide evidence from the text to support your ideas.
* DUE before class on Wednesday 29 February.
2.3 – 2.6
1. When we meet Friar Lawrence, he is collecting plants to make medicines and poisons from. How does this meet with your expectations of a priest?
2. To what degree does Friar Lawrence believe in Romeo and Juliet’s love? Why does he do what he does?
3. Would you have married Romeo and Juliet if you were a priest?
4. In class today, Saka mentioned that she thought Mercutio is the hardest character in the play to understand. Do you agree? Why or why not?
* DUE Friday 2 March.