Romeo and Juliet Questions
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
- Romeo and Juliet are the most famous pair of lovers in Western literature, but is their love real, or is it just infatuation? Some people claim that Romeo and Juliet are just melodramatic teenagers. Others argue that the Romeo and Juliet's love is the kind of love everyone should aspire to find. What proof does the play provide that their love is "real love," not just infatuation?
- What would have happened to Romeo and Juliet if they hadn't died? Is their relationship sustainable over time? Do they have anything to offer each other once the initial burst of passion calmed down? Would Romeo move on from Juliet as quickly as he moved on from Rosaline?
- "Youth in this play is a separate nation," scholar Frank Kermode writes of Romeo and Juliet. How is the world of the young people in the play – Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio, Benvolio, and Tybalt – different from the world of their parents and mentors? In what ways do the young adopt the beliefs of the old, and in what ways do they ignore them or fight against them? Should Romeo and Juliet's relationship be viewed as a rebellion of the young against the old? Should the world of the young, and its values, or the world of the old, and its values, bear more of the blame for their tragedy?
- The motifs of light and darkness run through the play. How do these references to day and night, sun, moon and stars, torches and lightning provide metaphors for what happens in the play? What kind of feelings do these images arouse in the reader?
- "The Nurse and Mercutio, both of them audience favorites, are nevertheless bad news, in different but complementary ways," Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom writes. Do you agree with this assessment? What is similar or different about Mercutio and the Nurse's attitudes towards love, sex, and marriage?
- Mercutio "does not believe in the religion of love," scholar Harold Bloom writes. To what extent is there a "religion of love" in Romeo and Juliet? Who creates this religion of love, and who opposes it? What might explain Mercutio's critical attitude towards love and his tendency to reduce love to sex?
- What responsibility should the Nurse and the Friar bear for the play's tragic ending? The Prince announces that "some shall be pardoned and some punished." Do either the Nurse or the Friar deserve punishment? Who else, in your opinion, might bear some responsibility for the two lovers' deaths?
- Why do the Nurse and the Friar ultimately fail in their attempts to help Romeo and Juliet? Scholar Marjorie Garber writes, "The Friar is all authority and no experience, the Nurse all experience and no authority. Once again the older generation…is inadequate to the tragic world of reality, of love and circumstance." Do you agree with this assessment?
- The fact that Romeo and Juliet have sex is what makes it impossible for Juliet to marry Paris – and it is what leads to the play's final tragedy. Why do the Friar and the Nurse decide to help Romeo and Juliet spend the night together, even after he has killed Tybalt? Could the play still have unfolded in a similar way without this night of lovemaking?
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