Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
Romeo and Juliet may be the most famous pair of lovers in Western literature, but, seriously: is their love real, or is it just infatuation? Are they just melodramatic teenagers, or are they a model of romantic love? 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?
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? In other words, is this play's motto, "Kids these days," or "Move over, Grandpa?"
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?
In general, the play's characters draw a connection between religion and love—all
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?
Is it really all the fault of the Nurse and Friar? 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?
Let's talk about sex: Juliet can't marry Paris because she has sex with Romeo, and the Friar and Nurse are pretty obsessed not just with marrying the kids off but with getting them in bed together. Why is the act of sex so important here?