Elementary School Discussion Questions: Romeo and Juliet
Compare and contrast.
Who is your favorite character and why? Who do you dislike, why?
If you were acting in a production of the play, which character would you want to be? Why? Who would you not want to play? Why?
Compare Romeo and Juliet to the story of Cinderella. Think about how they are similar and different in time frame, characters, settings, and ending.
Who is to blame for each of these deaths: Mercutio, Tybalt, Paris, Romeo, and Juliet? Is there a real hero or villain?
Should Juliet have agreed with her parents to forget Romeo and marry Paris? Is it ever right to disobey?
How could the Montagues and the Capulets have settled their problems? What effect does violence have on the feelings of the characters?
Look at what Juliet says to Romeo about love in 2.2.116–124. Do you think she is wise?
What does the prince mean when he says at the end of the play, “All are punished”?
The words fate, fortune, and star-crossed appear in the text many times. Also, both Romeo and Juliet say that they have a bad feeling about how things will turn out. Does this mean that they couldn’t change the way things ended? Was it destiny or bad choices that led to their deaths?
Is fourteen a good age to get married? What did Shakespeare think?
What would it be like to see this play at Shakespeare’s theatre, The Globe, in the hot afternoon, standing up, with men playing all the roles (even Juliet)?
How do you think Shakespeare would react if he knew that you were learning about his play more than 400 years after he wrote it?
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Romeo and Juliet Socratic Seminar
- A Christmas Carol
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Questions & Answers
Do Romeo and Juliet have sex?
At the beginning of Act III, scene v, Romeo and Juliet are together in Juliet’s bed just before dawn, having spent the night with each other and feeling reluctant to separate. We might conclude that we’re meant to infer that they just had sex, and that may be the way the scene is most commonly understood. However, we have no way of knowing specifically what they did, only that they enjoyed it. One reason why it might matter whether they had intercourse or not is that according to Catholic doctrine, a marriage isn’t fully valid until it has been consummated, and consummation specifically refers to having sex in such a way that conceiving children is possible. If the marriage is unconsummated it could still be annulled by their parents. Romeo and Juliet don’t talk about their experience in terms of their marriage or its permanence, however, focusing instead on the intensity of their feelings in the moment: Juliet longs for Romeo to stay for just a few more moments, denying the fact that dawn is coming, and Romeo says that he would rather stay and be put to death than leave. Just as Romeo and Juliet’s dialogue when they first meet takes the form of a sonnet, their dialogue here about being reluctant to separate takes the form of a type of poem called an aubade, in which lovers lament the necessity of separating before dawn—although in a traditional aubade the lovers have to separate because they are having an adulterous relationship and can’t get caught.
Is Juliet too young to get married?
In Act I, scene iii, we learn that Juliet will turn fourteen in a little more than two weeks, meaning that she’s thirteen during the events of the play. Legally, girls in Elizabethan England could marry as young as 12 with parental consent. Marriage at such a young age was, however, unusual, as indicated by the Capulets’ disagreement about whether Juliet is old enough to get married. Lady Capulet clearly indicates her belief Juliet has reached a marriageable age when she tells the Nurse, “my daughter’s of a pretty age” (I.iii.11), meaning both a pleasing age and an age when she can now be considered an adult. Lord Capulet, however, seems less sure. When discussing the proposal with Paris, Juliet’s father insists, “My child is yet a stranger in the world” (I.ii.8). He further expresses concern that “too soon marred are those so early made” (I.ii.13), meaning that early marriage can ruin a young woman. Although Lord Capulet changes his mind later, his wavering on the matter indicates the lack of a clear answer as to whether or not Juliet is old enough for marriage.
Who is Rosaline?
When we first see Romeo, he’s acting lovesick, and he explains to Benvolio that he’s in love with a woman who doesn’t return his “favor.” Romeo doesn’t identify the woman here, but somewhere between this scene and the next Benvolio learns her name, since in the later scene he points out that she’s on the guest list for the Capulet ball: “At this same ancient feast of Capulet’s / Sups the fair Rosaline whom thou so loves” (I.ii.83–84). From this reference, it becomes clear that Romeo is in love with a woman named Rosaline, and that she, like Juliet, is a Capulet. Benvolio then suggests that Romeo should try to get over Rosaline by going to the ball and looking upon “all the admired beauties of Verona” (I.ii.85). Benvolio insists: “Compare her face with some that I shall show, / And I will make thee think thy swan a crow” (I.ii.87-88). Romeo follows Benvolio’s advice to the letter. And although Rosaline never appears onstage, she nevertheless plays an important role, since her rejection of Romeo ultimately leads him to his first, fateful encounter with Juliet.
Why does Mercutio fight Tybalt?
In Act III, scene i, Tybalt is spoiling for a fight and calls Romeo a “villain.” But Romeo, who has secretly married Juliet and now considers Tybalt kin, turns the other cheek. Romeo brushes off the insult and responds to Tybalt’s unkindness with calm, though cryptic, words of affection:
I do protest I never injured thee, But love thee better than thou canst devise Till thou shalt know the reason of my love. (III.i.65–67)
To Mercutio, Romeo’s refusal to fight Tybalt, coupled with this expression of kindness, represents “dishonorable, vile submission” (III.i.70). Inflamed by his friend’s apparent lack of self-respect, Mercutio steps in to preserve Romeo’s reputation. It is worth noting that in Shakespeare’s England, dueling was common, despite being illegal. Young men, and particularly those from the aristocratic class, felt the need to protect against all attacks on their honor, as well as the honor of their friends and kinsmen. This preoccupation with honor made it easy for mere insults transform quickly into fatal duels. As Lawrence Stone, a prominent historian of early modern England, comments: “Tempers were short and weapons easy to hand.”
How does Romeo convince the reluctant Apothecary to sell him poison?
When Romeo knocks on his door and demands “A dram of poison” (V.i.60), the Apothecary resists, explaining that he could be put to death for selling deadly substances. “Such mortal drugs I have,” the Apothecary tells Romeo, “but Mantua’s law / Is death to any he that utters them” (V.i.66–67). Romeo responds by commenting on the Apothecary’s gaunt and desperate appearance, and he asks why the man should fear death or uphold the law when he himself seems so miserable:
Art thou so bare and full of wretchedness, And fearest to die? Famine is in thy cheeks; Need and oppression starveth in thy eyes; Contempt and beggary hangs upon thy back. The world is not thy friend, nor the world’s law. The world affords no law to make thee rich. (V.i.68–73)
Romeo argues that the law against selling poison prevents the Apothecary from making a living. Thus, in order to survive, he should break the law. The wordplay that Romeo uses to convey this suggestion turns on the word “afford,” which means both “able to pay” and “able to offer.” Just as the Apothecary cannot afford to live well, the law does not afford for him to live well. In order to break out of this double bind, the Apothecary must reject the law. Romeo’s reasoning appeals to the Apothecary’s stomach, and he resentfully agrees to take Romeo’s money: “My poverty, but not my will, consents” (V.i.75).
Why do Romeo, Mercutio, and Benvolio go to the Capulets’ party?
Benvolio tells Romeo that Rosaline will be at the party. Benvolio wants to help Romeo let go of his obsession with Rosaline, and he explains that, while at the party, Romeo will be able to compare her to other girls and realize she is not the most beautiful. Romeo, on the other hand, says he will go to the party just so he can see Rosaline, the woman he believes he loves.
Who seems less impulsive and more realistic—Romeo or Juliet?
Juliet seems less impulsive and more realistic than Romeo. Romeo quickly changes the object of his affection from Rosaline to Juliet, and, despite the danger, he dares to go to Juliet’s house to declare his love even though he just met her. Juliet, on the other hand, says, “Although I joy in thee, / I have no joy of this contract tonight. / It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden, / Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be / Ere one can say ‘It lightens’” (2.2.116–120). With these words, Juliet demonstrates that she understands the risk of his being at her home and tells Romeo that they must wait to be together.
Why does Friar Lawrence decide to marry Romeo and Juliet?
When Romeo asks Friar Lawrence to marry him and Juliet, Friar Lawrence agrees because he thinks their marriage might bring about the end of the feud between their two families. He states, “For this alliance may so happy prove / To turn your households’ rancor to pure love” (2.3.91–92). When Juliet arrives, Friar Lawrence wants to marry them as quickly as possible because their passion for each other makes him fear they will make love if left alone: “[Y]ou shall not stay alone / Till holy church incorporate two in one” (2.6.36–37).
Why does Mercutio say, “a plague o’ both your houses”?
While Tybalt and Mercutio fight, Tybalt is able to stab Mercutio with his sword because Romeo, in his efforts to keep the peace, steps between the two. Mercutio is mortally wounded and becomes the first true victim in the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues. Even though he is a friend to Romeo, he blames both families for his death and wishes them ill.
Why does Romeo fight Tybalt?
At first, Romeo does not want to fight Tybalt because he is now married to Juliet, Tybalt’s cousin, and he wants to keep the peace with his new family member, even if Tybalt is unaware that they are now related by marriage. However, Romeo quickly changes his mind when Tybalt kills his good friend, Mercutio. Romeo’s impulsiveness and anger get the better of him, and he attacks Tybalt.
Is there a villain in the play, and, if so, who is it?
The hot-headed young men in both families—the Capulets and the Montagues—might be the villains, especially Tybalt, who goes looking for Romeo even after Capulet tells him to leave Romeo alone. On the other hand, there may be no specific character who is the villain in the play. Instead, the Verona society, with its emphasis on feuding and fighting and blind familial loyalty, might be seen as responsible for the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.
Why does the Prince exile Romeo?
Normally, in Verona society, someone who commits murder would be put to death himself. Hoping the Prince will see that Romeo rightfully killed Tybalt for killing Mercutio, Montague, Romeo’s father, explains, “His fault concludes but what the law should end, / The life of Tybalt” (3.1.181–182). The Prince apparently partially agrees, for instead of sentencing Romeo to death, he merely exiles Romeo for the murder of Tybalt.
Why does Juliet feel torn when she hears of Tybalt’s death?
Juliet feels torn because Tybalt was her cousin, but Romeo is her beloved husband. At first, she mourns Tybalt and reviles Romeo, saying, “O serpent heart hid with a flowering face! / Did ever dragon keep so fair a cave? / Beautiful tyrant! Fiend angelical!” (3.2.74–76) But then her love for Romeo overcomes her feelings of betrayal and anger, especially when she realizes that Tybalt would have killed Romeo.
At the end of Romeo and Juliet’s wedding night together, why does Juliet first deny that it is day and then change her mind?
As dawn breaks, Juliet denies to Romeo that it is day, for she doesn’t want Romeo to leave her, it being the end of their first night together. However, as she awakens more and her mind clears, she realizes that Romeo’s life is in danger should he be found in her bedroom, and she admits that the day has begun. She urges Romeo to leave despite her wanting to stay with him.
Why does Friar Lawrence’s plan to help Romeo reunite with Juliet fail?
Friar Lawrence sends Friar John to Mantua to tell the banished Romeo of his plan: that Juliet will take a potion and will appear to be dead so that Romeo can come and take her away to be with him in exile. But on his way to Mantua, Friar John stops at a house that is quarantined because of the plague, and he is not allowed to leave. Later, Balthasar, not knowing of Friar Lawrence’s plan, goes to Mantua and tells Romeo that Juliet has died. Romeo, believing his Juliet is dead, goes to her tomb and kills himself with poison.
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