Romeo and Juliet Introduction


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A brief introduction to Elizabethan England, William Shakespeare, and literary devices used within Romeo and Juliet

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Romeo and Juliet Introduction

  1. 1. Romeo & Juliet An introduction 1
  2. 2. I.  Introduction: Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet A. William Shakespeare 1.  Born 23 April 1564 in Stratford-on-Avon, Warwick. Son of a prosperous wood and leather merchant. 2.  Married to Anne Hathaway in 1582 (she was 26). They had three children (the eldest died in childhood) 3.  After writing ~37 plays, Shakespeare retired (wealthy and respected) and died on his birthday in 1616. B. Shakespeare’s plays 1. Not all of his plays published during his lifetime 2. In Elizabethan time, plays were not regarded as either literature or good reading. They were written quickly (often by more than one writer), performed 10-12 times, and then discarded. 2
  3. 3. 3. In 1623, John Hemming and Henry Condell published a collected edition of Shakespeare’s works (36 plays) a. not all Folio (21cmx34cm) editions are exactly alike. b. not printed with act or scene divisions or stage directions 4. Shakespeare’s plays written mostly in blank verse: iambic pentameter a. unrhymed lines consisting of 10 syllables, alternately stressed and unstressed b. Romeo & Juliet has extensive rhyming c. Rhyming often used to signal the end of a scene or lines he wanted the audience to remember 3
  4. 4. d. used prose for servants, clowns, commoners, and simple/pedestrian matters such as lists, messages, and letters C. Theaters 1. Situated outside of town to avoid conflict with authorities a. “Authorities” disapproved of players and play going, partly on moral and political grounds (you will need to explain this on the quiz) b. partly for the danger of spreading the plague. 2. The Globe Theater a. small but accommodated 2-3 thousand people b. weather had to be suitable - a flag flew when the play was going to happen 4
  5. 5. c. Plays advertised on playbills posted around the city d. cost (1) 1¢ (~60¢ today) for the pit (2) three tiers in gallery: the higher you go, the more you pay. The best seats cost one shilling (~$7.00 today) e. A full house might consist of 800 groundlings and 1500 in the galleries, with a dozen or more seats on the stage itself for gentry. f. By law, females were not allowed to perform - their parts were played by boys. g. No scenery. 5
  6. 6. The Globe Theatre 6
  7. 7. D. Romeo & Juliet 1. Probably written and first acted in 1595 2. Shakespeare’s company was, at that time, performing at The Theatre, in Shoreditch, as The Lord Chamberlain’s Men. 3. There were many versions of the story of Romeo and Juliet in the 15th and 16th centuries. In England it became known through Arthur Brooke’s 3,000 line poem, published in 1562, The Tragical Historie of Romeo and Juliet 7
  8. 8. II. Elizabethan England A. Queen Elizabeth 1. One of the most popular and long-reining monarchs in English history (1558-1603) 2. Curly red hair 3. Shrewd politician 4. Daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII of England 5. Became Queen of England after her half brother and half sister each briefly reigned and died. 6. Her sister, Mary, reigned brutally - her persecution of Protestants earned her the nickname “Bloody Mary.” 8
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  12. 12. 7. Became Queen at the age of 25 8. Never married - she used her position as an unmarried monarch to wield power over possible allies: the prospect of marriage to the “Virgin Queen” was an instrumental factor in the successful establishment of good relations between England and other countries. 9. Under Elizabeth, England began colonization of the Americas: Walter Raleigh’s excursions to the Atlantic shore and the establishment of the Roanoke Colony. 10. Sir Francis Drake - the first man to circumnavigate the world. 12
  13. 13. B. Entertainment and Recreation 1. First public theaters were built in England 2. Dance/music/song 3. Sports: football, swimming, fishing, bowling, wrestling, tennis 4. Inhabitants of a town would gather together on holidays for huge parties and festivals, especially on dates like All Hallow’s Eve and the Twelfth Night of Christmas 5. Public punishments of criminals a. stocks and pillory b. executions 13
  14. 14. 6. Literature flourished in this era: Christopher Marlowe, Sir Phillip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, and William Shakespeare C. Food and Medicine 1. Forks considered an oddity - even noblemen threw bones on the floor. 2. Diet of mainly meat and bread, some cheese, few fruits and veggies, LOTS of wine 3. Illnesses a. poorly balanced diet caused many illnesses b. improper cooking habits c. Smallpox and syphilis were common afflictions passed from person to person 14
  15. 15. 4. The Black Death or The Plague 5. Only the very rich were able to afford doctors 15
  16. 16. D. Fashions of the Day 1. Hair a. both men and women very concerned with hair - spent a great deal of time and money b. men would trim and style beards c. women wore their hair in combs, nets, or jeweled pins. High foreheads were considered attractive, so they (women and men) would pluck hair from the front hairline. d. both sexes wore wigs if hair turned gray or fell out 16
  17. 17. 2. Clothing a. women wore very long dresses that dragged on the ground. Their bodices were very tight and came to a point at the waist. Sleeves were puffy around the shoulders and tight on the lower arms. Very large ruffles around the neck were popular with both sexes; considered a status symbol for the upper classes. b. men wore shorter breeches or pants with brightly colored stockings underneath. Large, ornate jewels were worn by both sexes, and were often so heavy that they made dancing difficult. 17
  18. 18. III. Literary Devices A. Pun: A pun is a joke based on the use of a word or words that has more than one meaning but has the same sound. Mercutio and Romeo often exchange puns during the play: Mercutio: Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance. Romeo: Not I, believe me. You have dancing shoes with nimble soles; I have a soul of lead… I iv 13-15 18
  19. 19. B. Foreshadowing: describes when a piece of dialogue or action in a work refers to events that will happen later in the story even though the characters have no prior knowledge such events will occur. Benvolio: Take thou some new infection to thy eye And the rank poison of the old will die. I ii 49-50 19
  20. 20. C. Metaphor: a comparison in which an object or a person is directly likened to something else that could be completely unrelated. Romeo: But soft! What light through yonder window breaks! It is the east and Juliet is the sun. II ii 2-3 20
  21. 21. D. Personification: occurs when an inanimate object or concept is given the qualities of a person or an animal. Juliet: For thou wilt lie upon the wings of night Whiter than new snow on a raven’s back Come, gentle night, come, loving black-brow’d night III ii 18-20 21
  22. 22. E. Oxymoron: describes when two juxtaposed words have opposing or very diverse meanings (jumbo shrimp). Juliet: Beautiful tyrant! Fiend angelical! III ii 77 22
  23. 23. F. Paradox: a statement or a situation with seemingly contradictory or incompatible components. On closer examination, however, the combination of these components is indeed appropriate. Juliet: O serpent heart, hid with a flowering face! III ii 75 23
  24. 24. G. Allusion: an indirect reference by casually mentioning something that is generally familiar (for example: mythology, the Bible, history, etc.) …She’ll not be hit With Cupid’s arrow; she hath Dian’s wit I i 201-202 24
  25. 25. H. Aside: a little soliloquy; lines whispered to the audience or to another character on stage (not meant to be heard by all of the characters). Abraham: Do you bite your thumb at us, sir? Samson: [Aside to GREGORY.] Is the law of our side if I say ay? Gregory: [Aside to SAMPSON.] No. Samson: No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir; but I bite my thumb, sir. I i 41-45 25
  26. 26. I.  Catastrophe: the final event in a drama ( a death in a tragedy; a marriage in a comedy) J. Comic relief: a bit of humor injected into a serious play to relieve the heavy tension of tragic events For example, the nurse plays a comic part to relieve much of the tension throughout the play. 26
  27. 27. K. Dramatic irony: occurs when the audience knows something that the character on stage is not aware of. For example, we know that Juliet is not dead when Romeo kills himself. 27
  28. 28. L. Irony: a method of expression in which the ordinary meaning of the word is opposite to the thought in the speaker’s mind OR events contrary to what would be naturally expected. Juliet: More light and more light, more Dark and dark our woes. III v 36 28
  29. 29. M. metonymy: a figure of speech whereby the name of a thing is substituted for the attribute which it suggests. The pen is mightier than the sword 29
  30. 30. N. Nemesis: an agent of retribution (the person who punishes) -  hink back to Fahrenheit 451 and the fire chief t - what is unusual is that the nemesis in this play for Romeo is fate itself rather than a person 30
  31. 31. O. Poetic justice: the operation of justice in a play with fair distribution of rewards for good deeds and punishment for wrongdoings. For example, if a man who is poor because he donates every spare penny to charity wins the lottery, that is poetic justice. Or, on the other side, if a criminal who has committed multiple crimes without ever being caught is jailed for a crime he did not commit. 31
  32. 32. P. Soliloquy: a single character on stage thinking out loud (a way of letting the audience know what is in the character’s mind). O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear; Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear! So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows, As yonder lady o'er her fellows shows. The measure done, I'll watch her place of stand, And, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand. Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night. I I 41-50 32
  33. 33. Q. Tragic flaw: a character’s trait that leads to his or her downfall or destruction. For example, Romeo’s hubris - his belief that he can cheat fate - leads to his death. R. Hyperbole: an exaggeration for effect; a locution that exaggerates or makes an extravagant statement Romeo: It helps not, it prevails not. Talk no more. Friar Laurence: O, then I see that madmen have no ears. III iii 60-61 33
  34. 34. The End 34