Romeo and Juliet Vocabulary Act 1

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  • 0:04 Romeo & Juliet: Act 1
  • 1:17 Act 1: Vocabulary
  • 3:28 Vocabulary in Context
  • 4:38 Additional Terms
  • 5:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lyndsay Knowles
Do your students often struggle with the vocabulary in Shakespeare's plays? This list of vocabulary words and phrases will guide them through the challenging vocabulary in Act 1.

Romeo and Juliet: Act 1

William Shakespeare is widely recognized for his mastery of the English language and his wordplay. While the wordplay can be fascinating, it can also be frustrating for a reader who is not accustomed to reading his plays or poetry.

Act 1 of Romeo and Juliet is essential to your understanding of the rest of the play. The act opens with a brawl that displays the long-established rivalry between the Montagues and the Capulets. The Capulets host a dinner party, where Romeo and Juliet meet and immediately fall in love. When Juliet realizes that Romeo is a Montague at the end of Act 1, she is understandably shocked, and she expresses her emotions in that moment.

Juliet: ''My only love sprung from my only hate! Too early seen unknown, and known too late! Prodigious birth of love it is to me, That I must love a loathed enemy.''

If you don't understand every word in the lines you just read, you aren't alone. It might help to know that prodigious means abnormal or unnatural. What Juliet is saying here is that the love she feels for Romeo is unnatural because he is supposed to be the enemy.

While you may have gotten the gist of the lines without knowing this word, understanding the vocabulary adds depth to your understanding, which helps you get more out of the storyline and learn more about the characters.

Act 1: Vocabulary

Here are the vocabulary words from Act 1 that will help you understand the narrative. Some of these definitions are archaic, meaning that they are old and outdated, but they define the language as Shakespeare is using it in the play.

Portentous: an ominous or threatening warning

Shrift: confession, especially by a priest

Grievance: a feeling of resentment or sadness over something believed to be unfair or wrong

Prolixity: unnecessarily long

Pernicious: causing harm or ruin; hurtful

Ope: open

Forsworn: to formally reject or disavow a former feeling or belief

Augment: enlarge in size, number, shape, or extent; increase

Posterity: future generations; descendants

Propagate: spread and promote (like an idea or theory)

Languish: to become weak or deteriorate

Tyrannous: unjustly cruel, harsh, or severe; oppressive

Beseech: to request or beg eagerly

Heretic: a person holding an opinion or belief that's different from what is largely accepted by society (often used in the context of religion)

God-den: a greeting that was used after noon

Sup: eat supper

Woe: great sorrow or distress

Parlous: great or excessive

Boisterous: noisy or energetic

Athwart: side to side (across)

Solemnity: serious and dignified (such as a person or an event)

Rapier: a thin, light, sharp-pointed sword used for thrusting

Sirrah: a man or boy of a lower status

Nuptial: a wedding

Disparage: speaking of another person in a negative or belittling way

Gall: the trait of being bold and rude; irritating

Lest: fear of some negative consequence that may come about

Thither: to or toward that place (or go there)

Hither: to this place (or come here)

Thrice: three times

Bite your thumb: a very insulting gesture

Vocabulary in Context

Let's look at some lines from the first scene in Act 1 and interpret them with our new vocabulary words:

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