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Romeo & Juliet Act 1 Questions

Instructor: Wendy A. Garland

Wendy has a Ph.D. in Adult Education and a Master's Degree in Business Management. She has 10 years experience working in higher education.

This series of important questions from Act 1 of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet are divided by theme. Some of the more complex questions include possible discussion points.

Background

One of the most popular of Shakespeare's tragedies, Romeo and Juliet is a story of teenage love in the face of familial conflict. As such, it is filled with important themes and points which invite further discussion. Let us have a look at some such points from Act 1 of the play.

Time and Place

  • Where does the play take place? Why is that important in the context of the play? And why is it believed to take place in the 16th century?

There are a few possible reasons why Shakespeare set Romeo and Juliet in the romantic Italian city of Verona. The main idea has to do with religion. As The Church of England turned Protestant, it became more publicly acceptable for a play including vices such as lust, suicide, and murder, to be set in a Catholic country. The second reason, is that Shakespeare based the play on a story that was originally Italian, and therefore decided to pay tribute to the original by setting it in its country of inception. Thirdly, Italy has a history of feuding political families, and would therefore make the perfect setting for Romeo and Juliet.

  • How does the compressed timeline affect the play? Does it make the play feel rushed? Or does it add to the immediacy of the action?

The fact that Romeo and Juliet rushes through events might be an allusion to the impetuous nature of teenagers. Or, simply that Shakespeare wanted to squeeze a lot of plot into as short a play as possible, so he would keep his audience's attention.

Family Matters

  • Discuss the relationship between parents and children in Act 1. How do Romeo and Juliet relate to their parents? How do their parents feel about them? Compare and contrast these relationships to modern day parent-child relationships.
  • What two families are fighting at the beginning of the play? Why? And why is their fight important to the play overall?

The feud between the houses of Capulet and Montague starts off the play, and provides a great opportunity to discuss the political feuds that existed in the Middle Ages in Italy.

  • Why do Lord Capulet and Lord Montague believe it will be easy for them to keep the peace? Who brings about this peace? How?

Teenage Life

  • Discuss the term star crossed lovers as it relates to the play. Why is the term appropriate for the love Romeo and Juliet feel for each other? Can that term still be applied to lovers?
  • Who are Mercutio and Tybalt? Compare and contrast their characters. Why does Mercutio hate Tybalt?
  • How do Romeo and Juliet find out each other's last names? What happens after that?
  • Who is Queen Mab? Discuss her role in Act 1.

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