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Romeo & Juliet Essay Topics

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 lesson will include some important essay topics from William Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet. These topics will be separated by subject, and few of the more complex topics will be briefly unpacked in order to better facilitate understanding of each essay topic.

Background

One of Shakespeare's early plays, Romeo And Juliet explores the themes like young love, loyalty, family politics in late 16th century Verona. As such, it is full of possibilities for essay topics, some more tiered than others. With the in mind, let us begin.

The Play

  • Shakespeare uses an accelerated timeline in Romeo And Juliet. The entire play takes place in the span of four days. Why? Is this realistic?

For this topic, consider a few possibilities. Shakespeare could have used an accelerated timeline to emphasize the impetuousness of teenagers, making rash decisions with their impulses rather than their brain.

Maybe Shakespeare used a compressed timeline to extend that idea to all characters, putting them under pressure, not giving them time to think about their next moves, causing hasty choices which mostly don't end well.

The accelerated timeline also serves to make the readers feel disjointed and eager, adding to the excitement of the play.

  • Does the play have a narrator? If so, who is it?

In parts of the play, Shakespeare uses the chorus as narrators to introduce both scenes and acts. The chorus is a theatrical device used since the time of the ancient Greek tragedies, and is used to comment on the dramatic action, often using song and dance.

Ask your students to look into the history of the theatrical chorus. Does the chorus work as its intended purpose in Romeo And Juliet? Or can it be removed without any damage to the play? Who would you like as a narrator instead? Does the play even need a narrator?

  • Who are the protagonists and antagonists of Romeo And Juliet?' Why? Does a story always need antagonists and protagonists?
  • A lot in the play depends on messengers delivering messages from various characters to others. How does Shakespeare use the role of the messenger to further the plot of the play? Are the various messengers symbolic of something? Are human messengers still important in the age of technology?
  • Who is Queen Mab? Why does Mercutio discuss her in his speech to Romeo in Act 1, Scene 4? What does she mean to Romeo?

Religion And Politics

  • What role does religion play in Romeo And Juliet? Consider religion during the renaissance, the time of the play. Would religion play the same role if the play was set in today's world?
  • Why is Romeo And Juliet set in Italy instead of England?

There are a few possible reasons why Shakespeare chose Italy instead of his native England as the setting for this play. Among them is the fact that Shakespeare based Romeo And Juliet on an older Italian play, so he decided to pay tribute to the original work by setting it in its native Italy.

Second, Protestantism is the major religion of late 16th century, and Catholic concepts such as shrift would be considered offensive and heretical. Thirdly, Italy had a reputation of political intrigue and feeding families, so the play would make more sense set in Italy.

All these points demand further historical research and analysis, and will enrich your students' understanding of Romeo And Juliet, as well as giving them an overall, albeit rudimentary, understanding of the roles of religion and politics in the renaissance era.

  • How old are Romeo and Juliet when they get married? Compare and contrast that to marriage laws and customs in today's world. If written today, does this aspect of the play have to change for it to be accepted?
  • Do you consider Romeo And Juliet to be a violent play? Could it be less violent and still have the same impact? Discuss your reasoning, while considering the legal and moral implications of violence in the play.

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