ROMEO AND JULIET for the ninth grade)
A PEDAGOGICAL NOTE: THIS MATERIAL WAS ORIGINALLY USED FOR A FRESHMAN CLASS BEING INTRODUCED TO SHAKESPEARE FOR THE FIRST TIME. IN SO DOING, RATHER THAN OFFER THE DEPTH OF ANALYSIS CHARACTERISTIC OF SOME OF THE OTHER PAGES ON THIS SITE, THE PURPOSE HERE WAS TO PRESENT ROMEO AND JULIET BY STRESSING ITS MIMETIC VALUE (TEACH AND DELIGHT- PER SIDNEY). AS THE UNIT PROGRESSED, MANY STUDENTS SAW THE EMOTIONAL RELEVANCE TO THEIR OWN LIVES: TEENS IN LOVE, AND BEGAN TO APPRECIATE WHAT SHAKESPEARE WAS DOING. THIS AFTER ALL WOULD HAVE PERHAPS PLEASED THE BARD (RECALLING THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF HIS OWN MARRIAGE), AND CERTAINLY SUSTAINS BLOOM'S THESIS THAT SHAKEPSEARE INVENTED PERSONALITY (EVEN FOR TEENS).
ON THE KING LEAR PAGE IN THIS SITE, MENTION IS MADE OF HOW CHARACTER AND THEME IN R & J FORESHADOWED THE ANGST OF LEAR AND HIS FAMILY.
ROMEO AND JULIET
Most people would argue that Shakespeare ranks with the greatest of all authors, his plays being read more often and containing more wisdom than any other work except the Bible. This is true, despite the fact that people, especially students, complain that the language is hard to understand. Students therefore will often turn to CLIFF NOTES hoping to at least get a C on a test or quiz. Probably the best way to understand a Shakespeare play is to remember that they were not meant to be read but to be seen; therefore we will as part of this unit watch a film version of the play. If you enjoyed a movie like Independence Day, think of how your attitude might change if you had to read the script rather than see or rent it.
The same is true of a play...It is meant to be seen, but remember that seeing a production or reading CLIFF NOTES is not a study substitute. Romeo and Juliet will involve several phases of work:
1. introduction to Shakespeares life and times including the theater
2. a study of what Shakespeares audience would have taken for granted, that we do not
3. an examination of the Pragmatic theory of literature--to entertain and teach (Sidney)
(Note: a viewing of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE is an excellent
way to achieve the first three goals.)
4. a review of poetic elements--figures of speech etc. through an examination of some of the sonnets that Shakespeare wrote--such helps with the language--there are pages on this site that discuss
5. a study of drama as a form of literature--key terms
6. an examination of Romeo and Juliet--through analysis and viewing a production (Zeffirelli)
THIS WORK CONSISTS OF SEVERAL PHASES:
1. READING THE TEXT AND KEEPING UP WITH THE WORK
2. KEEPING A VOCABULARY SECTION IN YOUR NOTES--VOCAB. IS IMPORTANT
3. COMPLETING WRITING ASSIGNMENTS--MULTI-PARAGRAPH ESSAYS ON THE
POEMS AND PLAY
4. RESEARCH: THIS UNIT WILL INTRODUCE YOU TO LIBRARY RESEARCH ON THE
HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL.--this is essential. I was thinking of how Shakespeare is done in my AP
English class--students must complete a 30 page paper on Shakespeare using college libraries.
This work begins here.
Assignments: go to the library and get material on Shakespeare's life, times and the theater. You may use an Encyclopedia and books in the British Literature section of the library, plus of course materials on this Site and the British Literature Home Page.
YOU WILL NEED TO PREPARE A SHORT REPORT ON THIS.
PHASE THREE: AN EXAMINATION OF THE PRAGMATIC THEORY OF LITERATURE:
You remember the mimetic theory, the purpose of which was to show that_______________
To understand Shakespeare, we need to add to that what is called the PRAGMATIC THEORY which was popularized by a contemporary of Shakespeare called Sir Philip Sidney. It is like the mimetic theory, but it adds something else. A certain critic called Stephen Gasson wrote an essay in which he said that literature and plays should not be read or seen because they could corrupt young minds. Today this is called___________.
Sidney was offended by this and wrote DEFENSE OF POETRY (and drama) in which he said the following:
"Poetry therefore is an art of imitation, for so
Aristotle terms it in the word mimetic--that is to say a
representing, counterfeiting, or figuring forth to speak
metaphorically, a speaking picture with this end, to teach and
Other parts of Sidney's work are likewise important for Romeo and Juliet:
Only the poet, disliking to be tied on any such subjugation, lifted up with the vigor of his own imagination does grow in effect into another nature, in making things either better than nature brings forth, or quite anew...gods, Cyclops, Characters in a play, etc. Students who have done the Odyssey should understand to the reference.
PHASE FOUR: POETRY and THE SONNET AS AN ORIENTATION TO SHAKESPEARE'S LANGUAGE AND ROMEO AND JULIET:
SINCE SHAKESPEARE WROTE THE SONNETS AND
ROMEO AND JULIET ABOUT THE SAME TIME
KNOWING SOME SONNET THEMES AND THE
LANGUAGE USED TO CREATE THEM SHOULD
HELP WITH THE LONGER WORK.
ASSIGNMENT: Please review the figures of speech needed to understand a poem:
These are especially important for Shakespeares language.
ASSIGNMENT: Read the material below which contains some of Shakespeares sonnets written around the same time as Romeo and Juliet.
A. FIND OUT IN THE LIBRARY WHAT AN ENGLISH SONNET OR THE SHAKESPEAREAN SONNET IS IN TERMS OF ITS STRUCTURE-OR HOW IT IS COMPOSED. GET INFORMATION REGARDING THE FOLLOWING..
a. number of lines
b. how each line is scanned (What does scanned mean?)
c. the rhyme scheme for the English sonnet
d. divisions within the English sonnet
e. common sonnet themes--what did Shakespeare write about in the sonnets?--get a list of
ideas that would be good topic paragraphs for a multi-paragraph essay.
B. FOR EACH SONNET BELOW, ALSO BE ABLE TO DO THE FOLLOWING...
a. Define the relationship between form (how it is said) and content (what is said)
b. subject of the sonnet is_____
c. figures of speech and how they contribute to meaning--identify and explain them
d. diction--the kind of words used--remember the forms of discourse
e. tone--the mood or attitude the poet has to the subject about which he is writing
f. theme--the main idea in the sonnet that would be a good topic for an essay...
SAMPLE SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS RELEVANT TO ROMEO AND JULIET:
The greatest sonnet sequence in the English language is that of Shakespeare, who early in his career composed 154. To whom he wrote them and why he did and whether they contain information about his life are debated. Some critics of Shakespeare think it is just better to read and enjoy them for themselves. They do, however, have a relationship in terms of form and content to parts of Romeo and Juliet:
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see;
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes.
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon thyself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate:
For thy sweet love rememb'red such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
Sonnet CXVI-(probably the best sonnet to study comparatively with any Shakespeare play dramatizing love: note the presence of the ethereal and pragmatic)
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
My love is as a fever, longing still
For that which longer nurseth the disease;
Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,
The uncertain sickly appetite to please.
My reason, the physician to my love,
Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,
Hath left me, and I desperate now approve
Desire is death, which physic did except.
Past cure I am, now reason is past care,
And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;
My thoughts and my discourse as madmen's are,
At random from the truth, vainly express'd;
For I have sworn thee fair, and though thee bright,
Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.
Sometimes, Shakespeare makes fun of his own language and sonnet writing:
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow in her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
PUZZLE: DO YOU RECOGNIZE THIS--what did Shakespeare do?
Rom. [To Juliet] If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this;
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
'To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Jul. Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.
Rom. Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
Jul. Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
Rom. O! then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.
Jul. Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.
Rom. Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.
Thus from my lips, by thine, my sin is purged.
IN ADDITION TO THE QUESTIONS IN THE TEXTBOOK, SEE IF YOU CAN APPLY THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS TO THE PLAY. THEY LOOK SIMPLE, BUT THEY DO WORK, GETTING YOU TO THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE READING. THEY ARE FROM A CRITIC NAMED LEN MOZZI:
1. WHO is talking and to whom?
2. WHAT does this character want?
3. WHERE is the character-how does he/she feel about being there?
4, WHEN does the character want what be/she wants? Why insistent? What is at stake?
5, WHY Why cannot the character get what he/she wants? Obstacles?
6. HOW is the character going to achieve goals? What actions are taken? This last one is at the heart of
Aristotle's criticism. Consider the following plot elements--recalling the triangle diagram;--exposition,
inciting force, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement.