The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
Choices: Building Your Portfolio
1. Collecting Ideas for a Research Paper
Narrowing your topic. Look over the ideas you have jotted down in your Writer’s Notebook. Is there one you would like to research and explore further in a research paper? Ask yourself these questions before you proceed:
• How can I narrow or focus this topic?
• What do I already know about this topic?
• What would I like to know?
• What resources can I use to find more information?
2. The Play Today
Prepare a plan for an updated Romeo and Juliet that takes place in the United States. The chart below shows how Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim changed the play to make it into a musical,
West Side Story (1957). When you finish your rough plan, you might map your scenes. You might even write your own new
Romeo and Juliet.
|Romeo and Juliet||West Side Story|
|Verona, 1300s||New York, 1950s|
|Feud: Montagues versus Capulets||Gang war: Jets versus Sharks|
|Lovers: Romeo (Montague); Juliet (Capulet)||Lovers: Tony (Jet); Maria (Shark)|
|Authority: prince||Authority: NYPD|
|Friend/confidante: Benvolio (Romeo's); nurse (Juliet's)||Friend/confidante: Riff (Tony's); Anita (Maria's)|
|Leaders: Mercutio (Montagues); Tybalt (Capulets)||Leaders: Riff (Jets); Bernardo (Sharks)|
3. A New Ending
Suppose Romeo and Juliet survived because the friar’s schemes worked. Write a scene showing them twenty years later. In their dialogue, make clear what’s happened to the Capulets, the friar, the nurse, and Paris. Use stage directions to tell when and where your scene is set.
4. Characters Endure
Prepare a report in which you tell how the character types presented in Romeo and Juliet are found in movies, novels, and TV sitcoms today. Focus on these types: beautiful girl; handsome boyfriend; socially conscious mother; grumpy father; boyfriend approved by the girl’s parents; older confidante; loyal best friend; hotheaded bully; dopey guys who follow the gang leader.
5. Tracing the Action
The graphic below shows the pattern of a typical Shakespearean tragedy. In an essay, analyze the structure of Romeo and Juliet according to that pattern. Does the play match the structure? You might provide a graphic with your essay summarizing what happens in each act. You might even add illustrations showing the major action in each act.
Crisis, or turning point
Rising actions Falling action
Exposition Climax and resolution
6. Comic Relief
Playwrights often introduce comic characters or events into intensely emotional or dramatic plays to provide
comic relief—to ease the tension temporarily. In Romeo and Juliet two characters provide comic relief: Mercutio and the nurse. Find at least three instances of comic relief in this tragedy, and make a three-column chart. In the first column, describe the serious events that are interrupted. In the second column, describe the comic-relief scene. In the third column, tell how long the comedy lasts.
Analyzing a Character/Supporting a Critical Statement
7. Portrait of Juliet
Write a character analysis of Juliet, using the following comment by a critic as the basis of your thesis statement. Be sure to use details from the play to support what the critic says about Juliet and how the world treated her.
|Shakespeare's real miracle...was Juliet,
transformed from an adolescent arrogantly eager to outdo her elders to
an appealing child-woman, barely fourteen, who learns to mix courage
with her innocence, yet falls victim to a world that only briefly and
unintentionally, but fatally, treats her as a plaything.
----J. A. Bryant, Jr.
8. If Only . . .
Shakespeare doesn’t idealize Romeo and Juliet. He is careful to remind us that their love is destructive partly because it fails to see life as it really is. Romeo and Juliet do not act with caution and patience and wisdom. They act on impulse and in haste—and they get bad advice. Write down your opinions on these questions: (a) What should Romeo and Juliet have done, instead of what they actually did, at three or more points in the play? (b) Could Romeo and Juliet have triumphed—if they’d had good advice? (c) Would Mercutio have helped them had he lived?
9. Do-It-Yourself Globe
Find library books that show models of the Globe Theatre and that describe its unique features in detail. You might also search the Internet (Hint: Try spelling theater the British way: theatre). Then, make your own model of the Globe. Decide what materials you will use for your model and how you will label and describe its parts. (Commercially printed do-it-yourself cardboard models of the Globe are available in some bookstores. You might enjoy working on such a kit.) Present your research and finished model to another class or to the Drama Club.
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