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Romeo and Juliet | Discussion Questions 41 - 50

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Why does Romeo kill Paris in Act 5, Scene 3, of Romeo and Juliet?

At the beginning of the scene, Romeo appears not to know or remember that Paris was intended to marry Juliet. (He recalls it after killing Paris.) Even so, Romeo indicates that he does not want to kill Paris, whom he calls "good gentle youth." Romeo tries to scare Paris away, calling himself "desperate" and a "madman." When Paris defies him and advances, Romeo draws his sword and kills Paris. Romeo's primary motivation seems to be his determination to reach Juliet's side without delay and kill himself in order to be reunited with her.

What reasons do Romeo and Juliet offer for their decisions to kill themselves in Act 5, Scene 3?

The first overt reason Romeo offers for his suicide in this scene is as vengeance for Tybalt. After he asks forgiveness of the dead Tybalt, he turns to Juliet, whose beauty he finds unaffected by death. She is "yet so fair," he fears that if he were to leave her alone, "amorous" death would keep her as his lover. To prevent that, Romeo will "never from this palace of dim night/Depart again." He kisses Juliet and kills himself. Juliet decides to kill herself as soon as she sees Romeo dead. Throughout the play, Romeo and Juliet have expressed that death is better than being apart. In Act 1, Scene 5, when Romeo learns that Juliet is a Capulet, he says, "My life is my foe's debt," meaning Juliet will bring him life, but he will be in debt—with his life the price to pay—to his enemies, the Montagues, for his happiness. Mirroring Romeo in the same scene, when she asks the nurse to find out Romeo's name, Juliet says if he is a married man, "My grave is like to be my wedding bed." There is never a time in the play after Romeo and Juliet meet in which the idea of living without each other is a possibility to either character.

Why do Lord Capulet and Lord Montague decide to make peace in Act 5, Scene 3, of Romeo and Juliet?

The prince's final words, declaring that Romeo and Juliet's deaths are punishment for their parents' hate, end the feud between Lord Montague and Lord Capulet. After all have heard the full sequence of events, the prince calls the two enemies to him. "See what a scourge is laid upon your hate,/That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love," he pronounces. Lord Capulet then turns to Lord Montague to offer his hand. Though he asks for no more than Lord Montague's hand in return, Montague responds that he will raise "her statue in pure gold," for the sake of the "true and faithful Juliet." Lord Capulet promises to do the same for Romeo's statue. The loss of their "joys" has dissolved their anger.

What is the significance of the line "The sun for sorrow will not show his head" in Act 5, Scene 3, of Romeo and Juliet?

Spoken by the prince, these are almost the last words in the play. On a literal level, morning is breaking, and it is most likely a cloudy day as suggested by the prior line, "A glooming peace with it this morning brings." Figuratively, Romeo has used the sun as a symbol of Juliet's beauty ("It is the East, and Juliet is the sun"), a light within her that lights him up in turn. In this sense, the sun might represent love itself. The play, therefore, ends with the sun unwilling to shine, as the greatest love in the play has died.

Romeo and Juliet are depicted as teenagers. How is their age reflected in their actions?

Romeo and Juliet represent some of the trials as well as the joys of youth. On the one hand, their youth is partly responsible for their ability to love so passionately, in contrast to the more temperate adults. Their youth also makes them inexperienced and naive. Juliet already suffers from powerlessness as a result of her gender, unable to assert her will over decisions that shape her life. Her age makes her even more vulnerable, as she has no experience to lend perspective to her current situation. Romeo's youthfulness initially expresses itself in his fervent idealization of Rosaline and his despair over her rejection. He thinks he will never recover from the disappointment. Like with Juliet, he sees no future beyond his feelings in the present.

How does the play Romeo and Juliet define love?

Love is different things to different characters. For Romeo (and other male characters), it initially appears to be primarily a response to physical beauty. The same is true for Lady Capulet and the nurse, who think that Juliet can come to love Paris by noting his beauty. Love evolves, developing religious qualities for Romeo after he meets Juliet. Both Romeo and Juliet agree that love should be sanctified and sacred. For Juliet, love is a response to something more interactive. She falls in love with Romeo not by looking at him but by listening to him. He was masked at the party, and throughout much of the balcony scene, Juliet cannot actually see Romeo, as he is shrouded in darkness. Love is also about allegiance to family and friends. Tybalt challenges Romeo to a duel out of his love for the Capulets. Romeo kills Tybalt out of his love for Mercutio.

In Romeo and Juliet, Verona is overrun with violence. What is the effect of this violence in a play about love?

Because the play starts in the thick of violence, it becomes the audience's lens through which to experience and analyze ensuing actions. Love itself produces violent emotions that threaten the existing order. Love is also threatened by violence; violence comes between friends (Romeo and Mercutio), citizens and their prince, family members, and the lovers, Romeo and Juliet. This pattern suggests that even love cannot overcome the power of violence. In fact, the play shows that heaven uses love as a "means to kill your joys."

How do the men in Romeo and Juliet assert their authority?

The men in the play have multiple means of asserting their authority. First, they do so with violence, both in words and deeds, as Mercutio does when he taunts the nurse and as Mercutio and Tybalt do by dueling. Lord Capulet asserts his authority over Juliet by controlling her and threatening to disown her when she defies him. Paris tries to assert a similar authority over Juliet, even calling her his wife before it is true. The prince asserts his authority with threats to the populace and Romeo's banishment. Friar Lawrence exercises authority over Romeo and Juliet by devising an elaborate plan for them to follow. The play's plot includes misuse of authority by nearly all those who wield it, which results in multiple deaths.

How does Friar Lawrence's character change over the course of the play in Romeo and Juliet?

Friar Lawrence begins as a wise and caring father figure to Romeo. He is just as concerned about Romeo's sadness over Rosaline as Lord Montague is. In Act 2, Scene 3, the friar sits alone on stage, happily and expertly engaging in his work with plants. As the only character introduced with a monologue, the friar is established as an important and trustworthy character. The audience's impression of him slowly changes as the play continues and more harm comes to Romeo and Juliet through his advice. As the friar's plans fail, he loses his confidence. He becomes fearful after seeing the dead bodies of Romeo and Paris in the crypt, trembling and weeping. He is brokenhearted and overwhelmed by the end of the play.

Does the play suggest any other options besides suicide for Romeo and Juliet?

The play suggests a few other possibilities. The nurse advises Juliet should marry Paris and give up on Romeo when he is banished. The friar suggests she go to a convent. Both ideas are rejected by her as intolerable. The clues for other possible solutions are subtle and would be easy for Romeo and Juliet to miss. Early in the play, when Lord Capulet is preparing for the party, he states that he and Lord Montague are aged and should be able to keep the peace. Capulet does not grow angry that Romeo sneaks uninvited into the party and even says he has heard good things of the youth. This hints at the slight possibility that he might be open to an alliance that would end the feud if approached in the right way. Friar Lawrence agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet because he hopes that their union will end their families' feud. He counsels the young lovers to be less violent in their emotions. If they had been able to heed that advice, they might have acted less impetuously at the end of the play. For instance, Romeo might have sought out Friar Lawrence before killing himself and thus would have learned Juliet wasn't dead. However, for any other outcome to succeed, Romeo and Juliet would have needed better guidance from the adults around them. For example, Friar Lawrence would have to be less inclined to secret maneuverings and more capable of speaking to those in power directly. Similarly, because Lord Capulet is more concerned with asserting his authority than learning what his daughter feels, Juliet never considers going to him for help.

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