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English : Romeo and Juliet : Shakespeare: Play Analysis

Play Analysis

Samuel Taylor Coleridge's famous essay on Romeo and Juliet based on his legendary and influential lectures and notes on Shakespeare. Source:


Shakespeare adapts Brooke's poem for the stage, developing the characters, condensing the timeframe, and adding certain scenes to underscore his own themes. For example, Shakespeare reduces Juliet's age from 16 to 13 to emphasize her youth and vulnerability...Shakespeare compresses the action from months, as it appears in Brooke, to just over four days...Shakespeare also develops the plot by adding the scene in which Capulet brings the wedding forward from Thursday to Wednesday. These developments are used to indicate the speed with which Romeo and Juliet rush headlong into love, while creating intense pressure as events conspire to bring the lovers to their tragic deaths. Source:


Despite the enmity of the Montague’s and Capulet’s, the attraction between Romeo and Juliet is instinctive and strong.  Upon their first meeting, the “star-cross’d lovers” appear spontaneously attracted to each other and unaware of each one’s enemy status. Romeo emphasises how Juliet’s beauty stands out from the crowd. She is a “snowy dove trooping with crows.” He is immediately respectful towards her even though she is a Capulet, and his love is more heartfelt than his pretentious show of affection towards Rosaline. Source:

Act and Scene Analysis

The Prologue introduces themes of love and death and individual vs. society.  And by revealing that R and J will die, the Prologue goes further with fate: it literally creates their fate. R and J are fated to die because the Prologue says they will. Source:

Detailed description of each act with translations and explanations for all important quotes. Source:

Plot analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion.

  • Initial Situation - Family Feud: The play opens with a public brawl. A simple hand-gesture from a Capulet servant to a group of Montague servants spirals into a full-out fight, but the Prince is so over it... 
  • Conflict - Forbidden Love: Romeo crashes a Capulet party in hopes of seeing Rosaline, but instead he sees Juliet. It's love at first sight. Romeo finds out that Juliet is a Capulet. Then Juliet finds out that Romeo is a Montague...
  • Complication - When the two lovers finally get some alone time later that night, they decide that the family feud doesn't matter—they have to be together...
  • Climax - Tybalt kills Mercutio; Romeo kills Tybalt; and then Romeo flees the scene just before the Prince shows up to pronounce him banished.
  • Suspense - Arranged Marriage: But Romeo has barely climbed out the window before Juliet is being forced into marriage with Paris...
  • Denouement - When Romeo arrives at the Capulet tomb, Paris is there, mourning over his dead almost-wife. Paris gets in the way, so Romeo kills him. Then he breaks into the tomb and embraces his dead wife. She still looks as if she's alive, Romeo says, which almost kills the audience. But he has no way of knowing the truth, so he kisses Juliet farewell and drinks the poison...
  • Conclusion - Friends Forever: When the citizens of Verona—including Romeo and Juliet's parents—come in, the two lovers are lying side by side, both dead. The families decide that maybe this whole thing has gone on long enough and decide to be friends. Happy ending?



Three Act Plot analysis - For a three-act plot analysis, put on your screenwriter’s hat. Moviemakers know the formula well: at the end of Act One, the main character is drawn in completely to a conflict. During Act Two, she is farthest away from her goals. At the end of Act Three, the story is resolved. Source:


Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis - Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper. Source


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