Go, counsellor: Thou and my bosom henceforth shall be twain.
Juliet, Act III, scene v
There are more relationships in Romeo and Juliet than just the one between Romeo and Juliet. We have relationships between parents and teens, between friends, and between enemies.
Read the article and try the exercises with your students. You can download a printable PDF of this article and all the exercises below.
Adults and Teens
Away from light steals home my heavy son, and private in his chamber pens himself, Shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out, and makes himself an artificial night.
Montague, Act I, scene i
Romeo and Juliet not only have a relationship with each other, they also have relationships to the adults in their lives. Though the play is several hundred years old, these relationships are very similar to those between adults and teens today. Youth vs age is a running thread, old and new. Juliet observes that if the Nurse were young she would be “swift in motion as a ball,” but as it is she’s old and slow. Change the word choice and it could be taken from a conversation heard in any high school hallway.
First are the parent/teen relationships. Romeo’s parents rarely talk to him. They seem as confused by his behaviour as many parents today are confused by their sullen teens who lock themselves in their room.
Juliet’s parents demand that she obey them in a “my house, my rules” kind of way. Capulet initially seems protective of his daughter, but later his true nature comes out.
It’s interesting how the parents react to their children’s deaths – Lady Montague kills herself at Romeo’s banishment, and the Capulets show intense sorrow at finding Juliet “dead.” But if they truly feel such grief when their children are gone, why aren’t they more connected to them before this moment?
One aspect of the parent/teen relationship (perhaps not as prevalent today) is the surrogate parent. Juliet was not raised by her mother but by the Nurse. to the point that the Nurse even breastfed Juliet when she was a baby. Juliet’s mother is so detached from her daughter that when she has the big news at the beginning of the play about Paris, she asks the Nurse to stay and witness the conversation. The Nurse is Juliet’s only confidante and friend.
It’s clear that Romeo and the Friar have a bond, and this bond is stronger than with any of his friends. When Romeo is in trouble, he doesn’t turn to his parents. He runs to the Friar.
Both sets of parents, real and surrogate, fail to be good parents. Lord and Lady Capulet would see Juliet disowned before disobedient. Romeo’s parents are absent in his journey. Both the Friar and the Nurse put themselves ahead of their charges – the Nurse sides with her employers over Juliet and the Friar abandons Juliet in the tomb so he won’t be caught. What message does this convey about whether or not the teens should trust adults?
- Journal Prompt: Are the adults in your life trustworthy? Are they looking out for your best interests? Compare your relationships with adults to those of Romeo and Juliet.
- Journal Prompt: What do you share with the adults in your life? What do you keep secret? Is there an adult in your life that you consider a friend? What do you think it means to be an adult?
- Journal Prompt: Sometimes adults don’t want to know the truth, they just want a teen to “present” as a good person. Have you ever had to lie because an adult didn’t want to know the truth?
- In groups, discuss the idea of the good parent. Should we cut the parents in Romeo and Juliet some slack because they were only behaving as parents would in that time period? Are we thinking too much in 21st Century terms? Or should a good parent always put their children first?
- Compare and contrast Juliet’s relationship with the Nurse with her relationship with her mother. Why does Lady Capulet not want to be alone with Juliet in Act I, scene iii? Why does the Nurse decide to tell Juliet to forget Romeo?
- Reflect on Romeo’s relationship with his mother. We learn at the end of the play that she killed herself from grief at his banishment, but we have no text between them.
- Reflect on Youth vs Age in the play. Examine the first conversation between Romeo and the Friar (Act II, scene iii) and Juliet’s conversation with the Nurse when she’s waiting to hear news from Romeo. (Act II, scene v)
- Montague says that he has tried talking to Romeo to find out what’s wrong with him with no success. In groups, discuss what it’s like when parents try to get information from you.
- Using Act I, scene i as a guide, write a modern scene about a parent’s concern for their teen’s behaviour. Have it take place outside the locked door of their son’s bedroom. What do they do to try and get the son to come out? Are they clueless in how to talk to a teenager?
- Using Act III, scene iv as a guide, write a modern scene which explores the notion of “my house, my rules.” How would a modern set of parents embody this, compared to Lord and Lady Capulet?
- In groups, examine Act III, scene iv and identify the words and images Capulet uses on Juliet. Mistress minion, for example. Would you like to have your father say those words to you? Choose a couple of terms and create tableaux to visualize them. What impact do the words have visually?
- In Act IV scene iii, Juliet lies to her parents, saying that she’s realized the error of her ways and will marry Paris. Write Juliet’s inner monologue. What does she really want to say to her father?
- In groups, read and examine Act IV, scene v. After Capulet has threatened and screamed at his daughter, after Lady Capulet has told Juliet “go ahead and kill yourself,” they both seem to exhibit genuine despair at her death. Why is that? What are they going through in this scene? Is it genuine?
Friends & Enemies
Prodigious birth of love it is to me, That I must love a loathed enemy.
Juliet, Act I, scene v
Romeo and Juliet is based on the nature of friends and enemies. [aside: The concept of “enemy” is so strong in the play but the word itself is only used six times. The word “friend” and its forms are used twenty times.] These powerful states are vital to the story – The prologue mentions the feuding families before it mentions the lovers. Everything happens because the two families are foes. Romeo is both friend and enemy to Juliet. When Juliet says goodbye to Romeo in Act III, scene v, she calls him both “husband” and “friend.” The word is used to symbolize someone you care for, even when it’s used ironically: The Nurse wails that Tybalt was “the best friend she ever had” after his death, even though one wonders if they ever had a conversation.
The word “friend” takes on a chilling connotation in Act V: Romeo tells the apothecary, who is afraid of selling him the poison, that the world is not your friend. Juliet searches for one “friendly” drop of that poison to end her life and join Romeo in death.
In act III, scene i, Romeo declares, “This gentleman, the prince’s near ally, My very friend, hath got his mortal hurt In my behalf.” In my research for this newsletter, I found many remarks that Romeo and Mercutio are best friends. I’m not convinced. Romeo may think so. But he is often so caught up in his own world he doesn’t see the reality of life around him. When Mercutio searches for Romeo in Act II, he mocks Romeo’s state of mind, and mocks the way Romeo speaks of love. “Appear thou in the likeness of a sigh: Speak but one rhyme, and I am satisfied.” Certainly it’s humourous, but there’s a bite to it. And there is a lot of bite when Mercutio curses the two families at his death. There’s a reason Mercutio asks Benvolio (not Romeo) to take him away.
- Journal Prompt: Reflect on the word “friend.” What does it mean to you? Do you consider romantic partners to be friends?
- Journal Prompt: Reflect on the word “enemy.” Do you have an enemy? What happened to make that person your enemy? Do you feel the reactions of characters in the play toward their enemies is realistic or exaggerated?
- Write a song in which you use the word friend to mean loved one. What images will you use?
- Compare and contrast Mercutio and Tybalt. How are they similar? How are they different?
- Create a collage of textures, colours and images that represents Mercutio on one side and Tybalt on the other. What are the similarities? What are the differences?
- Respond to the statement, “Romeo and Mercutio are not best friends.” Do you agree or disagree? Support your answer with examples from the play.
- Write a modern, inner monologue for Mercutio as he lies dying, where he expresses what he thinks of his friendship with Romeo.
- When Benvolio describes the fight, he says that Romeo said, “Hold, friends! Friends, part!” This is not what Romeo really said (“Hold, Tybalt! Good Mercutio!”) What does this tell you about Benvolio’s character?
- Write a scene in which Tybalt and Mercutio meet up in the afterlife. What would their conversation be? How would they change? How would they stay the same? What would they think about their families and the outcome of the play?
The Relationship Between Parents and Children Presented in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
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The Relationship Between Parents and Children Presented in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is a play written by William Shakespeare. It is seen
as one of the most familiar of his plays. It is set in Verona, a city
The play is set around a set of two feuding families, the Montagues
and the Capulets. The cause of the feud is unknown, and doesn't become
clear throughout the play. Their hatred for each other however, is
strongly evident throughout the play.
The main characters, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, fall madly in
love with each other at first sight. As they are both young and
impressionable, they begin a passionate relationship, and agree to
secretly marry after only knowing each other less than two hours.
The scene I am focusing on, is the scene after they have just
consummated their marriage. Romeo has to leave abruptly, as his
banishment for killing Juliet's cousin is in force, and if he is
caught, he will be sentenced to death. Juliet apprehensively lets him
leave. Thinking that she will never see him again, she starts to cry.
This is when her mother, Lady Capulet enters. Juliet's relationship
with her mother is seen as quite formal. 'Who is't that calls? It is
my lady motherâ€¦Madam. This makes the relationship not as a mothers to
a daughter should be, as Juliet is calling her mother Lady, leading
the reader to believe she is not that close to her mother.
Lady Capulet then tries to console Juliet, as she thinks that she is
crying over the death of her cousin, and not of the separation of her
and her husband. 'Evermore weeping for your cousin's death?' She then
tries to make her stop by saying 'What, wilt thou wash him from his
grave with tears?' This shows that Lady Capulet could be slightly
impatient, and would like Juliet to stop crying.
Juliet is deceiving her mother, as she knows her mother thinks she is
crying over Tybalt. 'Feeling so the loss, I cannot but ever weep for
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the friend.' This statement could be taken in two ways; one is that
she truly is crying over Tybalt, and two is that she is saying her
true feelings about Romeo but her Mother doesn't know.
Lady Capulet then goes on to express the hatred she feels for Romeo
and the Montagues. 'That same villain Romeoâ€¦the traitor murderer
livesâ€¦we will have vengeance for it'. She then goes on to state that
she will send someone to Mantua (where Romeo is banished to) to kill
him. 'That he shall soon keep Tybalt company'.
Juliet then plays along with Lady Capulets hatred for Romeo. 'With
Romeo till I behold him-dead-is my poor heart so for a kinsmen'.
Juliet is trying to cover up her feelings for Romeo, and by saying
horrible things about Romeo shows her that she truly is crying over
her cousin's death. This in turn tells the reader that Juliet has not
and cannot tell her mother about her marriage to Romeo, as there is
clearly seething hatred towards him in her family.
But in doing this, she also gives her mother a tiny clue of how she
feels for him. 'O, how my heart abhors to hear him named and cannot
come to him'. In saying this, she is stating her true feelings for
Romeo, but as a double meaning. Perhaps this shows the reader of
Juliet's want to tell her mother, but that she cannot.
Lady Capulet then tries to cheer Juliet up by telling her of her
impending marriage to the eligible Paris. 'But now I'll tell thee
joyful tidings, girl'. The use of the word girl shows the
unfamiliarity of Lady Capulet and Juliet having these type of talks,
close and intimate. 'Hath sorted out a sudden day of joyâ€¦Marry my
childâ€¦the gallant, young, and noble gentleman The County Paris'. The
choice of words shows how Lady Capulet is trying to make out that
Paris is a fantastic, once in a life time opportunity for her
daughter. It is almost as if she is trying to make him sound so
fantastic that Juliet should be lucky to be marrying him.
Juliet then shows her despair at having heard the news, as only she
and the nurse know of her marriage to Romeo. 'He shall not make me
there a joyful bride!' She then goes to make excuses as to why she
should not marry him. 'I wonder at this haste, that I must wedâ€¦I will
not marry yet; and when I do, I swear it shall be Romeo, whom you know
I hate, rather than Paris.' She is stating that it is too soon for her
to marry anyone, let alone Paris, and by using the phrase about Romeo,
she is trying to shock her mother, by saying that she would rather
marry some one she supposedly hates than Paris.
She then goes on to ask her mother to tell her father for her. 'I pray
you to tell my lord and father.' This shows the reader of the
authority of Capulet over his daughter, as it shows that she is too
afraid herself to tell him that she does not want to marry the suitor
that he picked out. Lady Capulet refuses to tell Capulet. 'Tell him so
yourself, and see how he will take it at your hands'. This shows that
even his wife is afraid of telling him, so will put all of the
pressure on Juliet. Perhaps she does this to scare Juliet into backing
out of refusing the marriage, further more showing the authority
Capulet has over the family.
Capulet then enters, saying a long speech just to show how happy he
is. He then goes on to question Lady Capulet. 'How now, wife? Have you
delivered to her our decree?' The use of the word 'wife' shows how
impersonal their relationship is.
Lady Capulet informs her husband that Juliet is not willing to marry.
'â€¦She will none, she gives you thanks.' Capulet then becomes furious
to learn about Juliet's reluctance in the matter. Lady Capulet: 'I
would the fool were married to her grave!' Capulet: 'Take me with you,
take me with you wife.' By doing this, they are trying to gang up on
Juliet by making her feel guilty. They are becoming a team, both
wanting her to marry Paris.
Capulet then goes on to continuously insult Juliet.
'Unworthyâ€¦disobedient wretchâ€¦you baggage.' He also goes as far as to
question her entire existence. 'Wife, we scarce thought us blest the
God had lent us but this only child'. By doing this, he is letting out
his anger over the fact she isn't going to marry Paris. He also tries
to include his wife, again trying to gang up against Juliet. Also, he
is being awful to her to try and make her change her mind, as he might
change his attitude if she changes her mind.
He also threatens to take on physical violence on her. 'My finger
itch'. He is threatening to unleash the anger he is feeling inside
He then goes to state that he will fully disown her. 'I will drag thee
on a hurdle hitherâ€¦never look me in the face again.' He is trying to
guilt her into marrying Paris.
The nurse then gets involved. 'God in heaven bless her!' She is the
only one to come to Juliet's defence, showing her motherly instincts
towards her. 'You are to blame, my lord, to rate her so'. She is
saying its all Capulets fault, as Juliet is too young and vulnerable
to be married. This also backs up the motherly instincts, and shows
that Juliet is closer to the Nurse than she is to her own mother.
The Nurse and Capulet disagree, and Capulet stalks off, furious at
Juliet's refusal to marry.
Juliet then tries to make a last plea to her mother. 'O sweet
motherâ€¦delay this marriage for a month, a week.' She is trying to
sweet talk her mother, and is practically begging her to postpone the
She then goes on to threaten to take her life. 'Or if you do not, make
the bridal bed in that dim monument where Tybalt lies'. By making that
threat, she is hoping it will shock her mother, which goes to show how
desperate she is. Lady Capulet just dismisses her, and walks away.
'Talk not to me, for I'll not speak a word do as thou wilt, for I have
done with thee'. This shows how little concern Lady Capulet has for
her daughter, and how little she cares for her.
The Nurse and Juliet then talk about what Juliet should do now. 'O
Nurse, how shall this be prevented?' By going to the Nurse for advice,
Juliet is showing the bond that they share is deep, as the Nurse is
only one of two people that know about Julie's marriage to Romeo.
Throughout the play, deception is a strong theme. Juliet's bond with
her parents is not strong, and this is shown by her dependence on the
Nurse, and by how little her parents understand her.
Romeo and Juliet is seen by all as a play of young, great love, and if
Julie's relationship with her parents had been that of a closer one,
perhaps the play would not have come to its tragic conclusion.