Romeo And Juliet Text Response Essay Questions

  • 1

    In what way do Romeo and Juliet break gender conventions? How do these roles fluctuate throughout the play?

    At the beginning of the play, the young lovers' behavior reverses common gender conventions – Romeo acts in a way that his friends call feminine, while Juliet exhibits masculine qualities. Romeo is by no means an archetypal Elizabethan man; he is disinterested in asserting his physical power like the other male characters in the play. Instead, Romeo chooses to stew in his pensive melancholy. On several instances, Romeo's companions suggest that his introspective behavior is effeminate. On the other hand, Juliet exhibits a more pronounced sense of agency than most female characters in Shakespeare's time. While the women around her, like her mother, blindly act in accordance with Lord Capulet's wishes, Juliet proudly expresses her opinion. Even when she has lost a battle (like when Lord Capulet insists she consider marrying Paris), she demonstrates a shrewd ability to deflect attention without committing to anything. In her relationship with Romeo, Juliet clearly takes the lead by insisting on marriage and proposing the plan to unite them. As the play progresses, Romeo starts to break out of his pensive inaction to the point that Mercutio notices this change. Romeo also makes a great shift from his cowardly attempt at suicide in Act III to his willful decision in Act V. Overall, Romeo and Juliet are arguably a good match because they are so distinct. Juliet is headstrong, while Romeo is passive until passion strikes and inspires him to action.

  • 2

    Contrast Romeo's attempted suicide in Act 3 with his actual suicide in Act 5. How do these two events reveal changes in his character and an evolving view of death?

    Romeo considers suicide in both Act 3 and Act 5. In Act 3, Romeo's desire to take his own life is a cowardly response to his grief over killing Tybalt. He is afraid of the consequences of his actions and would rather escape the world entirely than face losing Juliet. Both Friar Laurence and the Nurse criticize Romeo for his weakness and lack of responsibility - taking the knife from his hands. In contrast, Romeo actually does commit suicide in Act V because he sees no other option. He plans for it, seeking out the Apothecary before leaving Mantua, and kills himself out of solidarity with Juliet, not because he is afraid. While suicide is hardly a defensible action, Romeo's dual attempts to take his life reveal his growing maturity and his strengthened moral resolve.

  • 3

    Several characters criticize Romeo for falling in love too quickly. Do you believe this is true? Does his tendency towards infatuation give the audience occasion to question Romeo's affection for Juliet?

    This question obviously asks for a student opinion, but there is evidence to support both sides of the argument. In Act 2, Friar Laurence states his opinion that Romeo does indeed fall in love too quickly. Romeo is arguably in love with being in love more than he is in love with any particular woman. The speed with which his affections shift from Rosaline to Juliet – all before he ever exchanges a word with the latter – suggests that Romeo's feelings of 'love' are closer to lust than commitment. This interpretation is supported by the numerous sexual references in the play, which are even interwoven with religious imagery in Romeo and Juliet's first conversation. However, it also possible to argue that Romeo's lust does not invalidate the purity of his love. Romeo and Juliet celebrates young, passionate love, which includes physical lust. Furthermore, whereas Romeo was content to pine for Rosaline from afar, his love for Juliet forces him to spring into action. He is melancholy over Rosaline, but he is willing to die for Juliet. Therefore, a possible reading is that Romeo and Juliet's relationship might have been sparked by physical attraction, but it grew into a deep, spiritual connection.

  • 4

    Examine the contrast between order and disorder in Romeo and Juliet. How does Shakespeare express this dichotomy through symbols, and how do those motifs help to underline the other major themes in the play?

    The contrast between order and disorder appears from the Prologue, where the Chorus tells a tragic story using the ordered sonnet form. From that point onwards, the separation between order and disorder is a common theme. Ironically, violence and disorder occurs in bright daylight, while the serenity of love emerges at night. The relationship between Romeo and Juliet is uncomplicated without the disorderly feud between their families, which has taken over the streets of Verona. The contrast between order and disorder underscores the way that Shakespeare presents love - a safe cocoon in which the lovers can separate themselves from the unpredictable world around them. At the end of the play, it becomes clear that a relationship based on pure love cannot co-exist with human weaknesses like greed and jealousy.

  • 5

    Many critics note a tonal inconsistency in Romeo and Juliet. Do you find the shift in tone that occurs after Mercutio's death to be problematic? Does this shift correspond to an established structural tradition or is it simply one of Shakespeare's whims?

    After the Prologue until the point where Mercutio dies in Act III, Romeo and Juliet is mostly a comic romance. After Mercutio dies, the nature of the play suddenly shifts into tragedy. It is possible that this extreme shift is merely the product of Shakespeare's whims, especially because the play has many other asides that are uncharacteristic of either comedy or tragedy. For example, Mercutio's Queen Mab speech is dreamy and poetic, while the Nurse's colorful personality gives her more dimension than functional characters generally require. However, it is also possible to see the parallels between this tonal shift and the play's thematic contrast between order and disorder. Shakespeare frequently explored the human potential for both comedy and tragedy in his plays, and it is possible that in Romeo and Juliet, he wanted to explore the transition from youthful whimsy into the complications of adulthood. From this perspective, the play's unusual structure could represent a journey to maturity. Romeo grows from a petulant teenager who believes he can ignore the world around him to a man who accepts the fact that his actions have consequences.

  • 6

    Eminent literary critic Harold Bloom considers Mercutio to be one of Shakespeare's greatest inventions in Romeo and Juliet. Why do you agree or disagree with him? What sets Mercutio apart?

    One of Shakespeare's great dramatic talents is his ability to portray functional characters as multi-faceted individuals. Mercutio, for example, could have served a simple dramatic function, helping the audience get to know Romeo in the early acts. Then, his death in Act 3 is a crucial plot point in the play, heightening the stakes and forcing Romeo to make a life-changing decision. Mercutio barely appears in Arthur Brooke's Romeus and Juliet, which Romeo and Juliet is based on. Therefore, Shakespeare made a point of fleshing out the character. In Mercutio's Queen Mab speech, Shakespeare has the opportunity to truly delve into the bizarre and often dangerous sexual nature of love. Further, Mercutio's insight as he dies truly expresses the horrors of revenge, as he declares a plague on both the Montague and Capulet families. He is the first casualty of their feud - and because he transcends functionality, the audience mourns his untimely death and can relate to Romeo's capricious revenge.

  • 7

    How does Shakespeare use symbols of gold and silver throughout the play? What does each element represent?

    Shakespeare uses gold and silver as symbols to criticize human folly. He often invokes the image of silver to symbolize pure love and innocent beauty. On the other hand, he uses gold as a sign of greed or desire. For example, Shakespeare describes Rosaline as immune to showers of gold, an image that symbolizes the selfishness of bribery. Later, when Romeo is banished, he comments that banishment is a "golden axe," meaning that banishment is merely a shiny euphemism for death. Finally, the erection of the golden statues at the end of the play is a sign of the fact that neither Lord Capulet nor Lord Montague has really learned anything from the loss of their children. They are still competing to claim the higher level of grief. Romeo, however, recognizes the power of gold and rejects it - through him, Shakespeare suggests a distinction between a world governed by wealth and the cocoon of true love.

  • 8

    Do a character analysis of Friar Laurence. What motivates him? In what ways does this motivation complicate his character?

    Friar Laurence is yet another character who transcends his functional purpose. When Romeo first approaches the Friar to plan his marriage to Juliet, the older man questions the young man's sincerity, since Romeo openly pined for Rosaline only a few days before. However, the Friar shows a willingness to compromise by agreeing to marry the young lovers nevertheless. What ultimately motivates Friar Laurence is his desire to end the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues, and he sees Romeo and Juliet's marriage as a means to that end. While his peaceful intentions are admirable, his devious actions to achieve them – conducting a marriage that he explicitly questions – suggests he is more driven by politics than by an internal moral compass. The fact that a religious figure would compromise one of the Church's sacraments (marriage) further suggests that the Friar wants his power to extend beyond the confines of his Chapel. He also displays his hubris by helping Juliet to fake her death, rather than simply helping her get to Mantua to be with Romeo. While Friar Laurence is not an explicit villain, his internal contradictions speak to Shakespeare's ability to create multi-faceted characters.

  • 9

    Should Romeo and Juliet be considered a classical tragedy (in which fate destroys individuals)? Or is it more a tragedy of circumstance and personality? Moreover, could the tragic ending of Romeo and Juliet have been avoided?

    In classical tragedy, an individual is defeated by Fate, despite his or her best efforts to change a pre-determined course of events. A classical tragedy both celebrates an individual's willpower while lamenting the fact that the universe cannot be bested by mankind. The tragic elements in Romeo and Juliet are undeniable - two young lovers want nothing more than to be together and fall victim to an ancient feud and rigid societal conventions. However, while Romeo and Juliet's deaths result from human folly, the immovable power of fate also has a hand in sealing their destinies. For instance, Romeo and Juliet had many opportunities to simply run away together instead of being separated after Romeo is banished from Verona. Furthermore, many of the tragic occurrences are contingent on antagonistic characters running into one another, and then choosing to pursue vengeance rather than simply walk away. Based on this evidence, it is possible to read Shakespeare's intent as suggesting that behavioral adjustment can often prevent tragic events.

  • 10

    How is Romeo and Juliet a criticism of organized religion? Examine the play's secularism to develop your answer.

    While Romeo and Juliet does not present explicit attacks against religion, Shakespeare reveals his skepticism of Christianity in subtle ways. In many ways, Romeo and Juliet must reject the tenets of Christianity in order to be together. In their first meeting, they banter, using religious imagery to share their sexual feelings. In this exchange, the lovers acknowledge the omnipresence of Christianity, but cheekily use religious images in an unexpected context. Further, Christian tradition would have required Juliet to submit to her father's desire, but instead, she manipulates his expectations to distract him from her real agenda. Even Friar Laurence, an explicitly religious figure, uses Christianity as a tool towards his own ends. In this way, the play implicitly suggests that the rigid rules of religion often work in opposition to the desires of the heart - and to pursue true happiness, one must throw off the shackles of organized faith.

  • The AP English Literature Free Response Questions focus on varying themes and are each structured differently. For an overview of the three prompt types you may encounter read The Ultimate Guide to AP English Literature FRQs. Here we will discuss the third FRQ prompt which allows you to choose a particular work of literature as the focus of your essay.

    Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare is a play about a boy and girl who fall in love against their families wishes leading to turmoil, war, and untimely death. Herein we will discuss how to determine if the given prompt is appropriate for this particular literary work and give you an idea of what to review before your exam.

    Romeo and Juliet Themes for AP English Literature

    In order to choose a literary work to answer your prompt, it’s important to examine the themes which are outlined in the assigned essay. If the theme is not relevant or well established in a work, you will do well to choose another title to examine. The following are the main themes which you may discuss in your Romeo and Juliet AP English Lit Essay.

    All encompassing love is the main theme of Romeo and Juliet. The type of love Shakespeare wrote for this romantic tragedy was fast to enthrall the young duo and superseded all other loyalties and priorities.

    Violence and death are intertwined in this work both in connection to love and hatred. None of the violence we see in the play is premeditated, but rather emotional response to something that takes place. We see revenge killings, battles based on nothing but bravado, and desperate suicide.

    Family honor is an important theme throughout the story. In order to uphold the honor of their families, the men fight and disrupt the peace. The women are expected to marry as they are told and hold their tongues.

    The cruelty of fate is another theme we see throughout the play. In the description of Romeo and Juliet as star-crossed lovers, the chorus suggests their love goes against the fates. The characters themselves are aware of bad omens and this determination to go against fate is what causes Romeo to take his own life, only moments before his bride awakes from her faux death. In the end, they are only together in death, a true tragedy of fate.

    How to Use Romeo and Juliet for the AP English Literature Free Response Questions

    Romeo and Juliet is a classic Shakespearean play, with which you should be familiar. It may well be a viable choice for the AP English Lit free response question. However, that is dependent on the question. Each year the 3rd FRQ is different, and the CollegeBoard supplies a list of suggested books to reference for your essay. The absence of a book from the list does not disqualify it from use, that being said; it’s important to know how to choose which book to use for the given analysis.

    In preparation for your exam, it’s a good idea to read previous years’ free response questions posted on CollegeBoard. The following review is for the FRQ prompt.

    FRQ 3: Many works of literature contain a character who intentionally deceives others. The character’s dishonesty may be intended to either help or hurt. Such a character, for example, may choose to mislead others for personal safety, to spare someone’s feelings, or to carry out a crime.

    Choose a novel or play in which a character deceives others. Then, in a well-written essay, analyze the motives for that character’s deception and discuss how the deception contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole.

    Although not listed for this prompt, Romeo and Juliet does have various deceptive characters and actions which work to shape the play. The most notable being Juliet who fakes her own death to avoid marrying a man her father has chosen. A thesis for this position might look like the following.

    In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet is faced with a forced marriage to Paris and to avoid this she fakes her own death, rather than openly defy her family. Her plan is to use this deception to escape with Romeo, from Verona. However, the fates work against her, causing Romeo to learn of her death and come to view her corpse, unaware that she is still alive. This deception causes the story to take an especially tragic turn as Romeo, determined to be with his love, commits suicide. As he lays there embracing her body, she awakens only to see the true price of her cowardice. As he dies in front of her, Juliet is faced with the choice to join him or suffer alone. She, of course, chooses to kill herself, thus her own deceit is the hand by which she dies.

    Supporting your thesis you should cite various scenes from the play and offer a well-thought-out analyzation. In the first excerpt, Juliet is dreading her arranged marriage to Paris. She states that she fears nothing as she fears a life without her Romeo. In the next stanza, Juliet has acquired a potion from the Friar which is said to make her look dead for a time, in order to allow her to run away with Romeo, as opposed to facing her family. She fears that the Friar might actually aim to kill her, to cover up his marrying her and Romeo. However, she resolves that she would prefer death to marrying Paris, and thus she drinks the poison. Romeo comes upon Juliet, in the next passage, unaware that she still lives. He weeps for her loss and looks upon her lovingly as he drinks a vial of poison to join her in the afterlife. In the last two excerpts Juliet awakes to find Romeo is dying. She attempts to share in his poison by kissing him. When that fails, she kills herself with a dagger.

    O, bid me leap, rather than marry Paris,
    From off the battlements of yonder tower,
    Or walk in thievish ways, or bid me lurk
    Where serpents are. Chain me with roaring bears;
    Or shut me nightly in a charnel house,
    O&#;ercovered quite with dead men&#;s rattling bones,
    With reeky shanks and yellow chapless skulls.
    Or bid me go into a new-made grave
    And hide me with a dead man in his shroud
    (Things that, to hear them told, have made me
    And I will do it without fear or doubt,
    To live an unstained wife to my sweet love.”- Juliet, Act 4

    “What if it be a poison, which the Friar
    Subtly hath ministered to have me dead,
    Lest in this marriage he should be dishonored,
    Because he married me before to Romeo?
    I fear it is. And yet, methinks, it should not,
    or he hath still been tried a holy man&#;
    Romeo, Romeo, Romeo! Here’s drink. I drink to Thee.”- Juliet, Act 4

    “How oft when men are at the point of death
    Have they been merry, which their keepers call
    A light&#;ning before death! O, how may I
    Call this a light&#;ning?—O my love! my wife,
    Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath,
    Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty.
    Thou art not conquered. Beauty&#;s ensign yet
    Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,
    And death&#;s pale flag is not advancèd there.—
    Tybalt, liest thou there in thy bloody sheet?
    O, what more favor can I do to thee,
    Than with that hand that cut thy youth in twain
    To sunder his that was thine enemy?
    Forgive me, cousin—Ah, dear Juliet,
    Why art thou yet so fair? Shall I believe
    That unsubstantial death is amorous,
    And that the lean abhorred monster keeps
    Thee here in dark to be his paramour?
    For fear of that, I still will stay with thee
    And never from this palace of dim night
    Depart again. Here, here will I remain
    With worms that are thy chamber-maids. O, here
    Will I set up my everlasting rest,
    And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars
    From this world-wearied flesh! Eyes, look your last.
    Arms, take your last embrace. And, lips, O, you
    The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
    A dateless bargain to engrossing death.
                                                                     ( Kissing Juliet)
    Come, bitter conduct, come, unsavoury guide!
    Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on
    The dashing rocks thy seasick weary bark!
    Here&#;s to my love! Drinking. O true apothecary,
    Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.”- Romeo, Act 5

    “What&#;s here? A cup, closed in my true love&#;s hand?
    Poison, I see, hath been his timeless end.—
    O churl, drunk all, and left no friendly drop
    To help me after! I will kiss thy lips.
    Haply some poison yet doth hang on them,
    To make die with a restorative.”- Juliet, Act 5

    “O, happy dagger,
    This is thy sheath. There rust, and let me die.”- Juliet, Act 5

    FRQ 3: In literary works, cruelty often functions as a crucial motivation or a major social or political factor. Select a novel, play, or epic poem in which acts of cruelty are important to the theme. Then write a well-developed essay analyzing how cruelty functions in the work as a whole and what the cruelty reveals about the perpetrator and/or victim.

    Although Romeo and Juliet is not on the list of works for this prompt, it would be a sensible choice. A thesis for this free response question would be as follows.

    In Romeo and Juliet, cruelty is most prevalent in the dismissal of personal feelings for family obligations. The idea that your family will denounce your very existence, based on your disobedience, is contrary to the idea of familial love and central to the main plot. Romeo and Juliet are forced to hide their love because of the cruel idea that family pride is more important than love and happiness. This leads to all the struggles and eventual death of the star-crossed lovers.

    To support this thesis you will want to cite various scenes that illustrate this throughout the play. Remember to argue cohesively for your analysis. In the first excerpt, Juliet laments that she loves a man she is sworn to hate by way of her family’s feud with his. In the second passage, Juliet is prepared to marry Romeo in order to solidify their love, leaving her own family. In the third passage, Romeo is upset to learn of his banishment caused by the murder of Tybalt. This murder which he did try to avoid by refusing to fight for no reason, other than social convention required by their families. However, after Tybalt murders Romeo’s best friend in his place, he exacts his revenge. In the fourth and fifth excerpts, Lord Capulet expects Juliet to marry his friend upon his command. He basically asserts that he owns her and since she is his he will give her to his friend. To cement the idea that family pride is more important than individual life or happiness, Lady Capulet also tells her daughter she will wed Paris, and to make the best of it.

    “My only love sprung from my only hate!
    Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
    Prodigious birth of love it is to me
    That I must love a loathèd enemy.”- Juliet, Act 1

    “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
    Deny thy father and refuse thy name,
    Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
    And I&#;ll no longer be a Capulet.”- Juliet, Act 2

    “Thou canst not speak of that thou dost not feel.
    Wert thou as young as I, Juliet thy love,
    An hour but married, Tybalt murderèd,
    Doting like me and like me banishèd,
    Then mightst thou speak, then mightst thou tear thy Hair,
    And fall upon the ground, as I do now, Romeo throws himself down.
    Taking the measure of an unmade grave.”- Romeo, Act 3

    “God&#;s bread, it makes me mad.
    Day, night, hour, tide, time, work, play,
    Alone, in company, still my care hath been
    To have her matched. And having now provided
    A gentleman of noble parentage,
    Of fair demesnes, youthful, and nobly ligned,
    Stuffed, as they say, with honorable parts,
    Proportioned as one&#;s thought would wish a man—
    And then to have a wretched puling fool,
    A whining mammet, in her fortune&#;s tender,
    To answer &#;I&#;ll not wed. I cannot love,
    I am too young. I pray you, pardon me.&#;
    But, an you will not wed, I&#;ll pardon you!
    Graze where you will you shall not house with me”- Lord Capulet, Act 3

    “An you be mine, I&#;ll give you to my friend;
    And you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets,
    For, by my soul, I&#;ll ne&#;er acknowledge thee,
    Nor what is mine shall never do thee good:
    Trust to&#;t, bethink you; I&#;ll not be forsworn.”- Lord Capulet, Act 3

    “Marry, my child, early next Thursday morn
    The gallant, young, and noble gentleman,
    The County Paris, at Saint Peter&#;s Church,
    Shall happily make thee there a joyful bride.”- Lady Capulet, Act 3

    In conclusion, Romeo and Juliet has many themes you may find helpful for the last Free Response Question on the AP English Literature Exam. When reading the prompt and deciding on what literary work to use for your essay, remember to choose a subject where the theme outlined in the given instructions is prevalent.

    In the case of Romeo and Juliet all encompassing love, death, violence, family honor and the cruelty of fate are a few of the more prominent themes discussed. However, as we saw with the above prompt examples, this story has many underlying themes which you may examine for your Romeo and Juliet AP English Lit Essay.

    For more help preparing for your AP English Literature exam, we suggest you readThe Ultimate Guide to AP English Literature FRQs and The Ultimate Guide to AP English Literature FRQs. And, for writing advice for the AP English Lit free response questions,’s AP English Literature section has practice free response sections with sample responses and rubrics.

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