This GCSE English Literature quiz focusses on dialogue in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Any work of drama, almost without exception, consists primarily of dialogue. This aspect to drama can make it more difficult to read and understand a play because you are missing the other elements which would normally be conveyed through performance. Unless you have the good fortune to watch a play on stage or through a film adaptation, you must rely on your imagination to flesh out the stage directions. At least reading a play gives you the chance to go slowly, to re-read and to think carefully about the dialogue.
Dialogue conveys meaning not only through its content, but also through specific details such as language choice, use of dialect and even interruptions and pauses.
As you read Romeo and Juliet or any other work of fiction, ask yourself the following questions: How do different characters speak? Do different characters have different vocabularies with which to express themselves? Does the way in which a character speaks change in different situations, or over time? Do any characters speak differently to different people? When reading Shakespeare, you might even like to compare dialogue that is written in poetry with dialogue that is written in prose. What are the differences between the characters who speak in one but not the other? Do any characters switch between poetry and prose depending on whom they are addressing?
Dialogue conveys the individual beliefs, intentions and preferences of any character, to be sure, but it also communicates much more. Dialogue gives practical information, perhaps informing the audience about the events which led to the point at which the play began or about the way in which characters are related and have engaged with one another in the past. In Romeo and Juliet it is valuable to pay close attention to the word play and other verbal games with which characters engage one another. How much do their words reveal or conceal their meaning?
Memorising Shakespearean dialogue is not only a good way to impress your teacher, but also a useful method of preparing to write about the play. Create a list of the most significant examples of dialogue for each character, especially noting those that illustrate their characteristics or occur at a turning point in the text.
The quiz below asks you to recognise who is speaking each of these lines. As you answer the questions, think carefully about the significance of the quoted dialogue. What can the lines tell you about the character to whom they are assigned? Could any other character have spoken the same lines? If not, why not? Also consider the information being conveyed about the person being addressed, and consider whether the dialogue foreshadows or explains any later events.
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