This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at language in Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet contains some of the best-known of Shakespeare’s verse. You might well have heard many of the most famous lines quoted, or even seen them reused on Valentine’s cards. Yet the language in this play is not entirely light and fanciful, but is instead full of violence and dark passion. Much of the play centres on the contrast between the visible and public and the hidden and private, and so the language, too, contains multiple meanings which repay careful reading.
Characters in Romeo and Juliet are sharply delineated by their linguistic choices, with recognisable words and phrases being picked up and echoed by other characters in different circumstances throughout the play.
The themes of the play are evident through the plot and actions of characters, and often more subtly through the repetition of related language. One useful revision technique would be to collect examples of vocabulary related to each of the themes of the play. Consider which character uses each of these collected examples and what the implications might be for their specific choices.
An audience’s understanding and interpretation of a play is, of course, affected by its performance, including each individual actor’s pace, tone and gesture. Although in reading you do not have access to these aspects of the play, the written language is the foundation and substance through which its meaning is conveyed.
Authors choose language with precision. Beyond the literal meaning of each word lies a weight of symbolic meaning and other associations. Imagery such as metaphor, simile and personification, adds shades and layers of meaning. Sometimes these effects are subtle and at other times they will practically leap out at you.
It is always worthwhile to pay close attention to the language choices in a text. Such efforts will be rewarded by a deeper understanding. Make a special effort to look beyond the surface meaning, taking the time to consider what else is going on besides the obvious. Analyse carefully the language that the author has put even more care into choosing. This practice will help you to decipher the text’s more elusive meanings.
Answer the questions below to develop your understanding of the way language choices affect our interpretation of a text.