Romeo and Juliet Eye Themes

PREREQUISITES: READ Acts I & II in Romeo and Juliet

OBJECTIVES: Recognize and interpret themes (repeated motifs) in the play. Learn to examine a theme from multiple perspectives, and be able to explain how particular passages help develop one of more of these perspectives. Improve close-reading skills.

MATERIALS: Internet access, word processor (or pen and notebook), copy of Romeo and Juliet

TASK: Interpret passages that reflect themes in R&J. ANSWERS below.

VOCABULARY: Tyrannous, rank, devout, transparent, heretic, forswear, lineament, content, obscured, margent, allude

COMMON CORE STANDARDS MET WITH THIS LESSON:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.1
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.2
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.3
Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

Love is Blind

    1. EXPLAIN the passages below (from Acts I & II) in terms of either (or both) of the EYE themes in Romeo and Juliet: Love is Blind and Love at First Sight.
    2. FIND AND EXPLAIN four other expressions of these themes in the play.
    3. IN AN ESSAY, EXPLAIN the relationship between the two themes, responding to at least three of the questions below. Also, you should use three or more of the quotes in this lesson (see passages below) to support your arguments.

    • Why do you think Cupid is depicted as blind, and why he is represented as a child rather than a mature man?
    • Does falling in love at first sight blind lovers to each other’s faults? For example, Romeo and Juliet fall instantly in love and die for one another, but how well do they know each other? Do they see each other’s faults or do they assume the other is perfect?
    • Is love permanently or temporarily blind?
    • Does love help us to peer deeper into people? For example, Juliet’s love enables her to see beyond the label “Montague” to the real person, while the other Capulets fail to recognize Romeo as a fellow human being; they only see an enemy, a Montague. Is love blind in this case or more clear-sighted? Why?
    •  

Love at First Sight

ROMEO

{Act I, Sc. 1, lines 234-236}

Romeo:    Oh, teach me how I should forget to think?

Benvolio: By giving liberty unto thine eyes.

Examine other beauties.

4) WHY DOES ROMEO WANT TO “forget to think”?  IS BENVOLIO’S SOLUTION HELPFUL?  DOES IT REFLECT EITHER OF THE PLAY’S EYE THEMES?  IF SO, HOW?

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{Act I, Sc. 1, lines 239-245}

Romeo: These happy masks that kiss fair ladies’ brows,

Being black, puts us in mind they hide the fair.

He that is strucken blind cannot forget

The precious treasure of his eyesight lost.

Show me a mistress that is passing fair:

What doth her beauty serve but as a note

Where I may read who passed that passing fair?

5) EXPLAIN THE ABOVE LINES IN TERMS OF THE EYE THEMES.

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{Act I, Sc. 2, lines 51-52}

Benvolio: Take thou some new infection to thy eye

and the rank poison of the old will die.

6) IN THE ABOVE LINES, WHY DOES BENVOLIO CALL LOVE AN INFECTION OF THE EYE?  IS HE RIGHT?  CAN LOVE FEEL LIKE AN INFECTION OR SICKNESS? HOW DOES BENVOLIO RECOMMEND CURING THIS INFECTION? DO YOU THINK BENVOLIO GIVES ROMEO SOUND ADVICE?  EXPLAIN YOUR ANSWER.  CAN YOU THINK OF ANOTHER CURE?  IF SO, EXPLAIN IT.

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{Act I, Sc. 2, lines 92-100}

Benvolio:  Go thither [to Capulet’s party] and with unattainted eye

Compare her face with some that I shall show

And I will make thee think thy swan a crow.

Romeo: When the devout religion of mine eye

Maintains such falsehood, then turn tears to fires;

And these who, often drowned, could never die,

Transparent heretics, be burnt for liars.

One fairer than my love? The all-seeing sun

Ne’er saw her match since first the world begun.

7) WHAT IS AN “unattainted eye”?  WHAT EYE THEMES DO BENVOLIO’S WORDS IMPLY?

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(Question 7 cont.) “The devout religion of mine eye” REFERS TO ROMEO’S LOVE FOR ROSALINE. WHY DOES HE CALL HIS LOVE FOR A WOMAN A RELIGION?  WHO IS THE GOD OF ROMEO’S “religion” IN THIS METAPHOR, ROSALINE OR CUPID? EXPLAIN YOUR ANSWER. EXPLAIN THE DOUBLE MEANING OF “transparent heretics.” WHAT IS ROMEO ALLUDING TO WHEN HE SAYS “transparent heretics, be burnt for liars”?

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ACT I, sc. 5, lines 59-60}

Romeo: Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty

till this night.

{Act II, Sc. 3, lines 71-72}

Friar L: Young men’s love, then, lies

not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.

8) IS THERE A POSSIBLE DOUBLE MEANING IN THE LINE “Young men’s love, then, lies”? EXPLAIN FRIAR LAWRENCE’S STATEMENT.

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JULIET

{Act 1, Sc. 3, line 103-105}

Juliet:   I’ll look to like, if looking liking move

But no more deep will I endart mine eye

Than your consent gives strength to make it fly.

9) HOW DOES JULIET’S STATEMENT REFLECT EITHER OR BOTH OF THE EYE THEMES IN THE PLAY?  WHY IS THE WORD “endart” FITTING IN THIS LINE?

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{Act I, Sc. 3, lines 85-94}

  • Lady Capulet: What say you? Can you love the gentleman?
  • This night you shall behold him at our feast.
  • Read o’er the volume of young Paris’ face,
  • And find delight writ there with beauty’s pen;
  • Examine every married lineament,
  • And see how one another lends content;
  • And what obscured in this fair volume lies
  • Find written in the margent of his eyes.
  • This precious book of love, this unbound lover
  • To beautify him only lacks a cover.

10) DOES LADY CAPULET’S ADVICE TO HER DAUGHTER REFLECT EITHER OF THE EYE THEMES IN THE PLAY?  WHAT DOES LADY CAPULET MEAN BY “married lineament”?  WHY DOES SHE USE THE WORD “married” here?  HOW DO PARIS’S LINEAMENTS lend one another content?  LOOK UP THE WORDS “obscure” and “margent” THEN EXPLAIN LINES 7 & 8.

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One of the goals of this exercise is to help you recognize themes and recurring motifs in all literary works. (You can also learn to identify theme-and-variation patterns in music—see the chapter “Sounds & Rounds of the Renaissance” in the Romeo and Juliet and the Renaissance volume of NEXUS. For exercises in finding visual and musical theme-and-variation patterns see the Harlem Renaissance and The Grapes of Wrath and the American Dream volumes of NEXUS. For visual and literary theme-and-variation patterns see Macbeth and the Dark Ages, and The Grapes of Wrath and the American Dream supplement: “Repetition in Music and Literature.”)

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