Fighting Words in Romeo and Juliet – Part II

PREREQUISITES: Read Romeo and Juliet

OBJECTIVES: a) Closely read Shakespeare’s text in the scenes under investigation and explore the male characters’ motivations for violence; b) Examine the relationship between stereotyping and bullying in the play; c) Foster empathy

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

TASK: 1) List passages in which one character insults another and explore why the young male characters are so easily offended by words. 2) Apply Juliet’s famous observation – “That which we call a rose/By any other name, would smell as sweet” – to five contemporary situations that involve people (not in your school). Be specific and explain how the line applies.

VOCABULARY: hypersensitive, bandying, to heed, inadvertently, brawls, bred, appertaining, devise, submission, slander, effeminate, temper valor’s steel, strife

Anti-Bullying and Anti-Stereotyping Lesson – Part II

People are disturbed not by things,

but by the view which they take of them. – Epictetus

NAME CALLING

“HE JESTS AT SCARS THAT NEVER FELT A WOUND.” – Romeo

What does name-calling tell us about the person who’s doing the name-calling?

LESSON

STUDENTS SHOULD ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS IN A WORD or PAGES DOCUMENT or ON PAPER – 2 points per question for a total of 30 points.

In Act II, Sc. 2, in response to Mercutio’s name-calling, Romeo says, “He jests at scars that never felt a wound.” (Reread Act II, Sc. 1, which provides the context for Romeo’s comment.)

  1. What is Romeo saying about name-calling in this particular instance? To answer this question, you must identify the scar and wound to which Romeo refers and explain what Romeo reveals in this quote about Mercutio’s background. Then explain Romeo’s psychological insight? Is it valid? Can Romeo’s insight be applied to name-calling in general? Explain your answer. Is there more to the psychology behind name-calling than Romeo’s insight suggests?

TYBALT

In Act I Sc. 5, Tybalt feels he’s being mocked simply because Romeo crashes the Capulets’ party. Tybalt is young, intolerant, and ready to kill or be killed for the sake of his ego. Like many, if not all bullies, Tybalt is hypersensitive and can’t cope with any perceived slight. Bullies are often if not always insecure and need to assert themselves frequently (like Curley in Of Mice and Men).On the day of their deaths, Tybalt and Mercutio’s insult-detecting antennae are on high alert. Instead of bandying insults, they should have heeded the words of the ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus:

It is not he who reviles or strikes you who insults you, but your opinion that these things are insulting.

AND

Whenever you are angry, be assured that it is not only a present evil, but that you have increased a habit.

  1. Explain one of Epictetus’ quotations and back up your explanations with examples from life.
  2. What words in Act I, Sc. 5 show that it’s Tybalt’s ego that is offended or threatened by Romeo’s presence at the party?
  3. In your opinion, if he knew Romeo had crashed the festivities to see Rosaline, would Tybalt be more offended or less? Explain your answer.
  4. Note that Tybalt uses the words “shame” and “honor” in this scene. You could say he rides a shame-honor teeter totter throughout scene 5. He is either at the top end of the teeter totter feeling honor or at the bottom feeling shame (“Why, Uncle, ‘tis a shame.”) Is there any room for kindness or love on this teeter-totter?
  5. Where does Tybalt show that honor is more important to him than morality? Explain how he shows this.

MERCUTIO

  1. Based on the following excerpt and other scenes in the play, do you think Mercutio is correct in attributing hypersensitivity to Benvolio in Act III, Sc. 1 or is he inadvertently (unintentionally) describing himself? Use quotes from other Benvolio scenes and Mercutio scenes in the play to support your argument.

ACT III, Sc. 1

Mercutio: Why thou wilt quarrel with a man that hath a hair

more or a hair less in his beard than thou hast. Thou

wilt quarrel with a man for cracking nuts, having no

other reason but because thou hast hazel eyes. What

eye but such an eye would spy out such a quarrel?

Romeo, Mercutio and Tybalt

“Three civil brawls, bred of an airy word [name-calling],
By thee, old Capulet, and Montague,
Have thrice disturbed the quiet of our streets
.” – Prince

PART B (10 Points, 5 for each question)

“THAT WHICH WE CALL A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME WOULD SMELL AS SWEET.” – Juliet

When Juliet first discovers that Romeo is a Montague she says:

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.

AT THIS POINT Juliet stands at the border of the two families’ hatred for each other.  She’s reluctant to go against her family and cross the dividing line, but after recovering from her shock, love strengthens her, and she is able to boldly accept, embrace and love her family’s enemy. She knocks down the wall between the feuding Capulets and Montagues and thinks deeply, perhaps for the first time, about the nature of the two families’ hatred, rather than simply accepting it and thoughtlessly participating in it. But she is still naturally torn between the way she was brought up to think and her new understanding.

  1. WRITE OUT OR COPY THE PASSAGE BELOW FROM YOUR TEXT, THEN HIGHLIGHT IN GREEN THE WORDS THAT SHOW JULIET’S NEW WAY OF THINKING AND HIGHLIGHT IN RED THE WORDS THAT REFLECT HER OLD WAY OF THINKING AND FEELING. AFTER HIGHLIGHTING THE PASSAGE, REWRITE IT IN MODERN ENGLISH. USE YOUR OWN WORDS WITHOUT REFERRING TO ONLINE MODERN ENGLISH VERSIONS (5 points for this section).

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.

Tis but thy name that is my enemy.

Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.

What’s Montague? It is not hand, nor foot,

Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part

Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.

So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called,

Retain that dear perfection which he owes

Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name;

And for thy name, which is no part of thee,

Take all myself.

WHAT’S IN A NAME? Juliet asks.

WHAT’S IN NAME CALLING? we ask.

BULLYING STAGE 1 – THE LOOK

Gregory: I will frown as we pass by, and let them take it as they list.

LOOK →  LABELING →  BULLYING

IS A JUDGMENTAL LOOK ALREADY A TYPE OF BULLYING? – The look that says “You’re not one of us; the look that says you’re an outsider, an inferior, a loser, a geek or a freak?” This we-don’t-want-you look is typically driven by jealousy, envy, and/or insecurity. Some people need to put other people down to raise themselves up. That’s their weakness. The victim’s weakness is to allow words and labels to diminish him or her. Sampson, a Capulet servant, calls the Montagues dogs:

SAMPSON: A dog of the house of Montague moves me.

For Tybalt the name Montague is a sufficiently detestable label:

TYBALT:  I hate the word [peace]/As I hate hell, and all Montagues, and thee.

Have at thee, coward!

ON THE OTHER HAND, JULIET SHOWS US HOW EASY IT IS TO LOOK BEHIND A LABEL TO SEE THE REAL PERSON THE LABEL HIDES OR DISGUISES.

She peers behind the hated name Montague and discovers the real Romeo: “What’s Montague? It is not hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man.”

IT IS EQUALLY IMPORTANT FOR ALL OF US TO LOOK PAST ANY LABELS SOMEONE PLACES ON US.  WE DECIDE WHO WE ARE. NO ONE ELSE CAN – UNLESS WE LET THEM.

2) APPLY JULIET’S FAMOUS OBSERVATION – “That which we call a rose/By any other name, would smell as sweet” – TO FIVE CONTEMPORARY SITUATIONS INVOLVING REAL PEOPLE (but not classmates). BE SPECIFIC AND DETAILED, AND EXPLAIN HOW JULIET’S INSIGHT APPLIES (5 points)

*Quatrain by Jesse Bryant Wilder and Allen Bryant