Discussion, analysis and comprehensive practice questions to aid your GCSE

Welcome to your guide GCSE English Romeo and Juliet – the complete guide to complement your GCSE Literature for the Shakespearean text, Romeo and Juliet. This guide can be used alongside the new national curriculum which ensures you are fully prepared for your GCSE English exams.

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Your GCSE Literature examination comprises of two sections:

Paper 1: Shakespeare and the 19th Century novel
1 hour and 45 minutes
40% of GCSE
Marks out of 64

Paper 2: Modern texts and Poetry
2 hours and 15 minutes
60% of GCSE
Marks out of 96

Assessment Objectives

AO1 = To read, understand, and respond to literary texts. Students should be able to demonstrate a critical style in their writing, and develop an informed personal response. Students are also required to use contextual references, including quotations in order to support their interpretation.

AO2 = To analyse the language, form, and structure used by an author and analyse the meaning and context. To ensure relevant terminology is used throughout their assessment.

AO3 = To show an understanding of the relationships between texts and the contexts in which a piece of text is written.

AO4 = To use an array of vocabulary and sentence structures in order to provide clarity, purpose and effect, with accurate spelling and punctuation.


William Shakespeare was a British poet and playwright, and is still considered one of the greatest writers in literary history.

Shakespeare wrote around 40 plays, 154 sonnets and a whole range of other poetry about 400 years ago (1564-1616).

The works of Shakespeare are taught in schools as a way of recognising writing that is in an old-fashioned style.

Due to the time in which Shakespeare was writing (over 400 years ago), his writing style was very different to how we read and write today.


Before you begin preparing for your Romeo and Juliet assessment, we think it is important that you understand what to expect in terms of subject content, and how to make the most out of your revision time.

Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s most well-known tragic love stories. A couple that falls in love, despite their social backgrounds and family feuds, is driven to a tragic ending when their forbidden love leads to their deaths.
When analysing Romeo and Juliet, you need to be able to recap the main events of the play. In this section of the guide, we have broken down the play into the main events to hopefully give you a better insight into what the play is about.

ACT ONE – The Ball

  • Amongst two rival families, a fight breaks out between them. The Prince demands them to stop, otherwise they’ll be sentenced to death.
    Romeo is unhappy in his relationship with Rosaline. Romeo tells his friend Benvolio that their relationship is not built on love.
  • Juliet’s father decides to throw a fancy-dress party. Romeo gate-crashes the party with his friend, Benvolio.
  • Act One sees Romeo and Juliet meet for the very first time. They fall in love at first spite, oblivious to their family rivalry.
  • Towards the end of the party, Romeo finds out that Juliet is a Capulet, and Juliet finds out that Romeo is a Montague.

ACT TWO – Romeo and Juliet get married in secret!

  • Romeo sneaks in to the Capulet’s garden. Juliet is standing at her window talking out loud about her feelings for Romeo.
  • Romeo and Juliet decide to get married.

ACT THREE AND FOUR – Two real deaths and one fake death

  • Tybalt (Juliet’s cousin) kills Romeo’s friend, Mercutio, in a fight.
  • Out of revenge, Romeo kills Tybalt.
  • The Prince banishes Romeo from the city.
  • Romeo and Juliet spend the night together.
  • Juliet’s parents tell Juliet that she is to marry Paris, despite already being married to Romeo.
  • Juliet and the Friar come up with a plan to fake her own death. The plan is for Romeo to receive a letter from the Friar to rescue her after the potion wears off.
  • Juliet is believed to be dead and her family bury her in the family tomb.

ACT FIVE – A tragic ending

  • Unfortunately, Romeo does not receive the Friar’s letter. He too believes Juliet is dead.
  • He goes to her tomb to kill himself.
  • Romeo kills Paris.
  • Romeo lies next to Juliet and drinks poison.
  • As Juliet wakes, she realises that Romeo is dead.
  • Juliet kills herself.
  • Everyone arrives at the tomb, and the Friar explains what’s happened.
  • The rivalry between the Montagues and the Capulets is put to rest, after realising their family feud has caused the death of their children.

The time in which something is written is crucial in its story telling and ideologies.
We have briefly discussed some of the main features that were important when Shakespeare was writing. For these details, go to page 20, for an in-depth analysis of context, including:

  • Government;
  • Religion;
  • Women;
  • Education;
  • Health;
  • Class;
  • Language.

When we discuss the background of Romeo and Juliet, is is important to understand how the play was intended.

When reading Romeo and Juliet, you should bear in mind that it is a play. Shakespeare intended this play to be watched, rather than read. A play acts out the story that is being told, which not only makes it easier to follow, but makes analysing the written text a lot more complex.

You need to read the text with the understanding of how this would be acted out. If you try to read it like a story, you are likely to get confused. A great way to improve your understanding of the play is to watch a play. Even watching a film version of the play will help you gain clarification as to what the story is about.

Love Vs. Hate

Shakespeare deals with the concept of love throughout the play. The meaning, causes and impact surrounding love are all explored in Romeo and Juliet, and Shakespeare does this successfully through his use of language, style and imagery.
The developing relationship between Romeo and Juliet is seen right from the offset, and the audience see how their relationship impacts on all the other characters in the play.

The best way to get a good idea about the concept of love and how, where and why it appears in the play is through examples. Below we have provided you a table outlining some of the key features about love, allowing you to fill in some of the table as you read the text.

Family Relationships

In the Prologue, the Chorus instantly draws on family and conflict. Here, the audience are introduced to “two households” – the Montagues and the Capulets. Although they are “both alike in dignity”, in other words, have the same social standing, we are told that we are going to witness a messy family feud between the two families.
Shakespeare portrays family relationships as being strained and distant. Despite coming from high social standings, both Romeo and Juliet are characters that come from a family that is far from loving and familial.

There are many family relationships represented throughout the play. The idea of family loyalty, relationships, honour and duty are all key ideas that you should consider in relation to different family relationships.


Right from the offset, the audience are made aware of Romeo and Juliet’s fate. Often in the play, Shakespeare suggests that we cannot always control our lives, and instead it’s left to this idea of fate.

In the opening Prologue, the Chorus represent the characters of Romeo and Juliet as being “star-cross’d lovers” implying that their relationship is doomed.

The audience are always made aware about the fate of the protagonists. Talk about death, graves, curses and continuous conflict highlights the dreaded fate of what’s to come.

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  • Detailed information about the GCSE English Literature exam.
  • Key extracts and analysis to help you understand the text.
  • A breakdown of the plot of Romeo and Juliet.
  • Practice realistic exam-style questions.
  • Learn about plot, characters, structure, themes and more!


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GCSE English is Easy: Shakespeare - Romeo & Juliet Download

✓ Detailed information about the GCSE English Literature exam;
✓ Key extracts and analysis to help you understand the text;
✓ A breakdown of the plot of Romeo and Juliet;
✓ Practice realistic exam-style questions;
✓ Learn about plot, characters, structure, themes and more!
Plus 30-days FREE ACCESS to the Educational online testing suite. Thereafter, just £5.95 +vat per month. No minimum term. You may cancel anytime. Cancel before the 30-days are up and you will not be charged.?
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