General Comments

I was, on the whole very impressed with the classí work on this assignment. Performance analysis is a new skill to all of you, and textual analysis is a new skill to many; you all showed energy and discipline in your approach, and displayed a good basic understanding of the plays and of the task at hand. Bravo!

Iíve been extremely picky in my evaluations, for three reasons. The first is to provide you with a clear illustration of the kind of rigour and attention to detail that is required in textual analysis. The second is to provide a cle ar illustration of the various skills required for each of the three tasks, gathering evidence, analysing evidence, and presenting an argument. The third is to provide the best possible preparation for round two. Professor Percy has decided that the 10% a ssignment for next term will be a similar exercise which employs the same skills, so you'll have a chance to apply what you've learned this time.

In support of my comments on your work, I am providing this "key to a good answer" for your reference. The key is constructed as an answer to parts 1 & 2 of the assignment on Juliet's speech from R&J (which was the speech most of you chose to write on), but it illustrates the methodology relevant to any answer. It includes examples drawn from both your work and mine. It also includes a copy of an excellent essay written by a class member on the Friar's speech from R&J. I've also photocopied my scansion of Juliet's speech from R&J and inserted it into each of your exam booklets (the formatting was problematic for uploading onto the web page). Please take advantage of these resources, and r efer to them when you approach this exercise for the second time next term.

This assignment, as you know, is worth 10% of your overall grade. Grade ranges will translate into final percentages as follows: A-range: 8-10%; B-range: 7-7.9%; C-range: 6-6.9%; D-range: 5-5.9%; F: 0-4.9 %. The bulk of the class gr ades fell into the C-range. Many papers showed a considerable variety of grades among the three parts of the assignment; that's because each part evaluated a separate set of skills.

A good answer need not include all of what I list here; but it should answer every question and include a significant number of the major points I list here.



Summarise the plot up to this point in the play. Remember that plot is made up of on-stage events only.



Who is the speaker (name, age, occupation, social status, important relationships, esp. to other characters on stage or mentioned in the passage)




social status

important relationships with chars. on stage during speech:


important relationships with chars. mentioned in speech:




Capís Wife:

Other important relationships:

Friar Laurence:


What has the speaker done up to this point in the play?

Follow the guidelines for plot summary.

What time of day is it?

Where does the scene take place?

Who is on stage?

Why is everyone here? (What kind of an event is this: a wedding? A hunting party? An accidental meeting)

What happened immediately before the beginning of the speech? (On stage & off)

Immediately is the operative word here Ė specifically, within the beat of action I assigned.

What happens immediately after the end of the speech? (Be sure you deal with the text I have given you.)

What is the main topic of the beat of action (immediately before+speech+immediately after)

The speech

Underline key words in the text and look them up in the OED. Mark anything odd or interesting that you notice.

It can be very useful to group words which have similar meanings or which are closely linked in the text:

Look especially for words that are used in an odd context (they usually have important metaphorical resonance):

Words that are often repeated are usually significant:

Err on the side of caution: there are words which mean something different now than they did to Shakespeare, or that have unfamiliar secondary meanings:

Exercise your judgement about the usage of a word based on its context in the speech:

What is the main topic of the speech?

Mark each time the speaker changes minor topics in the speech.

Iíve divided the topics into minor and even more minor, and sometimes given alternative descriptions of the topics:

Topic 1: Tybalt, not Romeo, is the villain

Topic 2: Romeoís banishment

Topic 3: Jís mother & father

Describe the form of the language the speaker is using (register, meter, rhyme, alliteration, etc...). Mark and describe any changes in the form.



Please refer to the photocopied page inserted into your exam booklets. I've used secondary stress in my analysis of Juliet's speech -- that's not something I expected any of you to do; I included it to illustrate how often a given syllable might argua bly be either stressed or unstressed, depending on the reading of the passage in question. You will see, too, though, that some syllables might be either stressed or secondarily stressed, but can't be unstressed; also that some can be unstressed or secon darily stressed, but can't be stressed. In Julietís speech, itís worth noting the large volume of secondary stresses: I think this is a sign that the pentametre is only barely regular: it could reasonably be interpreted in various ways, and it seems like ly to fall apart at any moment. You will also notice that, in my scansion, I have disagreed with the Oxford editor about the pronunciation of the third syllable of the word "banished": Professor Levinson favours the three-syllable "banish&e grave;d", I favour the two-syllable "banished". This is a good example of scansion as a matter of taste; her reading is a perfectly reasonable, good scansion of the word.






Does the speaker use figures? If so, describe them (metaphor, simile, etc...) & mark any changes in the figurative language. (Including marking points where no figures are used).

rhetorical question

and arguably:




of words

in phrasing





no figures

To whom is the speaker speaking? Mark points at which the speakerís audience changes


Romeo (Nurse?)


Tears (Nurse?)


Audience/ (self?/Nurse)?


and say who the audience is (name, age, occupation, social status, relationship to speaker, actions that the speaker knows about to this point in the play, actions that the audience knows about to this point in the play)

Mark any evidence of what is happening on stage during the speech. (What is the audience doing? Does the speaker move? Does anyone else move? Or speak? Does time pass more quickly than in life? Slow down?)

Is there anything else odd in the speech? Anything that stands out in any way?

Summarise your evidence in the form of a scenario. Put it together in the form of a story.

Part 1 Grading Scheme:

A+: detailed, precise, sophisticated

A: thorough, precise, insightful

B: complete, accurate, consistent

C: mostly complete, mainly accurate, some inconsistencies or misunderstandings

D: partially complete with significant gaps, some accurate observations, some significant misreadings

F: incomplete, inaccurate


In this section Iíve given my answer, followed by good alternatives suggested by the class

Character through-line

What is the speakerís biggest problem in the play (a clue to main obstacle)?

How does the speaker react to the problem (a clue to main action)?

Why is the problem a problem (a clue to super-objective)?

Name the speakerís super-objective,

main obstacle

and main action

Character beat

What is the speaker doing in the speech (clue to action)?

What problem is the speaker trying to overcome by doing that (clue to obstacle)?

Why is the speaker trying to overcome this problem (clue to objective)?

Name the speakerís objective, obstacle and action for the speech.




Does the speaker achieve his or her objective?

Action beat

How does the speech respond to the event immediately before it?

How does it cause the event immediately after it?

What effect does the presence or absence of other on-stage characters have on the speaker(s)?

What happens between characters, or as a result of what the characters do to one another?

Line of Action

Identify the crisis-point

the climax

and the conclusion of the play

Define the line of action of the play.

Say how this beat of action contributes to that journey, ie. say why this beat MUST happen in order for the final action of the play to be possible.

Part 2 Grading Scheme:

A+: detailed; insightful application of evidence; theatrical, imaginative conclusions

A: thorough, rigorous use of evidence; well-supported conclusions

B: complete; attention to evidence; reasonable conclusions

C: mainly complete; reference to evidence; on the right track

D: significant gaps in evidence; inadequately supported conclusions

F: incomplete; little or no application of evidence; significant misreadings


Here's an example of an excellent essay written by one student in the class (on Friar Lawrence's speech). Note that it is clear, well-structured, and uses evidence selectively.

The speech I must analyse is Friar Laurenceís speech at 5.3.229-269 of Romeo and Juliet. I must explain his objective, obstacle, and action. I say that his objective is forgiveness Ė by others and by himself; his obstacle is the presence of dead bodi es Ė ones whose deaths his main action of marrying Romeo to Juliet has something to do with; his action is to blame fate. I will prove that these three things make up his "character beat" by looking at how the context of the speech provides an indication of the Friarís stats of mind, how the speech itself pushes the responsibility for the dead bodies away from people and on to fate, and how the characterís through-line led him to where he is now. I will proceed in the order of objective, obsta cle, action.

His objective is forgiveness. He is the greatest party of suspicion (223), and yet he feels that he did everything he could. Still, he was found "trembling, sighing, and weeping" by the night watch. He is very shaken up, overcome with grie f and guilt. At the end of the speech, he offers himself up for punishment (266-69). He is not just trying to be "excused" from punishment. He wants to know that it is okay, and that people forgive him for keeping Romeo and Julietís marriage a secret. He says at 226-27 " I stand, both to impeach and purge/ Myself condemned and myself excused." The use of the words "condemned" and "excused" instead of "guilty" and "innocent" indicates that the Friar is aware of these as the two possible out comes. If he is condemned, he wants to impeach himself. He knows he is guilty of what they suspect him of. If he is excused, he wants to purge himself. In other words, he will not be satisfied j ust by being excused; he wants to make up for it.

Now I will talk about his obstacle, the dead bodies. This is where the character-line comes in. He married Romeo and Juliet, and every action he takes in the play is a way of letting them be married: stopping Capulet from marrying Juliet to Paris, se nding letters to Romeo, etc. To do all this, he had to keep their wedding a secret. If the Montagues and Capulets had found out earlier on that he married their children behind their backs, their image of him as a "holy man" might have been al tered. His social position as a Friar might be enough in this case to get him off the hook technically (see line 270), but his involvement in this situation still looks bad. The presence of these dead people on stage is something he has to account for. They are his obstacle.

Despite the fact that the friar feels very bad about guiding the marriage, given the seeming results of his doing so, he still feels that there was nothing he could do that he didnít try Ė he wants people to know that bad luck is the culprit. His acti on is to blame fate. He draws attention to his age many times Ė perhaps for pity. He uses words that denote fate again and again. (eg. untimely; work of heaven, etc.) He puts himself in the same boat as Capulet: they both tried to ease Julietís suffer ing. He uses sentence constructions that shift attention away from human involvement (eg. "new-made bridegroom; "Untimely death/Banished Romeo."). He draws the Nurse into the situation. He tries to make it seem that everyone was involved , and there was nothing they could do. He blames fate.

In drawing attention to the fact that no one is responsible individually, the friarís story offers hope for a sense of collective responsibility. Thatís how it contributes to the line of action on a whole. I have proven that he blames fate to overcom e his involvement, so he can feel a sense of forgiveness, by using evidence from the speech and play.

by A.F.

Use of evidence





Essay Grading Scheme:

A+: insightful analysis of textual citations; balanced structure; elegant and clear

A: thorough & rigorous use of evidence; well-structured; clear & engaging

B: good use of evidence; consistent structure; clear

C: reference to evidence; inconsistent structure; understandable

D: little use of evidence; confusing structure; difficult to follow

F: generalisations only; unstructured; unintelligible