Here’s an activity that will give you a great amount of detail on your character and their relationship with the other characters in the play. It starts with some pretty simple information gathering.
Read the play and while doing so, make three lists:
- Everything your character says about every other character.
- Everything that other characters say about your character.
- Everything your character says about themselves.
Below is how I would do this exercise for the character of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. Romeo has a huge role so there’s a lot of work involved. I just did it for Act One but someone playing Romeo would do it for the entire play.
You’ll see that sometimes I’ve used direct quotes, sometimes I’ve paraphrased, sometimes I just recorded an impression. Record the information in whatever format you will find useful to use as you prepare your role.
What Romeo Says About Others
- “Out of her favour where I am in love”
- Doesn’t laugh at my pain.
- Romeo loves her.
- She is fair.
- She does not love him back.
- She is remaining chaste.
- “She is too fair, too wise, wisely too fair”
- “She hath forsworn to love”
- “thou canst not teach me to forget”
- “the all-seeing sun ne’er saw her match since first the world begun”
- “You have dancing shoes with nimble soles”
- “Thou talk’st of nothing.”
- “I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.”
- “Is she a Capulet?”
What Others Say About Romeo
- star-cross’d lovers take their life
- misadventured piteous
- with their death bury their parents’ strife
- death-mark’d love
Lady Montague (mother, according to Benvolio)
- He was not at this fray.
- walking early in the morning
- Often walks early in the morning, crying, sighing
- When daylight comes he locks himself in his room and blocks out all light
- “Black and portentous”
- Does not know the cause of Romeo’s problems.
- Romeo is “his own affections’ counsellor”
- “So secret and close, so far from sounding and discovery”
- Would love to help Romeo, but doesn’t know the problem.
- They are cousins
- Your heart is oppressed
- I’ll help you or die trying
- Romeo loves Rosaline
- You only love Rosaline because you haven’t checked out any other women
- You are a lover
- Queen Mab has been with you
- Romeo sounds like a Montague
- antic face
- I am going to kill him
- The whole city brags that he’s “virtuous and well-govern’d”
- I wouldn’t disparage Romeo for anything
- I’ll not endure him
- “You kiss by the book”
- “honest gentlemen”
- Doesn’t know who Romeo is
- Wants to marry Romeo
- He is a Montague, he is the enemy
- “My only love”
- “a loathed enemy”
What Romeo Says About Himself
- In love with Rosaline
- I have heard it all (referring to the fight at the beginning of the play)
- “This love feel I, that feel no love in this.”
- Griefs lie heavy in my breast
- “I have lost myself; I am not here; This is not Romeo, he’s some other where.”
- “I do love a woman”
- “Shut up in prison, kept without my food, Whipp’d and tormented”
- “I can read.”
- “I am not for this ambling” – referring to the party
- “I have a soul of lead”
- I fear that going to this party is going to bring about death.
What This Tells You
There’s a wealth of information here. Imagine you know nothing about the story of Romeo and Juliet. You’ll learn quite a bit about what happens in the play just by reading these small snippets – including how it ends!
It’s better to write down too much than too little. Write down things that might not seem immediately important. For example, Romeo’s line “I can read” doesn’t seem significant until you study the time period in which the play takes place. Most people were illiterate so knowing Romeo can read gives you information about his education and the fact that he comes from an upper class family.
What if there’s little or nothing there?
Good question. What if your role is not a lead and there isn’t much to discover doing this exercise? I’ll cover that in the next article when we look at ways to fill in the details the playwright doesn’t give you.
Do the same exercise, but this time do it for Juliet. For Act One of Romeo and Juliet, create the following three lists:
- Everything Juliet says about every other character.
- Everything that other characters say about Juliet.
- Everything Juliet says about herself.
Use the worksheets provided in the PDF (download it below) to record everything.
If you don’t have a copy of Romeo and Juliet, you can get it for free from this page: http://shakespeare.mit.edu/romeo_juliet/full.htmlGet the PDF version of this guide here!