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Romeo + Juliet Vocabulary

Romeo + Juliet Vocabulary

An Introduction to Shakespeare’s Language

Because Shakespeare wrote nearly four hundred years ago, some of the conventions that he uses in his plays present problems for modern readers. Most of Shakespeare’s lines are written in poetry. Although these lines don’t usually rhyme, they do have a set rhythm (called meter). To achieve the meter, Shakespeare arranges words so that the syllables, which are stressed or said more loudly than others, fall in a regular pattern: dah DUM dah DUM dah DUM dah DUM dah DUM. For Example, read the following lines from Romeo and Juliet aloud:

Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this. (I,v)

Because you are familiar with the words the Shakespeare uses here, you naturally stressed every second syllable:

Good PIL’grim, YOU do WRONG’ your HAND’ too MUCH’,
Which MAN’nerLY’ deVO’tion SHOWS’ in THIS’.

The pattern of one unstressed syllable followed by a tressed one, dah DUM, is called an iamb. Each pattern is referred to as a foot. Shakespeare uses five iambic feet to a line. This pattern is known as iambic pentameter.
In order for Shakespeare to maintain the set meter of most lines, he often structures the lines differently than normal English speech. He may change the normal order of words so that the stressed syllables fall in the appropriate place. For example, the following sentence has no set meter:

This MORN’ing BRINGS’ WITH’ it a GLOOM’ing PEACE’.

However, Shakespeare turns these words around a bit to maintain the meter in Romeo and Juliet:

a GLOOM’ing PEACE’ this MORN’ing WITH’ it BRINGS’.

He may also shorten words by omitting letters so that a two-syllable word is one syllable. as a result, over often appears as o'er and 'tis in place of it is.
Shakespeare also uses forms of words that we rarely use today, four hundred years later. Among these are the personal pronouns thou (you), thine (your, yours), thee(you as in “to you”), and thyself (yourself). Often Shakespeare also uses verb endings that we no longer use. For example, hath is an old form of has and art is an older form of are. You’re also likely to encounter several words or phrases that we no longer use at all: anon instead of soon or shortly or prithee meaning I pray to thee (you).

Romeo and Juliet Vocabulary

Column A contains words Shakespeare used in R + J
Column B contains synonyms for the words in column A.
Column A Column B
Act 1
esteemhigh rank
forfeitgive us as punishment
languishlong or pine for
oppressionheavy weight on mind
rapierlong, slender sword
transgressiongoing beyond certain limits
trespassenter without permission
augmentto increase or intensify
chastevirtuous, decent, pure in style or manner, virginal
exquisiteof special beauty or charm
grievanceproblem causing resentment or complaint; grounds for resentment or complaint
warrantto give adequate reasons for; to state with conviction
purgecleanse, forgive, absolve
solemnitybeing formal, dignified
Act 2
conjurebring to mind
perjuryfalse testimony
wantonreckless or sexual
Act 3
vile wicked
Act 4
abateto reduce, make less
arrayorderly display
beguileto deceive or trick
bierstructure for coffin
dirgefuneral hymn
distraughtdeeply worried, tense, or bewildered
festerto develop pus, rot
prostratekneel or fall flat
shroudburial cloth
Act 5
abhorhate, detest, loathe
conspireto plan secretly with someone
deviseto plan, think up
disposekill, get rid of
unsavoryoffensive, unclean, morally bad