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Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

8. The Tomb

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the final scene in the play, the tomb, and the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, focusing in particular on: (i) the practical issues associated with the opening of the tomb; (ii) the appearance, once again, of the antithesis of light and dark; (iii) Juliet’s speech about what she imagines the tomb will look like in Act 4, Scene 3; (iv) the elaborate poetry of Shakespeare’s language and the echoes of previous scenes (“Romeo, Romeo, Romeo”, 4.3.58 = “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”, 2.2.33); (v) the Petrarchan imagery in Romeo’s final speech; and (vi) the sheer spectacle of Romeo and Juliet, as shown in a late-19th century production seen by the author Henry James.


In this course, Professor John Roe (University of York) explores Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. We begin in the first module by thinking about the history of the story of Romeo and Juliet and the sources that Shakespeare may have used when writing the play. After that, we consider the influence of Petrarch on the presentation of love and death in the play, before turning in the third module to the famous balcony scene (Act 2, Scene 2) and the character of Juliet more generally. In the fourth module, we think about the importance of sword fighting in the play, before turning in the fifth to the character of Mercutio. In the sixth module, we think about the characters of the Nurse and Friar Laurence, and in the seventh the character of Juliet’s father, Lord Capulet. Finally, in the eighth module, we turn our attention to the final scene in the play and the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.

Note: We used the Arden edition of the play (Third Series, ed. René Weis) unless otherwise specified. Students using a different version of the play may encounter slight differences in both the text and line numbers.


John Roe is a professor in Renaissance literature and a member of the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies (CREMS) at the University of York. He took a BA (subsequently MA) in English Literature at the University of Cambridge and an MA and PhD in Comparative Literature at Harvard University. Comparative Literature, mainly English and Italian, has remained a keen interest, which shows principally in his monograph Shakespeare and Machiavelli. He has taught at York since 1973. Before that he taught at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and at Harvard. During his time at York he has enjoyed long sojourns at universities in other countries, for example, at the University of the Saarland in Germany, at Kyoto University, Doshisha University, and Kobe Jogakuin, in Japan; and most recently a year as the visiting Gillespie Professor at the College of Wooster in Ohio.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Roe, J. (2020, January 23). Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet - The Tomb [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Roe, J. "Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet – The Tomb." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Jan 2020,