Friday, April 18, 2008

Romeo and Juliet Quiz

I love this.  A huge test on Romeo and Juliet (Acts 2 and 3).  If I didn't have so much to do at my day job I would print it out, take it, and then research the answers myself to see how well I do.  It does cover lots of bases, ranging from "Who said this and why" to "Tell me if you understood the story properly" to "Is this an example of a simile or a metaphor", so that's good.

Still, though, it always feels weird to me to break down the plays into such small bits.  To dissect something, first you have to kill it.  I have a different idea for a test - how about we go to a production of Romeo and Juliet, and then at intermission, ask people in the audience if they felt that the Friar knowledge of herbs was an example of foreshadowing.  Then ask whether or not they care, and whether or not the answer to that question impacts their enjoyment of the show.  Yes, we're talking about education, so there are certain things you should be tested on.  But at some point can't you appreciate it for a work of art, too?

The true/false questions are interesting to me.  On the one hand I like some of them, like #9, which asks whether Juliet hates Romeo for killing Tybalt.  Since Juliet tells her *mother* that she hates Romeo, this question shows whether the student realizes that she was just saying that, and didn't really mean it.  But then look at #12, "The Nurse comforts Juliet when her father says she must marry Paris."  I went back and looked up the Nurse's speech.  I'm not sure if "Look, Romeo is banished, and you could do worse than Paris" counts as "comforting".  But isn't that a matter of interpretation?  The Nurse probably thinks she's being comforting, but Juliet pretty much never looks at her the same again ("ancient damnation, o most wicked fiend!")  Yes, Juliet had asked for "comfort", and that was the Nurse's response, so perhaps the teacher expects a true answer her.  But, like the "I'm only telling my mother I hate Romeo, I don't, really" thing from question #9, shouldn't we take Juliet's "thou hast comforted me marvellous much" to be equally deceptive?  Is comforting an active or a passive verb - does the person doing it or receiving it get to decide whether it worked?

Maybe I'm nitpicking, but I think this is a big part of why I like to talk about Shakespeare, when we get to show examples of how people can miss the big picture because they're too busy dissecting the individual word choices.  I'm cool with the reader having to interpret when Juliet's words don't match what she's feeling - that's something people do every day.  But when the hardest part of the question is determing what the teacher wants for an answer, because you can justify both, well, then you're kind of stuck.

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