William Shakespeare is the grand literary figure of the Western world. During England’s Elizabethan period he wrote and directed dozens of plays, which continue to dominate world theatre over four hundred years later. Shakespeare handled high drama, romance and slapstick comedy with equal ease and was known as “the Bard of Avon”. He was among the few playwrights who have excelled on both tragedy and comedy and several of his plays contain song that are considered by some to be the finest lyrical poems in English. The English Renaissance has often been called “the age of Shakespeare” among his best know plays are “Hamlet”, “MacBeth” and Benvolio, his cousin, and Mercutio, a relative of the prince.
Both friends have radically different temperaments. Both are linked by their loyalty to Romeo, but meet very different ends, Benvolio is a stolid, relatively unimaginative but thoroughly decent man who is contrasted with the impish, brilliantly whimsical Mercutio and the passionate Romeo. Mercutio is killed midway through the play, and with his death, the lightness, joy and fun of the first half go out with him. The catastrophe that will also claim the lives of Tybalt, Paris, Romeo and Juliet has been set into motion. Benvolio, the witness and ineffectual peacemaker survives.
Benvolio tries to help Romeo with his problems. He listens to him talk about the first girl he loves, Rosaline and gives him advice about it. Romeo does not tell either of his friends about his love for Juliet as he knows it will cause problems due to the feud between his family, the Montegues and Juliet’s family, the Capulets.
Benvolio: “Be ruled by me, forget to think of her”
Romeo: “Teach me how I should forget to think”
Benvolio: “By giving liberty to thine eyes, examine other beauties”
Here Benvolio is trying to get Romeo to forget about the girl he loves and stop thinking about her. Romeo however, is unsure whether or not he can forget and move on, or even if he knows how to. Benvolio could be getting slightly annoyed with Romeo for constantly talking about who he loves and the fact that they don’t love him. But he is probably more concerned for Romeo and doesn’t want to see him to unhappy. Benvolio wants Romeo to stop obsessing over Rosaline for his won good. This advice could be seen to be partially responsible for the events that follow, including the party and meeting Juliet, therefore partially responsible for Romeo and Juliet’s deaths.
Mercutio on the other hand, does not see things as seriously as Benvolio or Romeo. His personality is very different and sometimes changed rapidly. Shakespeare has been quite clever when choosing the name Mercutio as the word it derives from, Mercurial, means changeable. This reflects his personality effectively due to his rather manic side. He sometimes talks in a crazy manner and gets very agitated. This can be seen in his famous “Queen Mab” speech.
Mercutio tries to help Romeo in a simpler way, by cheering him up. “Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance.” He tries to distract him from his worries with something he thinks Romeo will enjoy. Although it was Benvolio that suggested going to the Capulet ball, Mercutio, may be hoping Romeo will find someone else to help him find someone else to help him forget about Rosaline and encourages him to go. Unlike Benvolio, Mercutio is becoming irritated by Romeo’s increasing interest in girls as Romeo no longer spends much time with his friends.
Romeo’s interest in girls is also part of the reason for him not wanting to fight Tybalt. Mercutio then steps in, ashamed that Romeo does not want to fight, yet still wanting to protect Romeo and Prove himself a better fighter than Tybalt.
One of Romeo’s other closest friends is Friar Lawrence. Friar Lawrence was in a way a sort of father figure in that he guided and advised Romeo in the events in his life. Thus is how friar Lawrence became involved in Romeo and Juliet’s romance, Romeo asked his advise in what do ado and also asked for him to marry them. He agrees, as he believes it will solve to feud between the two families. Similarly, Juliet also has and older friend, her nurse, she too becomes involved in the romance due to being a parental figure to Juliet. She becomes a messenger between the two young lovers.
The next theme I am going to discuss is love. Throughout the tragedy of “Romeo and Juliet” various types of love are displayed. At the beginning, Juliet does not even have a definition of love as she didn’t expect romance, only an arranged marriage. At the Capulet ball, she acts very innocent and refers to the things that happen in a very religious way saying that by toughing hands they are praying together. Paris and Lady Capulet’s definition of love is appearances, they believe that it is about they way you look or behave or your social standing and money.
One of the other types of love that Shakespeare explores is infatuation. Romeo thinks that he is in love with Rosaline, this feeling is heightened as he realises she doesn’t feel the same. How many people can relate to that? Much of teenage love is simply in the head – you think you have found the ‘only one’, when all you have really found is an obsession. The fact that the two young lovers die shows that Shakespeare believes that such wild passion cant last – it is doomed from the start.
When Romeo meets Juliet, he knows that she is different. ” O she doth teach the torches to burn bright! It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night. As a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear” here Romeo compares Juliet to several things. Each of these expresses how much she seems to stand out to Romeo. He seems completely mesmerised by her beauty.
Although Romeo’s love for Juliet is seen as true love, I believe it to be simply infatuation. Romeo see his love for Juliet as the real things more than his love for Rosaline as Juliet returns his feelings. Juliet is too young to understand love, especially when her parents have already decided who she is to marry.
I feel that these themes still have relevance in today’s society because no matter how much time passes, people will still fall in love and have friendships and it intrigues the reader because they can relate to what is happening at some level. Shakespeare had a skill for writing about exactly what people wanted to watch and because of his insight into human nature, his work has stayed relevant to the lives of his readers for over four hundred years and will continue to do so for many more.