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The play Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona, Italy, in the 1600s. During this time violence and rivalry had been common around rival families; fighting and feuding because of their differences. Discipline was an issue in a household. Rules and regulations were to be obeyed and if one chose to break the authority, their sins would have to be confessed to the church. Religion was very important to a catholic family. Going to church and praying was an obligation. Parents had a strict conduct at the time. Weddings were arranged usually by the father of the household; mainly choosing a wealthy man to suit his daughter.
Most children from rich and influential families were cared for by a Wet Nurse; normally a lady who had lost a child previously so she would care for another child as if it were her own. As Juliet grew up her wet nurse became a very important figure in her life. William Shakespeare creates tension when Capulet sends Lady Capulet to Juliet’s room to tell her of the marriage they have planned for her. The audience knows that Romeo and Juliet are married and actually in bed together. The audience wonders if the lovers will get caught. As Romeo and Juliet are lying together in Juliet’s chamber they discuss whether it is morning or night.
”It is not yet near day: it was the nightingale, and not the lark”. Juliet is pretending that it is not morning, all the while Lady Capulet is on the way to her room. Juliet’s nurse breaks the atmosphere of tension when she warns that Lady Capulet is approaching the room. ”Your lady mother is coming to your chamber, the day is broke, be wary, look about”. Romeo escaped out through the window just in time. ”Farewell farewell, one kiss and I’ll descend” When Lady Capulet enters Shakespeare uses dramatic irony to cause confusion and misunderstanding between Juliet and her mother.
”Indeed I shall never be satisfied with Romeo, till I behold him- dead”. Lady Capulet believes Juliet wants Romeo dead, however the audience is aware of the truth; Juliet’s heart is dead without Romeo. When Capulet enters he speaks kindly to Juliet at first but becomes insulting and violent. Shakespeare is the master of the Elizabethan insult. This makes the scene extremely dramatic for the audience. Capulet threatens Juliet ”hang thee young baggage, disobedient wretch, I tell thee what, get thee to church a’ Thursday, or never after look me in the face”.
Juliet’s father is confused at how his daughter isn’t thankful for the marriage arrangement he has made for her and takes it personally which makes him react unsympathetically. Lady Capulet stands back and watches, not wanting to help her daughter from unrestrained fathers anger. Juliet pleads with her mother to call the wedding off but she refuses to interfere. ”Talk not to me for I’ll not speak a word, do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee”. The audience would feel pity for Juliet, as a parent deserting their child is a very dramatic statement.
The nurse is aware of Juliet’s grief and hopelessness and she suggests that Juliet marries Paris even though this will be bigamy. ”I think it best you married with the county, o he’s a lovely gentlemen”. Juliet is discomforted at her nurse’s proposal so she goes to see Friar Laurence to see if there is anything he could do to stop herself from marrying Paris. Juliet then states that if this fails she will kill herself. ”Ill to friar to know his remedy, if all else fail, myself have power to die” this is a self-fulfilling prophecy, which the audience will understand because it was mentioned in the prologue.
The fact that the audience knows that the ‘star-crossed lovers’ will die creates a dramatic atmosphere. Shakespeare makes act 3 scene 5 dramatic through the use of many techniques viz: dramatic irony; the creation of suspense; the use of insults and the prophetic prologue. All of this would have ensured that an Elizabethan theatre audience were sat on the edge of their seats throughout the dramatic and exciting performance. Of this, Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy.