Balcony and monument scenes Essay
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Write about the effectiveness of Shakespeare’s imagery in The Banquet, Balcony and Monument Scenes of “Romeo and Juliet” “That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet. ” Shakespeare uses imagery and metaphors throughout “Romeo and Juliet” to great effect. By using language, instead of props or backdrops to produce a vivid picture, he is engaging the audience more and making them think for themselves. This dramatic technique is used to the best effect in the Banquet, Balcony and Monument scenes, when portraying Romeo and Juliet’s love.
The Banquet scene is the first time Romeo sees Juliet, so the language used has to make a big impact so as to convey to the Elizabethan audience that this is true love, in contrast with Romeo’s infatuation with Rosaline. “O she doth teach the torches to burn bright”. Shakespeare uses alliteration on “teach the torches” and “burn bright” to make Romeo’s words sound more beautiful and poetic, ideally like a sonnet. The words are coincidently very much like one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, Sonnet 21, where he contrasts light with dark.
Shakespeare uses this same comparison throughout the play to convey emotions, foreshadow tragedy and express the stages of the young love to the audience. In a way, Romeo and Juliet’s devotion is like light against the dark background of feuding families. By claiming that Juliet is brighter than any other torch, Romeo is directly comparing her to other girls, in particular Rosaline. When Romeo speaks of Rosaline, he uses the language of Elizabethan courtly love. All his feelings are quite contained in comparison to the poetic imagery he uses upon seeing Juliet for the first time.
He says about Rosaline “She’s fair I love”, which in Shakespeare’s time was the sort of language one would use when describing their love. However, Romeo describes Juliet’s beauty as “too rich for use” and later claims that he “ne’er saw true beauty till this night”. The audience knows straight away that this is true love. But the audience is also aware of the fact that this love is doomed, and there is some irony in a number of Romeo’s lines. “Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear”. This suggests that Juliet is out of Romeo’s reach, which, being a Capulet, she is.
He is also comparing her to an angel or heavenly creature, which he does throughout the play. This is Shakespeare’s way of showing that although these are young lovers, they are very spiritual too. The idea that she belongs to heaven because she is too good for earth builds up a feeling of unease and sadness in the audience, as they know she is going to die and therefore will not belong to the Earth anymore. This spiritual imagery is used when the lovers exchange their first words. Romeo tries to entice Juliet by referring to her as his “holy shrine” and to his lips as “two blushing pilgrims”.
This shows Romeo to be a more sensitive and poetic character, which makes the audience, and Juliet, fall in love with him. By referring to her as his “holy shrine” he is showing the audience that he idolises her, and sees himself as lowly compared to her beauty. This speech between them is laid out in sonnet form. Sonnets are generally about love, which emphasises to the audience that Romeo and Juliet are in love. It also contributes to Romeo’s poetic image. Upon walking home later that evening, Romeo decides he has to see Juliet again.
He finds his way into her garden and stands by the balcony. Romeo sees Juliet at her window. He exaggerates the pale flicker of the candlelight to describe it as the East. “But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east and Juliet is the sun. ” Shakespeare is using Romeo’s dialogue to “light” the stage. He puts a clear image into the audience’s minds. Again Romeo is comparing Juliet to light; this time the sun, the brightest light of all. This is his poetic way of declaring that she is the brightest and most beautiful of girls.
It also signifies how very important she is to him, as the sun is imperative to everyday life. The light from Juliet’s window is said to “break” through. This could imply a breakthrough in Romeo’s love life; he has found his soul mate. In the Balcony scene Shakespeare uses language about the moon to help create a scene in the audience member’s mind. This means they are more involved in the play, and can imagine themselves there in the moonlight. “Arise fair sun and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief That thou her maid art far more fair than she. ”
It is interesting that Romeo compares Juliet’s beauty to the moon here, as he has just described her as his sun. In mythology, Diana, the Goddess of the moon, is served by virgin maids. Being a virgin, Juliet is depicted as one of these maids, but Romeo believes that Diana is jealous of Juliet’s beauty. He asks her to stop serving the moon, and therefore stop being a virgin and become his lover instead. This shows Romeo is passionate in a sexual way about Juliet, which would be quite exciting to an Elizabethan audience member, as sex was not as commonly talked about as it is now.
The fact that the moon is “sick and pale with grief” could be foreshadowing future grief for the couple. By asking the sun to arise, Romeo is wishing the day to come, therefore reminding the audience that it is night. When Romeo decides to reveal himself to Juliet she, feeling embarrassed and shocked, asks him who he is. Of course he has recently discovered she is the daughter of his family’s enemy, and feels his name is hurtful to her.
“By a name I know not how to tell thee who I am. My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself,Because it is an enemy to thee. ” Romeo and Juliet strongly believe in their names being a now unwanted allegiance to their family. Despite the fact that their names are just words, both of the star crossed lovers feel they are chains, locking them to their families, and keeping them away from each other. Again he refers to Juliet as a “saint”. This would seem high praise to an audience of very religious Elizabethans. In Shakespearean times, exploring was very popular and a lot of new lands were being found.
Because travel was not as easy then as it is now, and the knowledge of the world was not as advanced, exploring new lands was very exciting and appealing to the Elizabethans, which was why it was a popular subject matter and why Shakespeare used it throughout the play. “I am no pilot, yet wert thou as far, As that vast shore washed with the farthest sea, I should adventure for such merchandise. ” The word “adventure” is used here because in the Elizabethan times, international traders were known as Merchant adventurers.
It also suggests that Romeo finds his and Juliet’s love very exciting, as adventure is usually associated with new and exciting things. Shakespeare’s use of imagery to convey Romeo’s love as a new found land helps to set a picture in the audience’s minds of a far off tropical shore. In Shakespeare’s time there would not have been a lot of back drops and flats setting the stage, so it would be up to the audience to imagine their own scenery, and up to the playwright to use the correct language to stimulate these thoughts.
Romeo describes himself being hidden from the eyes of Juliet’s guards and family. “I have night’s cloak to hide me from their eyes. ” Again Shakespeare is using light and dark to set a scene for the audience. His actors would not have had the electrical lighting actors have now, so he would have to create moods and light by using words. Romeo is telling the audience it is dark, so it is easier to imagine. This contrast is used a lot in the monument scene too. When Romeo hears that Juliet is dead he goes to the tomb where she is said to be.
After killing Paris he looks at Juliet for the last time. He describes the days they spent together as “A lightning before death”, because it was believed in those days that before somebody died, they would seem very well and happy temporarily. This is the contrast between light and dark again, which adds mood to the scene; the audience knows Romeo is deeply saddened by the sudden death of Juliet and, because of this, so are they. The word “lightning” makes you think of lightning as in a quick flash. Their romance was very sudden and over quickly, but very enlightening all the same.
Romeo mentions Juliet’s beauty despite her death too, especially concentrating on her lips and cheeks. “Beauty’s ensign yet Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks” Romeo talks about Juliet’s beauty a lot throughout the play. In the balcony scene he says “The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars” and then proclaims “O that I were a cheek upon that hand”. It is interesting how Romeo talks of Juliet’s cheeks so much. Perhaps Shakespeare is trying to link the two scenes together to show that Romeo’s love for Juliet was present from the beginning to the end of their relationship.
He still felt the same for her when she was dead as he did when their love was blooming. “I will raise her statue in pure gold” Montague says this of Juliet in the last scene. Gold was a very expensive and prized material to the Elizabethan audience and so proves that Montague means well. It is a bit ironic that he is comparing her to a statue, because in the first scene Romeo and Juliet meet, the banquet scene, he describes her as a holy shrine. It is a very sad moment as the audience are reminded how happy the lovers used to be.
The audience really benefits from Shakespeare’s imagery as it brings the play to life. It makes the words far more beautiful and the character’s easier to relate to. Romeo seems more poetic and easier to fall in love with. Juliet appears to be intelligent and loving. Without the imagery the audience would not feel as involved with the plot, and would therefore not sympathise with the characters. The imagery heightens the emotions of the audience and confirms “Romeo and Juliet” as one a Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies.