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William Shakespeare (1564-1616) born in Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire was an English poet, dramatist, and actor, considered by many to be the greatest dramatist of all time. Some of his plays, such as Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, are among the most famous literary works of the world. His plays were written in Elizabethan times. During this time plays were not regarded as literature, the plays were written at speed (often by more than one writer), they were perhaps performed 10 or 12 times and then were discarded.
Romeo and Juliet written in 1599 is a romantic play between ‘A pair of star-crossed lovers’ fated to be together from first sight, however they have difficulties in staying together as they come from two noble families in Verona who don’t get on very well with each other which effects their love.
William Shakespeare has shown many different types of love in the play Romeo & Juliet,
He has shown spiritual love; he describes Romeo and Juliet ‘star-crossed lovers’ (prologue line 6), he is showing us that they are fated together and nothing can separate them.
Passionate love is also used in the play as each family, the Montague’s and the Capulet’s look out for their family members to the point where they pay with their life.
Shakespeare also introduces courtly love, for example Romeo’s love for Rosaline. Ladies were thought to be weaker than men two quotes which support my idea is when Sampson the servant of the Capulates says ’tis true, and therefore, being the weaker vessels’, ‘and I will be cruel with the women, I will cut off their heads’.
Gregory and Sampson think that women are a much weaker sex and should be treated differently compared to men, they are also very offensive towards them. This shows that the Elizabethan period was more of a patriarchal society, where men dominated.
The prologue introduces the major themes and actions, which introduces us to what we are going to expect in the play. The quote ‘A pair of star crossed lovers’ mentioned in the prologue perhaps explained why Elizabethans believed that your destiny was preordained by celestial beings, fate was set in the stars.
A quote in the prologue which demonstrates that there will be violence in the play is
‘Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean,
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes,’
This suggests that there will be death and violence. Words such as’ bloody’, ‘.fatal’, ‘death – marked’, ‘foes’ and ‘fearful’ all create a tense and tragic sensation of brutality.
The genre of tragedy is understood from the start of the play as the prologue explains that ‘a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life’, the use of take their life shows that these lovers had a tragic ending to their life. The play deals with serious events and has an unhappy ending, especially concerning the main downfall of the main characters.
Shakespeare uses interesting oxymoron’s such as ‘O brawling love, O loving hate’
This demonstrates a shift away from traditional kinds of courtly love and shows the nature of Romeo’s love for Rosaline, it’s full of opposite feelings.
We first see Romeo in Act 1 scene 1 when he is walking thoughtfully on his own. He then expresses his thoughts about Rosaline to Benvolio, However he talks too much which raises questions from the reader if he’s really in love with her or just the idea of it.
He says, ‘Grief’s of mine own lie heavy in my breast, which thou wilt propagate, to have it pressed with more of thine. This love that thou hast shown’ (Act 1, scene 1, 178 – 180).
This quote suggests that he has the love stuck in his heat and is killing him.
He goes on and on about the love of Rosaline.
‘Why, then, O brawling love, O loving hate,
O anything of nothing first create!
O heavy lightness, serious vanity.’ (Act 1, scene 1, 170 – 173).
This quote gives us an impression that Romeo is easily sidetracked and can fall in love effortlessly. Romeo’s love with Rosaline is an unrequited love which makes Romeo depressed.
‘This love feel I, that feel no love in this’, (Act 1, scene 1, 176). This suggests that it makes him miserable; although he’s in love it brings him no joy. He’s in love but hates the fact that he’s in love, so this makes the reader believe is this really love?
Love is a very passionate theme in the play, it is easily evident at the beginning of Act 1 Scene 3, for example Juliet responds to her nurse first before she does to her mother. It suggests that Juliet’s nurse loves her deeply. The reason for this is because the nurse used to have a daughter who sadly passed away, she was named Susan. The nurse regards Juliet as her own daughter and cares and loves her just like her own.
In Act 1, scene 3, line 14 we find out that Juliet is not fourteen, Juliet’s mother quotes “She’s not fourteen” it tells us that she simply isn’t fourteen and much younger.
Further on in the scene Juliet’s mother says to her daughter that she should consider marrying Paris the young nobleman and kinsman to the prince. She quotes “Well think of marriage younger than you, Here in Verona, ladies of esteem are made already mothers”, (Act 1, scene 3, line 70 -71), it gives us an impression that she is trying to persuade her daughter to marry at quite an early age to a rich family of whom they like. This gives us the idea that in the Elizabethan society girls were married of at a young age to who their family thought was appropriate for them. So they had arranged marriages, which make the reader believe that women did not have a say in their life.
When Romeo and Juliet first meet, they share a significant sonnet. Romeo and Juliet share this sonnet, which contains lots of religious phraseology, this raises the dialogue. A quote from the sonnets is “To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss, good pilgrim you do wrong with your hand”, this is important as sonnets are said to be perfect, therefore suggesting that their relationship will reflect the beauty of a sonnet. Shakespeare uses religions in his play very effectively, a quote which supports my idea is “O speak again bright angel, for thou art As glorious to this night, being over my head, as is winged messenger of heaven”. The use of the words such as ‘angel’, ‘messenger’ and ‘heaven’ shows the reader that religion is strongly portrayed in Elizabethan society and the use of the friar in the play also plays a vital role in creating the Elizabethan society and its beliefs.
The structure of the play adds a very powerful meaning for the audience. When Romeo and Juliet marry the scene and ceremony is very calm and intimate as there are only a few characters present. There is a sense of happiness and jubilance. It is secret. The fact that the marriage is a secret makes the play more interesting and makes the reader anxious as to whether the secret will come out or not, whether there will be any trouble. The weather at the beginning of the scene is described as “Hot”; this shows us that the atmosphere is a calm and bright environment as the sun usually illustrates warm and happy feelings.
However Shakespeare increases the tension for the audience by placing the wedding scene next to the murder scene between Mercutio, Tybalt and Romeo. There is a very dramatic device to keep the audience involved in the action of the play. Shakespeare shows us that the love Romeo has for his friend Mercutio is very strong and brotherly (Act 3, scene 1, line 93) ‘Courage man, the hurt cannot be much’, but it also reminds the audience that this place is a tragedy, and not just about the physical love between the young couple. The use of ‘A plague o’both your houses’ (Act 3, scene 1, lines 97 and 104) is used twice to emphasise that the families have been cursed and that their fate of love is mistaken as this is only leading to further conflict.
The pace of the play creates a sense of urgency as it takes place over only four and a half days. In real life it is very unlikely that there could be so much love and death within such a short space of time. Shakespeare wants the audience to forget about reality and just enjoy the characters and the play. In the short space of time from Sunday to Thursday, there are four deaths, including our ”star-crossed lovers”. There are also many kinds of loving relationships: Romeo and his courtly love for Rosaline; Paris and his arranged marriage to Juliet and finally the love and marriage between Juliet and Romeo.
A few words that signal aggression are present in the play such as: ”brawl and mad blood stirring”. This shows the audience that violence is also a leading factor to the tragic ending of the death of the lovers. Romeo tells Tybalt that he has to love thee, because he knows that he loves and has married Juliet. It creates a sense of dramatic irony as Tybalt doesn’t know about Romeo and Juliet’s marriage and their loving relationship even though they are the children of enemy families.
Overall I thought that the story was enjoyable and quite tense. I would recommend the play to other people who would like to read it. Overall I found it quite straight forward and did not have a problem understanding its messages towards life. If it wasn’t for Shakespeare the world might have been a completely different place in terms of love. I believe Shakespeare has portrayed the types of love in a good manner and which can be easily understood. The fact that it is a tragedy as well as a comic at times makes the play more interesting. This is a good way of getting the audiences attention and understanding of the play as it is ironic in terms of love, however, the ending does make the audience become quiet and sad as it is very tragic and in today’s world we are free to love who we want and to do what we want without the interruption of family. We can see human freedom has come a long way compared to Shakespeare’s time, and the rights of women have changed completely. Women have the choice to make their own decisions.
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