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Firstly I would like to congratulate you on your excellent audition for the part of Juliet. As time is limited and due to our individual work commitments, we are unable to meet up before rehearsals begin. Therefore, as the stage director I thought it maybe helpful to discuss some of my thoughts and ideas for the play and give you some background information that will be useful in helping you prepare for the part of Juliet. Shakespeares’s Romeo and Juliet was written during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I although it is unknown exactly when it was set.
During this time people were taught that there was a divine way of doing things and that God has instituted a church and ordained a monarchy so that the people could be ruled over in a proper way. Despite the country being ruled by a powerful woman, women had very little freedom socially, economically or legally. At the time of this play marriages were comparably different to today’s idea of marriage. Firstly the common age for girls to be married was fourteen and they had little or no say in the choice of husbands who were often chosen by families.
Husbands were often chosen for their status in society so they could be rich and powerful allies to a family. Within families the father ruled over the wife and children just as the monarch did over the state. Religion played an important part in everyday life and children were taught about their duty to God and attendance at Church services was compulsory. Services were carried out by licensed clergy. This meant that the authorities were able to keep checks on citizens and monitor conformity. Julia, at this point a brief overview of the play maybe useful to you.
Essentially it is about two chief families in Verona, the rich and noble Capulets and the Montagues. An old feud between the two families had grown in deep hatred that affected not only the family members but also anyone associated with each household, including the staff. Chance meeting often led to brawls and bloodshed disturbing the quietness of the streets of Verona. Romeo is a Montague and Juliet is a Capulet. The play is a tragedy and the main theme is love and hatred. The first two scenes in Act 1 set the scene for the play and are mainly about the males and establishes the violence between the two families.
Your first appearance as Juliet in this production is in Act 1 scene III. This scene is very important as we meet the main female character and two others: Lady Capulet who has a rather formal and distant relationship with her daughter and the nurse who is Juliet’s carer. We learn that Juliet is nearly fourteen years old in the play. In Act I Scene III Lady Capulet asks the nurse to summon Juliet then Lady Capulet asks the nurse to leave her and Juliet alone as they “must talk in secret” but then immediately asks her to “come back” as she has known Juliet from a young age.
This demonstrates the nurse’s closeness to Juliet and the Capulet family. It also establishes her importance in the play. I would like you to portray Juliet as the young, polite and quiet girl she appears to be at this point although as we know her character changes after she meets Romeo. In Act 1 scene III Juliet is respectful and polite to her mother in a formal way. This is clearly demonstrated when Juliet replies to Lady Capulet after being summoned, “Madam, I am here, what is your will? ”
You should speak these words in a quiet soft voice and you could make direct eye contact with Lady Capulet before looking away towards the Nurse so the audience sense Juliet’s respectful but shy nature. Lady Capulet appears to want to stick to convention and asks Juliet to agree to look at a possible husband during the feast that night at the Capulet’s home. Lady Capulet reminds Juliet that she was the same age as Juliet when she gave birth to her. “By my count I was your mother much upon these years” and that girls younger than Juliet were “already mothers. ”
The nurse is present throughout this conversation and establishes her importance in the play. She cares for Juliet as she almost replaced the nurse’s own daughter who had died. At this point the nurse starts to tell stories about Juliet as a baby. Juliet is embarrassed particularly when she recalls how she got her to stop breastfeeding. There are some sexual implications in the nurse’s speech here and you need to show the shock and embarrassment that the naive Juliet will feel. We know that she has cared for Juliet since she was a baby as she talks about her childhood.
You need to portray Juliet’s embarrassment about her childhood stories. The Nurse explains that it would be an “honour” to see her married. You may be taken by surprise at the abrupt way the question of marriage is asked by Lady Capulet. “Speak briefly can you like of Paris’ love? ” You will need to convey that although Juliet’s in awe of Lady Capulet she seeks parental approval. So even though Juliet has not met Paris before and does not know whether she can love him she agrees to look at him during the festivities that night.
After a quick glance at the nurse again I want you to pause slightly before replying to Lady Capulet in a soft, formal manner, “I’ll look to like, if looking like move But no more deep will I endart mine eye Than your consent gives strength to make it fly” This shows Juliet’s willingness to do as her mother says. The audience should sense your anxiety in anticipation of Lady Capulet’s response and then the relief you feel, when as you finish your sentence, Lady Capulet smiles with approval at your response.
In Juliet’s reply there is some mirroring of language between her and Lady Capulet, words such as “look” and “like. ” This adds to the idea that at this point Juliet is willing and keen to get approval from her mother. As Lady Capulet and the nurse leave you can show further relief as you relax the animated posture and drop your shoulders. After a few seconds you could portray a sense of excitement and anticipation of the dinner. The lights fade as you jauntily exit the stage. The next scene that Juliet appears in is Act 1 Scene V. In this scene Romeo and Juliet meet for the first time.
Romeo spots Juliet while standing to the side during the dancing at the banquet. He immediately falls in love with her. Romeo is so struck by Juliet’s beauty he is inspired to speak a monologue in tribute. He uses light and dark imagery to stress her beauty. He says it seemed to him that she could “teach torches to burn bright” and “she hangs upon the cheek of night as a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear”. Shakespeare continues this theme of light and dark imagery by using metaphors such as “snowy dove trooping with crows” to demonstrate how Juliet shines above the other ladies there.
Though Romeo is awestruck by your perfection you are unaware that you are being watched so you continue to dance in the background however your movements must be light, graceful but spirited to convey your youthful innocence. Shakespeare uses metaphors to create a positive image about Juliet’s beauty. Romeo also describes Juliet’s beauty as “To rich for use, for earth to dear! ” This is one of the many references to the theme of wealth in the play. This scene will be challenging for any actress as you are on the stage all the time. Eventually Romeo finds Juliet and touches her hand.
At this point I want you to look at his hand and then slowly wonder your gaze up to make eye contact with Romeo. This is an electrifying point in the play and as such the audience need to be made to actually feel the sudden love at first sight. You and Romeo speak in a sonnet form to one another. Your tone is soft and flirtatious yet clear and precise. This makes the verse more noticeably poetic and allows the audience to believe in your love. At this point you are at the centre of the audience’s attention but you need to be totally focussed onto Romeo’s face.
You need to make the audience believe they are almost intruding into your emotions and feelings. They need to sense the strength of your love. This is a very significant part in the production as Romeo and Juliet do not know each others status but the audience do. The audience will realise that it will be impossible for Romeo and Juliet to be together despite their passionate love for each other. This is known as dramatic irony as the audience knows something that the characters do not. Around you the festivities will be continuing with the other actors, dining and dancing.
You and Romeo are totally engrossed in each other so much so that you do not notice that Tybalt has recognised Romeo as a Montague and is forced to restrain himself by Capulet not to cause a brawl in the middle of the festivities. Romeo eventually gets to kiss Juliet “Let lips do what hands do” that is join together. The poetry in lines 92-109 is between Romeo and Juliet. They share the same images and thoughts and their words flow together giving us the idea that they complete each other. The content of the sonnet has a religious theme and is an example of how religion is related to love. It uses imagery of saints and pilgrims.
Romeo takes Juliet’s hand in the gentlest manner calling it a “shrine”. The use of religious words and references shows that Romeo sees Juliet as a blessing. The imagery for the audience needs to be that if Romeo is a pilgrim then Juliet is a saint and his love is holy devotion. Juliet tells Romeo that they should not kiss but she does not really mean this in fact she says “The have my lips the sin that they have took. ” You need to show the contradiction in what you are saying and your body language should support this. Move your face closer to Romeo’s face as if inviting him to kiss her again.
The couple are engaged in this loving exchange when Juliet is called away to her mother. You need to show reluctance in having to leave Romeo to respond to your mother’s call. Then hurry away after a little hesitance showing your desire for Romeo. The nurse tells Romeo that Juliet is a Capulet and he realises he has fallen in love with someone from the enemy but this does not lessen his feelings towards Juliet. Juliet also begs her nurse to find out who Romeo is. “Go ask his name- if he be married My grave is like to be my wedding-bed” The nurse returns and informs her that he is Montague.
Juliet is taken back that she has fallen in love with someone that she has been brought up to hate. You need to react to this in a stunned manner moving onto momentary despair and confusion. “My only love sprung from my only hate. ” Juliet appears to be thinking out loud. She realises that she must love her enemy even though family considerations should induce her to hate Romeo. The audience needs to sense your predicament leaving the audience wondering what she will do. By the end of the scene the audience will understand that Juliet is a stronger character than she appears to be in Act 1 Scene III.
She is willing to break with tradition to be with Romeo. Juliet’s behaviour is changing, she is showing signs of defiance and her tone is more assertive. As the stage director I am attempting to send a message that despite this tragedy, love triumphs over hate. I want the audience to have warmth for Juliet as she dies for love and sense the needless tragedy that has occurred. I hope the information in this letter will help to you prepare for the production. I’m looking forward to working with you in rehearsals. Feel free to contact me if I can be of any further assistance.