‘The course of true love never did run smooth’ Describe by what techniques Shakespeare proves this statement to be the case in Romeo and Juliet.
Shakespeare wrote many plays in the time he was alive, but Romeo and Juliet is possibly one of his best. It is an unlucky romantic love story and was written in 1594. The language from Shakespearean times was different from today. The play is set in Verona, Italy, but was written in England. This is evident in some of the things Shakespeare has written.
In Act I Scene V, Capulet talks about putting out a fire. The play is set in the summer, and in Verona in the middle of summer, a fire would definitely not be needed. Shakespeare uses the base of an Unlucky love story because it is exiting and interesting, more so than a play where everybody has happy love and the ‘lived happily ever after’ routine is used. The unlucky love basis shapes the whole play to follow the same route.
Shakespeare uses many different techniques and ideas to bring about the obstacles for Romeo and Juliet in the play. He has created intriguing scenarios for Romeo and Juliet to conquer; this is what makes the play so fascinating.
The first and largest obstacle that Shakespeare puts forward, which the play rather revolves around, is the family feud. This obstacle leads to most of the others and if it were not for this, Romeo and Juliet may have got the chance to meet and even marry.
The feud is apparent thought the play, but the first reference to it is in the prologue:
Two households both alike in dignity,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny.
This extract is a sonnet, a form of love poetry. There is a sense of irony in it, as it is a love poem talking about hate between two families. It shows that the two houses (Capulet and Montague) are opposing families, both of the same class, and their grudge has gone back for a long time. The problem is that Romeo is Montague and Juliet a Capulet, resulting in them not being allowed to see each other. This brings about the reason Romeo and Juliet have to be secret about their relationship.
Another hindrance for Romeo and Juliet is the amount of time they have, and the amount of secrecy that Romeo and Juliet have to use. The play and its events take six days, so Romeo and Juliet have to rush their plans and do not have time to think about things before they do them, this creates mistakes. They have to be secret because Juliet was chaperoned. This was common in the higher classes of the time because there was an idea that young women had to be pure (virgins) before they were married, they were chaperoned to make sure that they did not interact with any other young men deemed unworthy of their position in society. They therefore rarely got a chance to meet with each other. This would also cause their plans to be rushed. Romeo goes to see Fr Lawrence about getting married, and Fr Lawrence states to Romeo that getting married so quickly can be a bad thing:
Paris is not really a barrier for Romeo and Juliet’s love at the time. He is merely introduced as someone who could become one. He wishes to marry Juliet and asks Capulet’s permission. Capulet refuses, saying Juliet is too young and marriage and parenthood at a young age has long term effects on the woman (Lady Capulet tells Juliet that she was with child at Juliet’s age so maybe Capulet has first hand experience on this matter). Capulet seems really kind and fatherly, and protective over Juliet he says:
‘And those too soon marred are those so early made.
But woo her gentle Paris, get her heart,
My will to her consent is but a part’
(Act I Scene II)
Capulet also says Juliet has to agree to Paris, he will not make her marry him.
Even though Capulet says no for the moment, Paris is still a potential obstacle. This is because he is considered so perfect. In the social state at the time, higher classes considered it right to marry someone of the same class or higher if possible. It was mostly about extending land, wealth and social status. Love was only thought of as an added bonus. Paris was, more or less, a higher class person than Juliet. He is incredibly rich, he has much influence and power and he is related to the Prince. It would be expected of Juliet to marry Paris if he wished. Paris is discussed by the Nurse, Lady Capulet and Juliet:
‘A man lady; lady, such a man
As all the world- why he’s a man of wax’
(Act I Scene III)
In the discussion, the nurse describes Paris as ‘a man of wax’. This is a good example of a metaphor, meaning that Paris is totally faultless and perfect. The language that is used in the extract puts emphasis on this fact.
Romeo and Juliet are sometimes obstacles in themselves, especially Romeo. Romeo is portrayed as a lovesick hero. In the play it is obvious he likes being in love, and even lovesick. He exaggerates his being shunned by Rosaline at the beginning of the play, and soon forgets about her when he meets Juliet.
There is a good example of Romeo’s personality:
Why then, o brawling love, o loving hate,
Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms,
Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,
(Act I Scene I)
This extract is a good example of an oxymoron, it binds two opposites in one sentence; Shakespeare also uses it to show how Romeo exaggerates his being lovesick.
He then tries very hard to ‘woo’ Juliet but her more logical approach puts a stop to it. Juliet is more practical than Romeo. Evidence of this would be:
‘So thou wilt woo; but not else for the world
If they thy bent of love be honorable,
Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow,’
(Act II Scene II)
Juliet takes a more direct approach and tells Romeo that he should stop wooing her and marry her if he is serious. There is further evidence when she is given the sleeping draught by Fr. Lawrence:
‘What if it be poison which the friar
Subtly hath ministered to have me dead,
Lest this marriage he has been dishonored,
Because he married me before to Romeo
(Act IV Scene III)
Here Juliet thinks that Fr Lawrence may have given her poison to get himself out of the paradox of which he has put himself into. Women of the time would not have been able to see that this may have been the case because they were very naï¿½ve.
Marriage between Romeo and Juliet is somewhat another complication in their relationship. It complicates matters later on in the play because Capulet will want Juliet to marry Paris later on. Juliet is not allowed by law to have two wives, Fr. Lawrence is not allowed to marry a person twice. The Nurse does try to persuade Juliet to marry Paris but without success. It makes Juliet even more determined to stay faithful to Romeo and to marry him.
Fr. Lawrence plays a crucial role in the play, as he gives Juliet the potion that makes her appear dead. Fr. Lawrence is a father figure to Romeo, and Romeo spends much time in the chapel with him. Fr. Lawrence is also important because the chapel is one of the only places that Romeo and Juliet can meet because Juliet is not chaperoned in the chapel, the parents of both Romeo and Juliet trust Fr. Lawrence to look after them without them coming to harm. This is what adds insult to the injury of him marrying Romeo and Juliet. He is trusted, a holy man, well educated and setting an example to Romeo and Juliet, that it is okay to go behind their parents backs.
Tybalt is also a big obstacle. He is the reason that Romeo is banished. It is also due to him that Capulet tries to make Juliet marry Paris to cheer her up. Capulet has a complete change of heart and gets angry and violent, totally different to the kind, fatherly figure from earlier on in the play when Juliet refuses. It is believed that Shakespeare made a mistake in this, forgetting how Capulet was portrayed in Act I Scene II.
Tybalt sees Romeo at the ball and sends him a note of a duel, but Romeo does not receive it as he is too busy worrying about Juliet, and marriage. Tybalt kills Mecutio, for Romeo not wanting to fight, Romeo says to Tybalt:
‘Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee
Doth much excuse the appertaining rage
But I love thee better than thou canst devise
Till thou shalt know the reason for my love.
(Act III Scene I)
The death of Tybalt is a huge problem. This is what leads to Romeo’s banishment from Verona. This is Tybalt’s fault because he causes Romeo’s anger by killing Mecutio.
If ever you disturb our streets again,
Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.
Romeo being banished is also an obstacle, at the beginning after the street fight the
When Romeo kills Tybalt, the Prince would have had Romeo executed, but Tybalt had killed Romeos friend Mecutio, so he says:
Immediately we do exile him hence.
Therefore use none. Let Romeo hence in haste
Else, when he’s found, that hour is his last
(Act I Scene III)
Therefore Romeo is banished. When Juliet is caught crying for Romeo, she says that she is crying for Tybalt. This leads to Capulet trying to cheer her up.
To cheer Juliet up, Capulet arranges for her to marry Paris. When Lady Capulet informs Juliet, she refuses to do so. Juliet says:
He shall not make me the joyful bride.
I will not marry yet, and when I do, I swear
It shall be Romeo, whom you know I hate,
Rather than Paris. These are news indeed
(Act III Scene IV)
Juliet is being sarcastic in this extract. The word hate puts effect on the mothers hatred for Romeo. She is angry about having to marry Paris. She states that marrying Paris would not make her happy. When Capulet comes in he has seriously changed his mood. He becomes violent and angry, telling Juliet she will marry or be kicked out. This is what compels her to go to Fr. Lawrence for advice.
When she goes to Fr. Lawrence, threatening suicide he comes up with another idea, again going behind everyone’s backs. Not only that, but it is a very dangerous idea too; it may be putting Juliet’s life at risk. He gives Juliet a potion to make her appear dead. What he does not know is that it is too strong and Juliet wakes up too late. He sends a note to Romeo explaining about Juliet, but it leads to the next obstacle.
Ironically, the note does not get through to Romeo, but Romeo’s friend Balthazar does, and tells Romeo that Juliet has died. This is the next obstacle as Romeo decides that he cannot live without Juliet and goes to commit suicide next to her, killing Paris on the way.
Shakespeare has created some fascinating scenarios for Romeo and Juliet in the play. I hope that you now have a deeper understanding of the obstacles Shakespeare thought up to create his excellent work- Romeo and Juliet.