In this essay I am going to attempt to answer this- ‘In act one of shakespeare’s Romeo and Julliet, all the ingredients are established for an exciting and entertaining tradgedy, discuss these ingredients and their dramatic importance’
In Elizabethan times the introduction to a play would have had a big impact on the success of the play, and so therefore the introduction played an important part. In Elizabethan times the audience would leave the theatre and have their money returned to them, if the entertainment wasn’t sufficient during the first act.
This meant that Shakespeare would have to establish the foundation of the plot, interesting chartacters, and have entertained the audience with music, dance, comedy and further more, the promise of more exciting scenes.
Romeo and Julliet is a tradgedy and this would have been shown by a flag flying outside the theatre. A tradgedy contains certain ingredients, the tragic hero should be of high worth, but on the other hand shouldn’t be perfect, as the second ingredient is that a tragic flaw, or excess of arrogant ambition in the hero leads to their downfall, although their downfall can also be due to the fact that fate is against them, as is the case in Romeo and Juliet.
The third ingredient is that the effect of the catastrophe contained in the play has a cleansing effect of the emotions in the audience through the downfall of the hero, that they have just witnessed.
Also the audience would know from the prologue that there was to be an unhappy or sad ending.
The prologue at the beginning of the play is very important, and reveals that there is going to be a tragic ending. The prologue is a sonnet. A sonnet is used for various reasons. It may set the scene for a film as it can usually help people to understand the storyline better. A sonnet consists of quatrains and a rhyming couplet. A sonnet is a symbol of love, so by making the prologue a sonnet at the beginning of the play, it is symbolising that the play is going to be a love-story. The prologue lets us know that not only will the play be a story of love but it will also contain a lot of hate.
At the beginning of the prologue, it sets the scene, it tells us ‘In fair Verona where we lay our scene.’ It then briefly describes the two families- the Capulet’s and the Montague’s. It lets us know that the families are not friends by saying ‘Two households both alike in dignity …….. From ancient grudge break to new mutiny’. This is telling us that both of the families are similar in a way that they are well respected with high standards, but yet, an old grudge between them causes bad feelings. An old disagreement between the families will soon turn to a new conflict.
The prologue then goes on to say ‘Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean, from forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life.’ By saying this, it is telling us that from two civil families, who are enemies to one another; two children were born. These two children were lovers that were destined to be together but were led to take their lives. So already, we know that there is going to be a death in the play
In act one there is a meeting of servants from the Montague and Capulet families which ends in a brawl. Prince Escalus threatens dire punishment, and death if they ever ‘disturb’ the streets again. After the brawl the Montagues find out that Romeo wasn’t involved, and are pleased, but they are also worried about Romeos recent depression, and ask Benvolio to discover the cause of it. Romeo reveals to Benvolio that he has fallen in love with Rosaline, but she does not return his affections, Benvolio suggests that he looks elsewhere.
By the end of act one several elements of the plot have been set up, and this compels the audience to keep watching the play, to see how they are resolved. Firstly Prince Escalus threatens the servants with death, if they are found to be brawling again. Secondly It is revealed that Romeo is depressed, and it is revealed that it’s because he is in love with Rosaline who will not return his affections. Thirdly Benvolio tells Romeo to look elsewhere, and this leaves the audience wondering when and where he will meet the person who he later ends his life with. Also the audience find out that capulet has agreed for Paris to marry Juliet. Further more Tybalt is angry that Romeo has ‘gate crashed’ the Capulet party, and it is evident that he will want revenge. Further more Romeo meets Julliet and both instantly fall in love, the audience will want to know what is to happen between them next.
Shakespeare also includes extremely interesting and dramatic characters in his play, one of these is Mercutio, he is lively, witty, loyal and daring, these characteristics keep the audience entertained, and interested in the play, he also is very changeable as we can see when he talks about ‘queen maab’ this also adds to the dramatic quality of the play. He is always living his life on the edge and always looking for something new and exciting to do. He is constantly playing on words, using two or more meanings. Romeo once describes him as, “A gentlemen…who loves to hear himself talk.” As displayed in his Queen Mab speech in Act I Scene IV, he is very imaginative. Mercutio believes that you should chase after what you yearn for. “If love be rough with you, then be rough with love.” Mercutio teases Romeo, in Act I Scene IV: “Romeo! Humours! Madman! Passion! Lover! Appear though in the likeness of a sigh.”
This demonstrates how he misunderstands Romeo’s love for the Capulet, Juliet. Mercutio is a generally free and independent character and doesn’t realize how anyone can be so dependant or want a person so much. Mercutio wants to live his life on the spur of the moment. He is not interested in being dependent on anyone. Mercutio’s character is vital to the main plot in two main reasons. The first is how he convinced Romeo to attend the Capulet’s party, where he met Juliet. Romeo was very reluctant to go at first, as he was still lovelorn over Rosaline who rejected him. “Is love a tender thing? It is too rough, Too rude, too boisterous, and it pricks like thorn” It is solely because of Mercutio’s persuasions that Romeo attends the gathering. And there he meets a woman to tend his broken heart, a woman he describes thus; “The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars, As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heave Would through the airy region stream so bright.That birds would sing and think it were not night.”
The second way in which Mercutio is essential to the plot is his death that sets off the chain of events that leads to Romeo’s banishment. To begin with Tybalt ruthlessly murders him, Romeo is then so utterly enraged that he then, in turn, slaughters Tybalt. As a consequence, Romeo is banished from Verona and therefore from seeing Juliet. At the beginning of Act 3, Mercutio is his usual quick-witted self. He is very sharp with his words to Tybalt and purposely annoys him, in a number of ways, for example, purposely mistaking the meanings of words, such as in Act 3, Scene 1 Tybalt begins addressing Mercutio about the relationship between Romeo and Juliet and Romeo; “Mercutio, thou consort’st with Romeo” Mercutio simply takes the word to be related to Musicians and starts on a tirade of insults and threats; “Consort! what, dost thou make us minstrels? an thou make minstrels of us, look to hear nothing but discords: here’s my fiddlestick; here’s that shall make you dance.
‘Zounds, consort!” Instances like this simply make the argument more and more heated, until Mercutio takes Tybalt’s final blow, while Romeo is standing between them actually trying to stop the fight. This illustrates how Romeo may try as he will to end the fighting between the Montagues and the Capulets, but he will always fail. Mercutio’s death is very significant to the play as when Tybalt kills Mercutio, the attributes of a comedy die with him. From now on, this play becomes a Tragedy. This demonstrates how Mercutio is a strong representation of all that is youthful and light-hearted in this play. Mercutio does not change dramatically in this play. The only difference the reader may witness is at the end of his life when he exclaims;,”A plague on both your houses!”
This is a change from Mercutio’s typical character because Mercutio has never been so serious before. He has never expressed any disagreement of the relationship between the Montagues and the Capulets. Now, he seems to become conscious of the harm the fighting is capable of doing; unfortunately, it was too late for him. To conclude, Mercutio was a very complex character and his vim and zest make the story line a lot more interesting to read, his light-hearted quips lasted right up to the end; “They have made worms’ meat of me” He knew that he would be dead from the wound he had received and this was his way of dealing with the pain he suffered.