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Romeo and Juliet can definitely be seen to be a play full of oppositions for example: Capulet and Montague, life and death, love and hate, reconciliation and continuation of the feud and light and dark. These oppositions can be seen throughout the play and many of them also occur in act 1 scene 5.
Indeed many of the references to oppositions that occur in act 1 scene 5 have a link with how other oppositions are displayed in earlier or latter scenes, this could be because act 1 scene 5, in my opinion, is one of the most important scenes in the whole play.
It is the scene in which Romeo and Juliet fall in love. It is the turning point when some of the main oppositions become more apparent in the play.
For example love and hate would have not really been an issue if they had never met. Act 1 scene 5 has a surprisingly large range of oppositions. One of the ways the oppositions in this scene are displayed so effectively and made so apparent by Shakespeare is the idea that each character can be seen to display elements of these opposing themes.
Tybalt demonstrates hate, Romeo love, Juliet saint, Romeo sinner. There are many more oppositions besides these which are not relative of a particular character. If we look in detail at the dialogue it is possible to argue that Romeo and Juliet is a play full of oppositions and act 1 scene 5 demonstrates this very effectively.
Love and hate is one of the main themes in Romeo and Juliet and features very strongly throughout the play and in act 1 scene 5. In this scene Shakespeare has used Tybalt to represent hate and Romeo to represent love. Nearly all of what these two characters say in the scene is somehow connected to the opposition that Shakespeare has chosen for them. Throughout act 1 scene 5 numerous references to love can be found in Romeo’s dialogue. When he first lays eyes on Juliet he proclaims “Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight!” (Line 51, act 1 scene 5) This shows the audience that he thought he had been in love before, presumably with Rosaline, however he has now realised that what he felt for her was not real love.
The fact that Romeo is asking a question shows that he is possibly unsure whether or not he was in love with Rosaline but by answering it in the next line he shows the audience that despite all his sighing and crying over Rosaline he knew deep down that what he felt for her was not love. “Forswear it sight” means that his eyes tell him that he has never loved before. This could be a reference to the women at the ball being described as “crows” whilst Juliet is a “dove”. Romeo can see that Rosaline and every other woman there could not compare to Juliet’s beauty. This also shows that in Elizabethan times, when the play was written, love was very much based around beauty, to us this may seem very shallow however to an Elizabethan audience this would be considered acceptable and even normal.
There are many references to love throughout the play many of which relate back to Act 1 scene 5. When Romeo talks of his love for Rosaline he describes love as “a choking gall, and a preserving sweet” this, being an oxymoron, shows that he is very confused about his love for Rosaline, he thinks it is both good and bad. This relates back to Act 1 scene 5 because here his confusion is resolved and he realises that what he felt for Rosaline was not love: it would be best described a as a “choking gall” instead of a “preserving sweet”.
Despite all the references to love in Romeo and Juliet there are many references to hate. When Tybalt recognises Romeo at the Capulets’ ball his words about him are “to strike him dead I hold it not a sin” (line58, act 1 scene 5) This shows that the hatred he feels for Montagues is very strong. It also shows that Tybalt is a very fiery character who is quick to resort to violence. These days to an audience watching Romeo and Juliet it would seem quite odd that Tybalt would want to challenge and ultimately aim to kill Romeo simply for going to a party that he was not invited to. We would probably think that the suitable course of action would be to ask him to leave. However to an Elizabethan audience Tybalt wanting to kill Romeo would probably be seen as the right thing to do as if he didn’t do anything about it then it could be interpreted as weakness and Tybalt would lose his reputation and the Capulets would be dishonoured for allowing Romeo, a Montague, to go to the Capulet ball without incurring any penalties.
It is quite ironic that Tybalt, who was so set on killing Romeo, was actually killed by him in act 3 scene1 Romeo says “Either thou or I, or both, must go with him” (Act 3, scene 1, line 120) This line, spoken by Romeo to Tybalt, definitely shows hatred again to the degree of murdering another. Mercutio has just been slain by Tybalt so Romeo obviously wants revenge for that. This line, although it demonstrates hate, also demonstrates love and friendship because it shows that Romeo must have been great friends with Mercutio as he is willing to die to avenge his death. It shows hatred because you must hate someone a great deal to want to kill them and not care if you get killed in the process. The fact that Tybalt is Juliet’s cousin shows that Romeo’s hatred for Tybalt must be strong because he would obviously not want to upset Juliet with her cousin’s death. So from this it could be possible to now say that Romeo’s hate for Tybalt is greater than his love for Juliet.
Love and hate are also displayed in ways beside the dialogue. In act 1 scene 5 Shakespeare has written a sonnet for Romeo and Juliet to share. A sonnet is a poem that is fourteen lines long and is generally classed as a love poem. By getting Romeo and Juliet to share a sonnet Shakespeare shows the audience that Romeo and Juliet are in love and very harmonious with one another. Although there would be many people present on the stage the audience would get the feeling that the moment between the two lovers was very intimate and private, almost as if a veil separated them from the rest of the cast
Hatred is also displayed in the form of the writing Shakespeare uses rhyming couplets when Tybalt exits to express his hatred of Romeo:
“Patience perforce with wilful choler meeting
Makes my flesh tremble in their different greeting:
I will withdraw, but this intrusion shall,
Now seeming sweet convert to bitt’rest gall.” (Act I, Scene V, lines 88-91)
This shows that his anger is prepared and wanted. He chooses to be angry and the fact that it is written in rhyming couplets is significant because when compared to normal text, prose, it seems prepared and not spontaneous. The same can, in a way, be said for Romeo and Juliet’s saints and sinners sonnet possibly showing that they were destined to be together.
Reconciliation and continuation of the feud is another important opposition throughout the play and most obviously in Act 1 scene 5. Shakespeare uses Tybalt and Capulet to represent these oppositions Tybalt being continuation and old Capulet reconciliation. When Tybalt sees Romeo he sets off to kill him but is stopped by old Capulet who refuses to let Tybalt harm Romeo:
“Content thee gentle coz, let him alone,
‘A bears him like a portly gentleman;” (Act I, Scene V, Lines 64-65)
This quotation shows the audience that Capulet is perhaps tiring of the feud and wants to resolve the issue and stop all the violence. He is telling Tybalt to leave Romeo alone as he has done nothing wrong and goes on to say that Tybalt should “bear him like a gentleman”. This could be a reference to another opposition in the play: age and youth. This quote is showing that in age people learn to bear things and get on with others better.
Reconciliation and continuation of the feud is also found throughout the play and much of it is related to age and youth. In act 1 scene 2 when Capulet is talking to Paris about how he and Montague should keep the peace after the prince has imposed the death penalty. “‘Tis not hard, I think, For men so old as we to keep the peace.” (Act 1, scene 2, Lines 2-3) this quotation is again demonstrating two opposing themes reconciliation and continuation of the feud along with age and youth. Capulet is saying that in old age it is not hard for men to be peaceful towards one another or at least that’s what he thinks. This indicates that in youth it is harder for men to be peaceful possibly because they have more energy and stronger tempers. This seems to indicate that Capulet is a peaceful person however earlier in the play he attempts to join in the brawl and is only held back by his wife, the same being true for Montague. He is only being peaceful, it appears, because of the death penalty whereas the younger men do not really take much notice of this and continue feuding in their usual way.
In Act 1 scene 5 it is made quite apparent by Shakespeare that Tybalt does not want to stop the feud in any way as I said previously he enjoys being angry and is quick to resort to violence:
“This, by his voice should be a Montague.
Fetch me my rapier boy” (Act I, Scene V, lines 52-53)
This quote is used by Shakespeare to show that Tybalt’s first reaction, having recognised Romeo by his voice, is to kill or at least hurt him this shows the audience that Tybalt has absolutely no intention of keeping the peace but seeks to continue the feud by killing all Montagues that he sees, we should notice that when he says this he is not specific about who the Montague is showing that he does not care who they are or what they are like. The fact that their last name is Montague is reason enough for him to kill them. The way he addresses his servant seems quite rude showing that he is a very commanding person who has a high social status. It would probably not seem rude to Shakespeare’s contempories though because it would be seen as a status symbol how many servants you had and how you addressed them.
Continuation of the feud is present throughout the play and a large part of it presented by Tybalt. In Act I scene I he enters to a brawl and is asked to help keep the peace by Benvolio. His response is simple: “What, drawn and talk of peace? I hate the word,” (Act 1, scene1, line 61) This shows that Tybalt hates peace. He does not think it is possible to have your sword out whilst talking of peace this could mean that he thinks Benvolio is lying to him about keeping the peace and is actually fighting with the Montagues. It could also be that he thinks the feud has gone on so long that it is not possible to now stop and talk of peace and anyway he hates peace so why stop the feud? This is probably a likely chain of his thoughts. It is ironic that even though Romeo seems to be peaceful and loving it is Tybalt’s fate to be slain by him, one he swore to kill. At the end of the play we see that the feud has been reconciled; however the Prince’s ominous words “some shall be pardoned others punished” suggests that the reconciliation is not as simple as it seems. It is possible that in this line Shakespeare is representing the cyclic nature of hate. If one family is punished and the other pardoned jealousy will break out and the feud could be started all over again.
Fate and Freewill plays a large part in Romeo and Juliet and there are many references to the fates of different characters scattered throughout Act 1 scene 5. Shakespeare increases the dramatic effect of these references by using dramatic irony. When Juliet is asking the nurse to find out who Romeo is she proclaims “My grave is like to be my wedding bed” (Act I, Scene V, line 134) she is saying this about Romeo and what would happen if he were married. She won’t marry anyone but Romeo so if she can not get married to him she will die. Shakespeare employs dramatic irony here because the audience have been told that Juliet is going to die: it is an eerie prediction of the future in which Juliet almost suggests that no good can come of her being with Romeo. Images of love going with death appear in other scenes of the play as well: “love-devouring Death do what he dare” (Act 2, scene 6, line 7) Romeo speaks these words to friar Lawrence just before he and Juliet are married. It is a personification of death as a man who devours love and gives the audience another little reminder of Romeo and Juliet’s fate. However Romeo’s “do what he dare” suggests that he will do anything to have the love of Juliet, even if it means death.
There are not many quotations in act 1 scene 5 showing freewill but ideas can be got out of the text as a whole. One good example is the nurse trying to stop Juliet finding out who Romeo is this is an example of freewill because she is trying to go against fate and stop Romeo and Juliet getting to know each other. Whilst trying to dissuade Juliet from taking things further with Romeo i.e. getting to know him she says “Marry that I think be young Petruchio.” (Act 1, scene 5, line 130) This is showing the audience that the nurse really does not want Juliet to meet this man, and that it is because she knows who he is the only son of Montague. However she is unwilling to tell Juliet this is to protect Juliet’s feelings, the Nurse is very fond of Juliet. She says earlier in the scene that the man who can marry Juliet will be rich she possibly thinks that this is Romeos incentive for wanting to marry Juliet. Marry is a mild oath showing that the Nurse is frustrated and not used to keeping things from Juliet.
Shakespeare seems to leave the theme of fate running throughout the play perhaps to remind the audience that there is no way to change destiny and also so they do not forget what is going to happen to the characters. By looking at the references to fate we can see what will happen to other characters, who are not even mentioned in the prologue, Tybalt for example. Capulet whilst talking to Tybalt says “this trick may chance to scathe you” (Act I, Scene V, line 84) this gives the audience an idea of what will happen to Tybalt if he pursues Romeo and attempts to harm him. Capulet is suggesting that if Tybalt constantly tries to kill people he will one day get killed himself and Romeo is a likely man to do it.
There are oppositions present even in Shakespeare’s use of stagecraft. Act 1 scene 5 starts off with many characters: all the party guests and the Capulets and ends with just two, Juliet and the Nurse. Even though there are many characters on the stage when Romeo and Juliet share a sonnet there is a private and intimate feeling between them, like they are separated from the rest of the party by a veil. Shakespeare has employed this effect to convey just how much they are in love by showing that they only have eyes for each other. It could also be used to show that they are different from the rest of the crowd as they are willing to try and reconcile the feud.
It is totally different when Capulet is talking to Tybalt; he keeps being interrupted and having to talk to his guests. This shows the audience that him and Tybalt don’t share a bond, and possibly that they don’t think in the same way. At the end of the act the nurse says “The strangers are all gone”. (Act 1, scene 5, line146) She is speaking to Juliet, this shows that Juliet was separate from the rest of the party and didn’t really know any of the guests. Possibly showing that she is innocent, and has no connection to the people who are fighting in the feud.
Saint and Sinner is an opposition that occurs mainly in the sonnet that Romeo and Juliet share in Act 1 scene 5. Romeo represents the sinner whilst he portrays Juliet as a saint “Oh then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do:” (Act 1, scene 5, Line 102) Romeo is here asking Juliet to kiss him. By having Romeo call Juliet a Saint Shakespeare shows the audience how Romeo thinks of her: an otherworldly being that can do no wrong, one who is innocent and pure. It was the custom of the time for pilgrims, sinners, to go to saints’ tombs and relics and touch hands with them so if Romeo was the pilgrim and Juliet the saint he would touch hands with her but he instead wants to do what hands do, touch each other, with his lips instead, kissing. Romeo kisses Juliet so that she takes his sin. This represents the forgiveness shown by God and how your sins can be taken away. Another possible thing could be that he knows that they are both doing wrong by kissing and wants to get rid of his sin, he feels that once he kisses her it will feel so right that it could not possibly be considered a sin.
Romeo represents the sinner “my lips two blushing pilgrims ready stand” (Act 1, scene 5, Line 94) By representing himself as a pilgrim and Juliet a saint Romeo is saying she is higher than him. This might seem strange to an Elizabethan audience as generally men were thought to be more important and better than women. He is portraying his lips as pilgrims who have come to worship Juliet, by saying this he is making a reference to kissing.
In Conclusion I think it is possible to say that Romeo and Juliet is a play full of oppositions and act 1 scene 5 demonstrates very effectively this view of the play. Whenever an opposition can be found within in the play it is possible to see that it either links directly to act 1 scene 5, or there is a similar opposition in that scene. This is probably because this is the scene in which Romeo and Juliet’s fates are sealed. If they had never met, kissed or talked they would have lived. Act 1 scene 5 is linked to all major events in the play: the deaths of Tybalt, Romeo and Juliet and, of course, the marriage between these two “star crossed lovers”. So it definitely does fit with the view of Romeo and Juliet being a play full of oppositions.
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