How does Shakespeare bring out the themes of love and hate through the language and actions of the characters in Act 1 Scene 5? How do the events of the scene prepare the action of the rest of the play?
The prologue to “The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet” makes clear that the themes of “love and hate” will be central to this play. The Montagues and Capulets were two or Verona’s most important families but there was an “ancient grudge” (prologue line 3) between the two families and they hated each other.
The enmity is even felt by the family servants who start a brawl in the first scene of the play. Romeo’s parents were pleased that he was not involved in this fight but they wonder why he is so sad. At the end of the scene we find out that it is because he is lovesick for Rosaline.
Just before Act 1 Scene 5 is about to start the young Montague men and Mercutio decide to gatecrash the Capulets’ party.
This scene is full of puns and words sounding the same but with a different meaning. Romeo is worried about going to the party but despite his premonition of “untimely death” he decides to go with the others because he hopes to see Rosaline.
At the party Romeo spots Juliet and from that moment on falls deeply in love with her:
“What lady’s that which doth enrich the hand of yonder knight” “She doth teach the torches to burn bright”
Shakespeare uses metaphors for love and hate by comparing Juliet to a white “snowy dove” amongst black crows.
She shines in the night like a jewel against a black person’s skin. Shakespeare makes use of all the senses: sight, sound, touch etc.
Romeo dreams of his rough hand touching her “blessed skin”
Unlike the rest of the scene which is in blank verse, Romeo’s first speech in this scene is in rhyming couplets which makes it stand out and shows that he has fallen in love. The actor playing Romeo would probably be standing entranced with Juliet’s beauty. The theme of love in this part of the scene is swiftly broken up as Tybalt has recognized Romeo as a Montague. He says to his servant “fetch me my rapier”. This shows that Tybalt wants to fight Romeo. The audience would know there was going to be trouble even before Tybalt asks for his sword because in Act 1 Scene 1 Tybalt has said ” As I hate hell, all Montagues and thee”.
Tybalt is keen to kill Romeo, as he is his most hated enemy: “to strike him dead I hold it not a sin”. When Tybalt tells Capulet about Romeo being at the party, Capulet tries to calm Tybalt down so he does not start another brawl. Capulet probably remembers Prince Escale’s warning which was “if ever you disturb our streets again, your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace”.
Tybalt refuses to calm down and this makes Capulet very angry. He says “Am I the master here or you?” and then tells him to leave the party. After that line Capulet starts to wind Tybalt up by calling him a “Goodman boy” and a “princox”. In Tybalt’s last two lines he leaves the party but predicts an unhappy ending to the play by referring to “bitt’rest gall” – a reference to Christ being given vinegar on the cross.
The atmosphere in the play then dramatically changes from hate to love with religious overtones. The religious imagery runs through this part of the scene with words such as “pilgrim”, “holy shrine”, “devotion”, “prayer”, “saint”, “faith” and “sin” all being used. With these words Romeo is trying to reassure Juliet that he is not trying to take advantage of her. Juliet agrees with everything he says. This shows that she is in love with him as well.
The rhythm of the text and pace of the play is changed by changing the structure: in this section, every other line rhymes as it does in sonnets with which the audience would have been familiar in Shakespeare’s time. Love is expressed again in this section with words and actions. Romeo asks Juliet for a kiss. She teases him at first by saying lips should be used to say prayers and so he asks that his prayer for a kiss be granted.
They do kiss but are interrupted by Juliet’s nurse who needs to speak to her. Romeo is shocked to learn that Juliet is a Capulet and her mother is ‘the lady of the house’ and so “my life is my foe’s debt”. Romeo realizes he must leave the party. This leaves just Juliet and the nurse alone on stage and increases the tension. She tries to find out Romeo’s name and is also shocked to find out Romeo is a Montague. She says “I must love a loathed enemy”. Juliet has fallen in love with Romeo and realizes the dangers ahead.
The two lovers realize that they are from two families that traditionally hate each other and finding a way out is going to be difficult and dangerous. As the audience knows that the play is a tragedy they would start to fear that the lovers will not have a happy ending.
The themes of love and hate continue throughout the play. In Act 2 the mood becomes more optimistic. In the famous balcony scene the lovers think that with the help of the nurse and the Friar they will be able to escape and live happily ever after: “This bud of love may prove to be a beautiful flower”. There is no hatred in this act as Tybalt, the main hatred causer, is not in it. Romeo is confident that her “kinsmen” cannot stop him but Juliet points out “if they do see thee they will murder thee”. Although this is an optimistic Act with Romeo and Juliet marrying in the final scene there is a feeling that it will not turn out well.
In Act 3 the hatred bubbles up, quarrels are picked. Tybalt arrives looking for Romeo, Mercutio is making fun of Tybalt at this point. Romeo arrives on the scene and Tybalt challenges him but Romeo refuses to fight but cannot explain why. (Says he has ‘a reason to love Tybalt’) (Romeo refuses to fight Tybalt, this is because he has married into the Capulet family). Mercutio fights Tybalt but he is mortally wounded when Romeo tries to separate them. As Mercutio is dying he wishes “a plague on both your houses”. Romeo then fights Tybalt to avenge Mercutio’s death. Romeo kills Tybalt. Prince Escales arrives on the scene and exiles Romeo from Verona (Romeo would not be on stage to hear this sentence). The audience would probably feel that things were spiralling out of control. The black atmosphere and references to death continue throughout the rest of the play. There is a growing sense of desperation following Romeo’s killing of Tybalt and an unhappy ending becomes increasingly likely.
Romeo feels trapped by their situation and in the next act Juliet too feels trapped, with her parents insisting that she marries Paris. She knows that they could only marry if Romeo were dead. She goes to the Friar and he tells her to make it look as if she has killed herself. Friar Lawrence gives her the potion and sends the letter to Romeo with Friar John. The letter told Romeo what Juliet was intending to do. For some reason the letter did not arrive in time which meant that Romeo thought Juliet really was dead. He could not think of anything worse than a world without Juliet, so he buys a deadly potion and kills himself where Juliet is lying. Juliet wakes up to see Romeo dead and so takes his dagger and kills herself. This does not surprise the audience because the feeling that they would both die has been building up since the beginning of the play.
Act 1 scene 5 is crucial to the whole play because through the language and actions of characters the themes of love and hate are brought to life and the inevitability of an unhappy ending becomes clear.