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Shakespeare used a number of dramatic devices in the first scene of Romeo and Juliet; this made the play very interesting for the audience. By having a fight scene he drew the audience’s attention to the play instantly, because in those days they would be chatting before the play starts and Shakespeare knew this and needed them to stop them talking. At the very beginning Sampson and Gregory are having a laugh and complaining about working, like peasants standing at the front would be doing.
Seeing someone like yourself in a movie or something makes you like the character because you can relate to them, so that’s what Shakespeare was trying to do with Sampson and Gregory. The rich people in them days would be laughing at the servants because they find it funny that they have to do so much work and rich people don’t.
Firstly, the prologue tells everyone what’s happening in the play although we think it would spoil the play but really it makes us want to know more and think questions about the play.
By wondering what is going to happen it makes us want to see the end and it makes people stay. Just one line gives away so much “A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life”. From this you learn that there are two people in love and they kill themselves. They way they wrote “star-cross’d lovers” makes you think its not just any love, it’s a special love the “star-cross’d” makes you think its special because stars are special.
Hearing this you’d wonder why because it’s an odd thing to have in a play, that the two main characters kill themselves. At the end of the prologue it says “What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend”, it’s saying if you stay and watch for two hours all your questions will be answered. That’s why people stay to watch it to see why. You learn from this the play is a tragedy yet in the beginning of the play you have people joking about, it’s odd but it draws the audience in.
From the first scene we learn Tybalt is an aggressive character. We know this because he says “What, drawn and talk of peace! I hate the word as I hate hell, all Montague’s and thee”. Saying you hate peace is a very strong thing to say and he says it with an aggressive tone. Tybalt repeats the word “hate” and hate is a very aggressive and slow yet sharp word. Shakespeare also cleverly used Tybalt’s name by ending and beginning with a plosive letter “t”. The letter “t” is a sharp sounding word, it sounds like a sound a snake would make and we associate snakes as an evil creature. Also the letter “b” is a plosive letter, its an aggressive sound also, when you say the letter “B” in Tybalt you really emphasis the “b”. All this creates a harsh word that makes you instantly know who the bad guy is. Shakespeare did this purposely and gave the good guys a soft sounding name.
Benvolio’s name is a nice name, the “o” creates a comforting sound. The explanation mark at the end show’s Tybalt is angry and getting wound up. It also shows how angry he is and you can just imagine how he is shouting it. Tybalt mocks people whilst fighting. We know this because he says “what art thou drawn among these heartless hinds”. He’s very cocky and likes to tease people by saying this. He likes to get people worked up whilst trying to start a fight. We know he is cocky because he thinks he will defiantly win the fight. A quote to support this is “Turn thee, Benvolio, look upon thy death”, he’s asking them to fight. Again he used plosive letters the “t” letters are used together to create a sharp sound. He does this to sound aggressive because if he said anything else with a letter that isn’t plosive it wouldn’t be as powerful and Shakespeare wants the audience to see how aggressive this character is. He is using a metaphor because he is saying something but it could mean something else. As in he has he’s sword out.
Benvolio is the relaxed and peaceful character; we learn this in the first scene. I know this because he says “Part, fools! Put up your swords you don’t know not what you do”. He’s basically saying to the servants “stop you don’t know what you’re doing you idiots, put your swords down”. Even though he is belittling the servants he’s still a pretty nice guy. He doesn’t want fights because he knows it leads nowhere. In his name he has an aptoym which states that he’s a pretty nice guy, the “o” in Benvolio makes a nice sound. The comma between “part, fools” makes it sound like he’s not shouting it he’s saying it calmly hoping they would stop. Commas pause the sentence so it sounds calm because if you think about it if he saying it angrily it would sound stupid because it’s like you’re not on a roll. The word Benevolent in the English language means caring, and his name is very close to that word, so I think its Shakespeare’s way of letting people know his name fits his personality.
In act one, scene one we learn that Sampson and Gregory are Capulet’s and they are the typical men, they make jokes about each other and say dirty comments. At the beginning of the scene Sampson is gloating and acting as though he is “hard” and Gregory is making fun of everything he says. An example of this is when they say “Sampson: A dog of the house of the Montague’s moves me” “Gregory: to move is to stir: and to be valiant is to stand: I will take the wall of any man or maid of the Montague’s”. Here Sampson is saying the Montague’s upset him and he see’s them as animals not human he hates them that much. Gregory replies by saying Sampson is a coward and if anyone starts on him he’d run away. This shows their personality and how they tease each other. They are the servants of the Capulet’s and yet they think they are one of them. Abraham and Balthazar are trying to start a fight with Gregory and Sampson because they know it’s easy to do and they hate each other. The opening scene is done just to show how big the feud is; even the servants are involved!
You can tell in act one scene one that Sampson, Gregory, Tybalt and Abraham just want to start a fight. It could be because they’re bored of their lives or just the fact that they really do hate each other. A quotation of this is “Do you quarrel! No, sir” “If you do, sir, I am for you: I serve as good a man as you”. On the whole they are saying “Me starting a fight? No sir” “If you are, then you shouldn’t my boss is just as good as yours”. By saying sir it shows they are very sarcastic and just trying to annoy each other by saying it. When they say sir they don’t mean it, they are just trying to patronize each other. You can just imagine what their facial expression would be like when they are saying “sir” you can imagine smug smiles across their faces. They think of each other as dirt, they emphasis sir to get each other wound up because they know they don’t mean it and it starts even more of a fight. Whenever they say “sir” there is a pause, it shows that they are properly laughing or smiling as they say it to show how funny the word is to them when they are talking about their enemy.
In addition, it’s important to know the differences between the Montague’s and the Capulet’s because in those days they wouldn’t have the costumes to show the differences. Also, they wouldn’t have the technology etc to show who’s who, so they way they talk and act helps. Their names seem to help because like I’ve said before the Benvolio and Balthazar are similar names but just looking at them they have completely different meanings.
In the play to attract the audience they make sexual jokes which ultimately make people laugh. They might not laugh out loud but they are laughing at the two servants at the beginning of the scene that say the jokes. An example of this is when Sampson says “A dog of the house shall move me to stand: I will take the wall of any man or maid of the Montague’s”. Basically he is saying “If a Montague walks past he would fight them, if he see’s a woman of the Montague’s he will rape her”. Although this is a horrible thing to say, it’s the person that is saying it that makes the audience laugh. We know they are just servants and they can’t do anything, so we laugh. The audience laugh even more when his friend mocks him, an example is “This shows thee a weak slave; for the weakest goes to the wall”. Here Gregory is saying “Your weak and you corner people into the wall”. Servants standing up at the front would laugh with them because they know how it feels and rich people would be laughing at them not with them.
Additionally, in those days it would be hard to get the audience quiet so Shakespeare used an action scene and a funny bit and the front of the stage so everyone shuts up to watch the production. When they are interested in it they put a big speech at the end of that scene by the Prince to make things fit, people really need to listen to the prince because if they didn’t they wouldn’t know that if another fight happens they would be banished from Verona. And then they wouldn’t understand why Romeo gets banished at the end ad if he didn’t get banished Romeo and Juliet wouldn’t have died. The play was very cleverly set out because we know if he started with a speech we would be bored and not have listened, and seeing at this is the key bit in the play we need to listen. Also the Prince states that there have been three civil brawls in the past so we really get the gist of how big this feud is.
Weirdly, Romeo and Juliet weren’t in the first scene, even though they’re the main characters. I think this is because you get to understand how big the feud is and how hard it would be for them to be together. It introduces the family and how they feel about each other. If you saw Romeo and Juliet it wouldn’t work because they aren’t the aggressive members of the family. They aren’t very involved in the feud they just happen to be there. Because they aren’t in the feud you’d think they’re family wouldn’t mind them seeing each other but they don because they’re Lord Montague and Lord Capulet’s only children.
In conclusion, I think Shakespeare did make the opening scene on Romeo and Juliet interesting for the audience, because he really did connect with the audience. He connected with everyone well; he connected with the upper class by showing Lord Montague and Lord Capulet. He connected with the peasants by putting the servants there and how they complained about working- because if you’re a peasant you must work hard for little pay and it’s nice to know your not the only one. He gave them a few laugh, made their jaw drop by them fighting and made them really feel interested. He actually knew what made people interested seeing as they are going to watch this for two hours (mostly stood up!). He helped us know what the characters are like by the name they have. The action scene I think really drew the audience in and made them think they want to see more. Even the prologue drew the audience in, by saying what’s going to happen made them want to know more and ask questions. The only way their questions are going to be answered is by watching the rest of it…
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