Shakespeare's Conflict in Act One Scene One

Categories: William Shakespeare

The Globe Theatre was different to modern theatres as it was an Elizabethan stage. It was a circular wooden building with a paved courtyard with the middle open to the sky. A rectangular stage stuck out from the side of the building into the middle of the yard. The poor audience stood in the yard to watch the play but the wealthier audience were seated in the three covered tiers or balconies on the sides overlooking the pit and the stage.

The theatre could hold up to three thousand spectators, where our present theatres only hold up to seven hundred spectators. The problem with the Globe Theatre was that it wasn't a comfortable theatre, with a lot of restricted viewing seats. Also when there's bad weather most people would experience it. One of Shakespeare's plays shown at the Globe Theatre was Romeo and Juliet. Most of Shakespeare's audience already knew what Romeo and Juliet were about.

The writer Arthur Brooke translated a popular story into English called 'The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet' in 1562.

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Shakespeare adapted Brooke's poem and developed the characters. For example he reduced Juliet's age from sixteen to thirteen and he did this because he wanted to emphasize her youth and vulnerability. Shakespeare also added his own scenes to help develop his own themes. For example in Brooke's version, Romeo kills Tybalt(Juliet's cousin) in self defence but in Shakespeare's version Romeo is forced to take revenge for his best friend's (Mercutio) death by killing Tybalt. Shakespeare also decreased the time period.

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In Brooke's version Romeo and Juliet were married before Romeo is banished but in Shakespeare's version Romeo was banished the same day as Romeo and Juliet's wedding.

Shakespeare included the prologue because it prepares the audience for a tragedy by presenting his two young lovers who are victims of their families' feud. 'From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life.' This also introduces the play as it summarises the story which is about to happen. A tragedy is when in the play the main character is brought to ruin or suffers extreme sorrow.

The effect the prologue has on the audience is that it makes the audience want to know what will happen between these two young lovers and the families in conflict. The first four lines prepare the audience to see the long-standing hostility between two equally noble Veronese families (Capulet's and Montague's), the next lines tell in advance that the way to solve this feud is through the deaths of two lovers, children from the families. It then tells the audience on the third last line that the play will last two hours. The prologue then concludes in the last two lines asking the audience to watch with patience while the actors act it out for them.

The main events which occur in Act One Scene One are the fight, Benvolio (Romeo's cousin) attempts to stop the fight between the servant of the Montague family and a servant from the Capulet family, and then Tybalt forces him to draw his sword. Soon the fight grows rapidly as more citizens are involved and then the head of each family becomes involved. The next main event is the Prince of Verona's (Escalus) speech. 'Rebellious subjects, enemies to peace'. This is when the Prince stops the fight when he demands peace. The Prince tries to prevent this from happening again by giving a warning by saying 'If ever you disturb our streets again Your lives shall pay the forfeit of this peace.'

Meaning that if any further fighting occurs between the two families again their punishment will be death. The next main event is when Lord and Lady Montague discuss Romeo's strange behaviour and depressed mood with Benvolio. The last main scene is when Lord and Lady Montague exit and Romeo enters, Benvolio tries to discover what is troubling Romeo. Romeo then admits he is sad because he loves a lady but this lady doesn't love him back. Benvolio advises Romeo to try and forget her by finding other ladies, but Romeo insists that this would be impossible.

Shakespeare put these events in this order because firstly the opening scene of the fight makes the audience become more interested in the play and then finally meet one of the main characters at the end of the first scene.

In Act One Scene One there are many forms of conflict. The main types of conflict are family vs. family, public vs. private, duty vs. desire, love vs. hate, people vs. law, parents vs. children, friends vs. friends and there are personal conflicts.

The main type of conflict in the first section is family vs. family. Family vs. family is shown when Tybalt is fighting with Benvolio and the only reason Tybalt wants to fight with Benvolio is because of the feud between the two families. 'What, drawn, and talk of peace? I hate the word, As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee: Have at thee, coward'. Tybalt is saying in this line that you have drawn your sword and you are talking about having peace in the streets and how he hates the word peace as he hates all Montagues the same amount he hates hell. The next main type of conflict is people vs. law when Prince Escalus came to stop the fight between the two families and citizens of Veronica and give the people a warning saying if they ever commence a fight in the city again their lives will be the punishment.

'If ever you disturb our streets again Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.' In the next section of the scene the main type conflict is parent vs. children because Lord and Lady Montague are discussing the problem of their son Romeo with Benvolio and asking him if he could find out the matter with their son. 'But to himself so secret and so close, So far from sounding and discovery,' this quote shows that Lord and Lady Montague are worried about their son because the have noticed that he acting secretly and going places where he can not be found by them. In the next part of the scene when Romeo is talking to Benvolio the main type of conflict is personal conflict between Romeo's conflicting feelings. 'Out of her favour where I am in love.' Romeo is implying that he is in love but she does not return it. Shakespeare introduces so many different types of conflict in the first scene because it makes the play become interesting and makes it sound complex.

The first thought we have of Benvolio from his first line 'Part, fools, put up your swords, you know what you do' is that he is a peacemaker. The name Benvolio means 'goodwill', reflecting his benevolent character. He is a good friend, a good relative and a good citizen. Everyone seems to trust him: 1) Lord and Lady Montague ask him to find out what is wrong with their son and 2) Romeo confesses his sorrow to him. I would direct an actor playing Benvolio to be a friendly and caring character who would be unwilling to fight. He should sound calm and firm, he should stand with confidence and pride as he is a member of the Montague family.

Tybalt's character in this play shows he is a quarreller, an aggressive and a hot-tempered young man who hates all Montagues. He seems to think that it is up to him to keep the quarrel alive. At the beginning of the play, he draws Benvolio into a fight. 'What, drawn, and talk of peace? I hate the word, As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee: Have at thee, coward'. I would direct an actor playing Tybalt to be the complete opposite off Benvolio by being unfriendly and uncaring who would be eager to fight. He should sound devious and determined, he should stand with confidence and pride as he is a member of the Capulet family.

Shakespeare included Benvolio and Tybalt as they are very different types of characters. They showed an obvious contrast between good and bad. These two characters have a vast effect on the audience as it would build up their feelings towards each of the characters; Shakespeare does this by making Benvolio a peacemaker type of character and Tybalt a quarreller type of character. This also makes the audience feel not too disappointed when Tybalt dies because he wasn't an easy person to get along with. The audience certainly do not feel as compassionate towards Tybalt to when Mercutio is murdered. Mercutio was a lively, noisy type of character and his language is always full of jokes.

The main type of conflict Romeo has is personal conflict suffering from his love. At the beginning of the play he is in love with Rosaline but Rosaline is unable to return his love because she had left Verona to become a nun. A quote to show that she doesn't return his love 'well, in that hit you miss; she'll not be hit With Cupid's arrow,' meaning what ever you try will fail she will never love Romeo back. 'She hath forsworn to love,' meaning that she has promised to never love anyone else as she is under oath. Romeo then attends the Capulet party; he forgets all about Rosaline and falls for Juliet. This 'love at first site', develops quickly into a mutual attachment. When the lovers meet, time seems to stand still. Even in the middle of the Capulet party, it is as if Romeo and Juliet are alone together. Romeo is willing to do anything to be with Juliet, his words to her are tender, intimate but at the same time there are many reminders of their tragic destiny.

Shakespeare shows that Romeo is suffering from internal conflict by using poetic techniques. He uses personification when Romeo is talking about 'love' as it if were a person. Imagery and metaphor are used for example describing love as 'a smoke made with the fume of sighs and a fire sparkling in lovers' eyes.' Images of light and darkness are used throughout the play. Oxymorons are used to reflect his confused state of mind for example 'o brawling love, o loving hate' 'o heavy lightness, serious vanity� 'feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health'.

The audience would feel pity towards Romeo for what he is going through with love but also have respect for Romeo because he was not involved with the feud. Shakespeare's use of language to reveal conflict has made the play interesting by oppositions of peoples' ideas.

The main type of conflict is family vs. family. There does not seem to be any reason for this ancient grudge and yet many people die of it. Members of each family seem to be governed by a code of honour that requires them to hate, insult and fight each other. Even the household staff become caught up in this rivalry. There are other forms of conflict in Act One Scene One between Public vs. Public (The houses vs. Public of Verona), Parents vs. children (Lord and Lady Montague vs. Romeo), Personal conflict (Romeo's), Duty vs. Desire (Servants Duty vs. Desire), People vs. The Law (Houses vs. Prince), Love vs. Hate (Romeo's love for Juliet vs. His hate for Capulet) and Friends vs. Friends (Romeo vs. Benvolio).

Shakespeare has used a variety of methods to introduce these types of conflict. The opening feud captured the audience's attention and gets them ready for the rest of the play. The conflict then eases off the feud but does not loses the audience's attention as it introduces them more to the main points of the story. Shakespeare introduced so many types of conflict in the first scene to keep the audience interested and entertained.

These types of conflict introduced in Act One Scene One link to the rest of the play because it shows the relationships between the characters which are important to the rest of the play. The different types of conflict that each character experiences defines their personality.

I think that Shakespeare has introduced the theme of conflict well and effectively in the first scene. The beginning captures the audience's interest, it reveals some of the main characters personalities and prepares the audience for the rest of the play. The second half of the scene switches its focuses on the theme feuding and violence to the play's other key theme which is love. I thought Shakespeare had done that rather successfully.

Updated: May 03, 2023
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Shakespeare's Conflict in Act One Scene One. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Shakespeare's Conflict in Act One Scene One essay
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