A playwright wants the start of their play to catch the attention of the audience and make them want to keep watching the rest of the play to find out what happens. To do this they might start with something funny and humorous to make the audience laugh, or they might create a dramatic atmosphere to keep the audience on the edge of their seat. A playwright might also make the opening scene as action packed as possible to make the audience want more. Any of these ideas would achieve the aim of involving the audience.
Shakespeare begins all of his plays differently but with something to get the audience hooked on the play. The way Shakespeare starts Macbeth is mysterious and very atmospheric, with something spooky and supernatural, but rather short and so the result is that the audience are left guessing, and the only way to find out what is going on is to watch the rest of the play. However he begins the tempest with an action paced ship wreck to instantly draw the attention of the audience by exciting them and making them want more action, which is a good way of grabbing the audience and keeping them on the edge of their seats.
Shakespeare begins Romeo and Juliet in another different way that will grab the audience’s attention. By describing the play in a sonnet, Shakespeare captures the audience, by telling them everything that is going to happen in this play. He tells them of the fighting and action, he tells them about two families living in hatred of one another, he tells them of “a pair of star crossed lovers” who’s love was doomed from the start, he tells them that only the lovers deaths can bring the two families together.
He tells the audience the main structure of the play, but not in enough detail to make the audience think they know the play and don’t need to see it, just enough to blow their mind with the complicated twists of the story, so the audience is eager to see these points. Shakespeare gives that audience a taster of each aspect of the play. “A pair of star crossed lovers” informs the audience of the fait and love part. “Civil blood makes civil hands unclean” makes the audience realise how much bloodshed there has been between the two feuding families.
“Ancient grudge break new mutiny” speaks of the grudge being refuelled and evolving into something a lot worse than it was before. “But their children’s end, nought could remove” symbolises two important details, the fact that young innocent people have been dragged into the fighting and that only terrible loss that losing a child can bring will make these people realise what is happening around them and how unnecessary this violence and hatred is. Act 1 scene 1 is a good and varied way to start this play with.
The variety comes from the humorous beginning; the action packed fighting in the middle of the scene and the subdued conversation taking place at the end. This scene introduces important characters such as lord and lady Montague, lord and lady Capulet, who are heads of the houses that hold the grudge. We meet Tybalt, highly placed member of the Capulet household, Benvolio, also highly placed but a member of the Montague household, we meet the prince of Verona, some servants belonging to each house, and right at the end of the scene we meet Romeo Montague himself.
The servants, who are the first characters to enter the play, set the scene up, preparing it for the main characters. The servants start with a light humorous conversation with rather a lot of word play that could be taken to have a rude or vulgar meaning. Shakespeare would have wanted to satisfy every section of his audience and this type of humour would appeal to the more rowdy onlookers. His word play included words such as “choler” meaning angry and then shortly after he would use the word “coller” when the servants are referring to a noose, around the neck.
This lighthearted humour creates a jokey atmosphere that livens up the audience. The servants also use word play when they are talking about what they would like to do to “the house of Montague”, one servant saying he would like to chop off the heads of the maids or take their “maidenheads” or meaning virginity. The servants deliberately use language that could have a completely innocent meaning, or have a totally rude meaning, “I am a pretty piece of flesh” and “poor-john”, which is a type of dried fish, are examples of this. They also refer to their “naked weapon” which could have a rude or innocent meaning.
All of these quotations create and add to the humorous, light atmosphere at the beginning of the scene. Shakespeare also uses the servants to start a lot of the action and provocation in the fighting part of the scene. The servants quickly change the atmosphere from one of jokes and humour to a serious, tense atmosphere that involves the audience and prepares them for the action of the public brawl. Because of these reasons, the servants were a good, lively and funny way for Shakespeare to start the play and get the audience interested.
The next two characters that Shakespeare introduces the audience to, are as different as black and white. Benvolio is a more likeable character, he is fair and calm, and will try anything to keep the peace. Tybalt is a more aggressive, fiery, hot-tempered man who will try anything to get into a fight. Benvolio is a peaceful and pleasant person and it seems ironic after his attempts to stop the fight by trying to part the servants “part fools! Put up your swords; you know not what you do”, that he should be one of the people that take it a step further.
Tybalt’s powerful, slightly over the top, statement of ” turn thee, Benvolio, and look upon thy death” show his aggression perfectly. Benvolio’s peacefulness and Tybalt’s aggression clash and create lots of the dramatic tension that the audience sense at this point in the play. Shakespeare introduces lord Montague and lord Capulet at the beginning of the play to show their importance to the rest of the story. Shakespeare portrays the two lords to the audience as two grumpy old men with a pointless grudge that they just can’t get rid of, or remember how it started!
They are delivered to the audience as senile men with a one-track mind, getting the better of one another. Shakespeare also wanted to inform the audience of the fact that as long as these two old men continue to act the way they do, the servants will never stop provoking each other, and the feud will go on and on. The old men’s behaviour is pretty childish and quotations such as, “What noise is this? Give me my long sword” “Thou villain Capulet! Hold me not” Prove that the lords will run into a fight with each other without a second thought.
The prince’s character is a total contrast to any other character that has entered the scene so far. Whereas the servants, Tybalt and the lords were all out of control and pretty irrational, the prince is in control of the situation from the moment he enters the stage to the moment he leaves. He has controlling authority over every other person in the scene. When the prince says his speech he is forceful and rational, although still angry, and uses words instead of actions to get the attention of the brawling citizens, such as “rebellious subjects, enemies to peace”
The prince’s brief appearance in the play has a great impact on the rest of the play, dictating the future of anyone who disobeys his orders, and as no one else in the play is of higher authority, this is of great importance The type of language that the prince uses in his speech is a lot more developed than the language the other characters have previously used in the play. His language is descriptive and reflects the image that the audience might get of the prince, civilised and sophisticated.
The prince uses imagery to describe certain aspects of the two families behaviour and the consequences that follow, as he poetically describes the amount the blood loss between the families as “purple fountains issuing from your veins” “You men, you beasts that quench the fire of your pernicious rage” is far more civilised than the prince trying to attract the attention of the fighting citizens by saying “Oi! Listen to me! ” For these reasons everything about the way the prince comes across to the audience is a fresh contrast to the other people on the stage.
The prince is like a linking paragraph in the play that brings down the high excitement, and acts as a turning point, to focus the audience’s attention on another part of the play that follows the prince’s departure, which is our introduction to Romeo. When Lord and Lady Montague are talking to Benvolio, they give us an idea about Romeos character. The way they talk and express their concerns about him, leads the audience to believe that Romeo is not acting as he normally would. His father, lord Montague, talks of Romeo’s strange behaviour.
“Shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out, and makes himself an artificial night” And of other strange behaviour such as “Tears augmenting with the fresh mornings dew, adding to clouds more clouds with his deep sighs” Benvolio also talks of Romeo’s strange twighlight wanderings and tells Romeo’s worried parents “Towards him I made, but he was aware of me, and stole into the covert of the wood” Benvolio and Lord and Lady Montague all speak of wanting the old, fun seeking, life loving, bouncy, and cheery Romeo back, instead of this strange moody version that has replaced the original Romeo.
In the final part of the scene the audience gets to meet Romeo himself. In the conversation between Romeo and Benvolio, the audience finds out about Romeo’s idea of what it is like to be in love. The audience finds out why Lord and Lady Montague are worried about their son. Because Romeo thinks he is in love, and in Romeo’s opinion, being in love means that you are moody and miserable every second of the day that you do not spend with the person you are in love with. Unfortunately for everyone who knows Romeo, the person he thinks he is in love with does not love him back.
This means that Romeo is hiding behind his idea of love, and he knows this, using fancy language that a normal person would not normally use to explain to his cousin how he feels. “She’ll not be hit by cupids arrow” And the fact that “in strong proof of chastity well armed from lovers weak childish bow she lives uncharm’d” Meaning that the woman Romeo thinks he loves has sworn to live without the love of a man, means that Romeo’s fake sorrow that he has because he thinks he is in love is made worse because of the way she has sworn to live her life.
The audience also find out about Romeo’s views on this woman “When she dies a total waste of this with beauty dies beautiful woman her store” He thinks that when this woman is so beautiful that to live in chastity would be a waste of her beauty, as she could never pass this beauty on through her children. Shakespeare chooses to make Romeo speak in a poetic, dramatic way that would make anyone depressed, and expresses that Romeo is feeling depressed and moody. The oxymorons that Shakespeare gives him show that Romeo is mixed up.
No one understands the idea of love, saying, ‘O heavy lightness, serious vanity’, but Romeo speaks so many that he goes over the top with his mixed-up, confused side, which shows that Romeo doesn’t really feel the feelings he is showing. Romeo walks into a scene that has just seen such hatred and destruction that Romeo feels so out of place, when all he feels is love. He also talks of love as an illness, ‘Bid a sick man in sadness make his will.
Ah, word ill urg’d to one that is so ill!’ and uses classical language making references to Cupid and the goddess of love, Diana, which are both connected to love and show that Romeo is educated and from a rich family. The two different versions of Romeo and Juliet, Act 1 scene 1 directed by Franco Zefferelli in 1968 and Baz Luhrman’s idea are two completely different films! Franco Zefferelli chose to portray the story in Shakespeare’s time and he kept an authentic feel to the story, starting with a ‘bird’s eye view’ of a dulled, misty city with traditional, classical music that first gives the idea of traditional settings.
A deep, soothing male voice speaks the sonnet at the beginning of the film, as a body-less over voice. The idea of the middle-aged male reciting the sonnet is maybe to suggest that Shakespeare himself is the speaker and this makes the film seem a lot more professional. In contrast to the traditional setting of the Zefferelli version, the Baz Luhrman version of the love story starts with the sonnet being read by a softly spoken female reporter as the camera zooms in on the TV screen.
As soon as the reporter finishes speaking, fast camera shots of a modern, hi-tech city are relayed on screen showing statues and the names ‘Montague and Capulet’ in lights. At the same time, a new voice, this one male, starts to recite the sonnet again over loud, booming and dramatic music. Several important words, picked out from the sonnet, flash across the screen to create an impact and attitude that is carried on throughout the rest of the film.
All of these effects make the opening minutes of the film, before we even meet any of the characters, dramatic and unforgettably gripping, a stark contrast to Franco Zefferelli’s quiet, atmospheric version. However, both versions are equally successful in capturing the audience’s attention. Zefferelli then goes on to show an old fashioned traditional castle. As the camera swoops over it down to an old market square showing a typical Italian scene, soft, calm music is replaced by the loud hustle and bustle of the market.
He introduces the servants from the Montague side, dressed in smart brightly coloured uniforms to show unity and pride for the Montague household. On the other hand, Luhrman introduces his Montague side rather differently. He goes straight to a camera shot of the back of an open top car. The servants are wearing brightly coloured casual open shirts, leaning out of the car showing little regard for their employer, the Montague family. Zefferelli starts the fray between the two houses almost immediately. The Capulet servants, dressed smartly but in a contrasting colour to the Montague’s, laugh as the squabbling continues.
This shows the light-heartedness of the present situation. Luhrman also distinguishes the two households servants by the way they dress. The Montague’s brightly coloured and casual, the Capulets smart and crisply dressed in black, looking serious and very menacing. Unlike the light heartedness shown in Zefferelli’s film, Luhrman expresses a threatening, menacing and dangerous atmosphere when the two houses have their argument in the petrol station. This is also a completely different setting to the courtyard market. When Zefferelli introduces Benvolio and Tybalt, Benvolio makes himself heard over the crowd, and stumbles into the scene.
Tybalt struts through the parting crowd, keeping aggressive eye contact with anyone who looks his way. Tybalt’s clothes are also very impressive, all black, loose, relaxed and casual. Benvolio’s clothes are tight and pristine, and his body language reflects the same tense, nervous atmosphere around him. Benvolio uses a very small timid voice when he confronts Tybalt, who uses a deep, strong voice. Luhrman introduces Benvolio and Tybalt, again, in a different way. Two feet dressed in smart black boots step out of a car, and the crunch as one of the metal covered heels steps onto a cigarette is emphasised to build up tension and atmosphere.
This is our first view of Tybalt. Luhrman would have introduced him in this way to keep the air of mystery, and to keep viewers wondering who this person is. Then we have the confusing, fast slung, and shouted words of insult by the servants of each house, before Benvolio comes back from the toilet. Benvolio’s loud emphasis on words as he tries to part the brawling servants soon dies away as Tybalt as struts into the conflict, and as Benvolio suddenly quietly speaks his words of peace, nervousness comes through.