Romeo & Juliet was a play written by William Shakespeare when plays were the main source of entertainment, which if disliked by audiences would end up in actors being hit by rotten fruit and vegetables. With that in mind Shakespeare devised openings to his play’s, which gripped the audience immediately with drama, action or humour. For Romeo & Juliet he chose to capture his audience’s with humour, which is set during a conversation between two Capulet servants Sampson & Gregory.
They discuss the hatred they share for their rival family the Montague’s.
The Montague’s & Capulet’s are two equal families with a history of blood and violence, destroying the civilisation of Verona. However the teenagers of both families’ fall in love in a relationship, which could never be because of the rivalry. Thus beginning the story of Rome & Juliet. The prologue of the play is just a basic introduction to the play, which gives an outline of the family’s history and sets the scene for the play.
In the prologue the families are described as ‘… two households both a like in dignity’ showing that however much hate there is between them they will always be the same. It also mentions ‘…an ancient grudge’ and that ‘… civil blood makes civil hands unclean. ‘
Telling us for years the blood and violence shared between them has destroyed the civilisation of Verona. It also introduces the love, of Romeo & Juliet, that could never be. Their love in the prologue is described as ‘… a pair of star crossed lovers take their lives’ thus giving away the ending of the story and completing the full title ‘THE TRADGEDY OF ROMEO & JULIET’ At the start of Act 1 Scene 1 Samson & Gregory the servants of the Capulet’s grip the attention of the audience with a conversation consisting of a string of sexual innuendoes.
In the conversation they refer to acts of a sexual nature, which they would bestow upon the maids of Montague given the opportunity and refer to taking the maids virginity as taking their ‘maidenheads’. This is intended to grip the audience; as such humour would have been regarded highly back then. This kind of opening seen would keep the audience’s attention as they would want to stay to see if the play would go on in the manner in which it has began. During the conversation two servants of the Capulet house, Benvolio & Tybalt two very opposite men, meet them.
Benvolio is a peacekeeping man who fears the death of himself or someone close to him, in these regular battles. On the other hand Tybalt is a violence crazed, Montague hater who says ‘… I hate the word as I hate hell’ refereeing to the Montague family name and showing how strong his hatred is for the family. However his love of violence is his downfall as Romeo seeks revenge for the death of his close friend Mercutio. The Capulet servants are then joined by two other serving men, one being Abram.
The two families then descend into an argument over an offensive thumb biting gesture made by Samson. After a brief argument Samson orders the Capulets to draw there swords, saying ‘… draw if you be men’ enticing them to draw by insulting their status should they refuse battle. Shakespeare uses short sentences here to build up the tension between the families also making it a fast paced scene. However the brawl is interrupted by Prince Escalus who is furious that yet another brawl has broken out in the streets of Verona between the two families over ‘…
an airy word’ meaning that the two families have been brawling for meaningless reasons. He describes their rage in a metaphorical term ‘… fire of your pernicious rage’ and goes on to describe the men as beasts. Which is followed by a threat to the Heads of the houses, Lord Montague & Lord Capulet, ‘If ever you disturb the our streets again, your lives shall pay the forfeit’ warning the Lord’s that if any of their servants disturb Verona’s streets they shall be sentenced to the Death Penalty.
Romeo is a very unhappy man at the start of the play as he is sulking over being rejected by Rosaline and grieves by locking himself in his room in total darkness. He describes the way in which he the rejection has affected him with confusing images, and use of oxymoron’s reflecting his state of mind of being confused ‘… feather of lead, bright smoke’ this shows who heart break is affecting him mentally.
Romeo’s mother and Benvolio discuss Romeo’s behaviour as he has been avoiding his family and friends and his mother becomes increasingly concerned about his behaviour ‘ O where is Romeo? Saw you him today? ‘ not even his mother knows what is going on with him. This tells us Romeo is a very secretive man who keeps his problems to himself. Benvolio then has a plan to relieve Romeo from his sulking and tells him to ‘… Examine other beauties’ so that he can lure him away from sulking in his room to admire the beauty of other fine women and not sulk for the rest of his life over one girl.
Romeo manages to release all his rage however in a vendetta to seek revenge on Tybalt for the death of Mercutio and falls in love with another beauty the teenager daughter of the Capulets but is so madly in love that when a plan for Juliet’s heart to stop and Romeo to meet up with her but the message never reached Romeo in tie and took himself to the place of Juliet’s rest and takes poison at which point Juliet recovers only to take the rest of the poison to be with her lover.
The two families’ then decide to settle their differences because of the death of their ‘…star crossed lovers’ Throughout the play Shakespeare illustrates his impressive writing skills by leaving the audience on edge from time to time and leaving them asking questions what will happen next in the storyline. From Act 1 Scene 1 alone the audience are left asking themselves many questions will there be more fighting? , Will the Lord’s pay the forfeit of life? , Will Romeo find love? , Will there be any more humour? This is a particularly good introduction to the play as within minutes of the start there is plenty to keep the audience enticed.