Romeo and Juliet is a play that was written at the end of the 1500s by William Shakespeare. It is a tragedy revolving around the relationship between the two main characters, Romeo and Juliet. There is also the underlying subplot of the feuding Capulet and Montague families and how this affects the relationship of the two young lovers.
The play starts with the chorus giving some background information and an advertisement of what is to come, which is in the form of a sonnet.
This helps give the reader a picture of what the two families relationship is and how this stems from an “ancient grudge” which will come to affect the star-cross’d lovers. It also makes clear to the audience that the play is a tragedy when they talk about their “death-mark’d love”, showing that in the it will end in their death.
The opening scene of the play starts with Romeo being sad and depressed, with Benvolio trying to find out what the matter is, as Romeo is being “so secret and so close” with his feelings.
Benvolio eventually finds out that Romeo is depressed as he is “out of her favour where I am in love”. This shows that at the moment he believes that he is in love with Rosaline, despite him only knowing her for a short time and the feelings not being reciprocated as she has taken an oath of chastity and will not be persuaded to change her mind by Romeo. Eventually Benvolio manages to convince Romeo that he should come to the party with him, despite Romeo assuring him that “thou canst not teach me to forget”, making the audience think he may well be in love.
Before going to the party, Benvolio assures Romeo that he will help him get over Rosaline and move on to someone else. Benvolio say how if Romeo will “compare her face with some that I shall show, and I will make thee think thy swan a crow”. This metaphor shows how he believes that looks count more than anything in love, and that he believes as soon as he shows Romeo, a girl who is more attractive than Rosaline, he will be able to move on. Romeo also seems to believe that looks are the most important thing, although he still believes that he is in love and will not be able to get over Rosaline as “the all-seeing sun ne’er saw her match since the world begun”.
The previous scenes make the audience start to believe that Romeo may well be in love, despite it being based on looks. However, when he gets to the party he soon forgets about Rosaline, when he sees Juliet. When describing her he uses metaphors and imagery like describing her as a “snowy dove trooping with the crows”, proving Benvolio was right. Romeo also goes on to question, “did my heart love till now?” as he has never felt this way before, despite never having actually met Juliet, and despite saying that Rosaline was the most beautiful person in the world, he now declares that he “ne’er saw true beauty till this night”.
When Romeo does meet Juliet though he flirts a lot with her, often by using religious imagery. He describes Juliet’s hand as a “holy shrine” and that his lips are “two blushing pilgrims” indicating that he wants to kiss her hand. This religious imagery continues throughout their first conversation together until Romeo kisses her. It is only after this that he finds out that she is in fact the daughter of his enemy.
Juliet also finds this out after Romeo has left in a conversation with her nurse. At the same time the audience also finds out that unlike with Rosaline, Romeo’s new love for Juliet is actually reciprocated. She talks about how she would die to marry him when she days “my grave is like to be my wedding bed”. This is dramatic irony as they do end up getting married, but it eventually ends in their deaths.
Act 2 is started off with another speech by the chorus. This time the “young affection” of Romeo and Juliet is spoken about, and is portrayed as a young crush but may be turning into the start of love. It also talks about how it has started with lust, as they are both “bewitched by the charm of looks”. It also once again states how his love is reciprocated when is says “and she as much in love”.
The play continues with Romeo in Capulet’s orchard after climbing over the wall to see Juliet. Romeo starts talking to himself about his love for Juliet describing the “twinkle in” her eyes and the “brightness of her cheeks”, unaware that Juliet happens to be on the balcony above. The amount of phrases Romeo uses speaking of his love and the beauty of Juliet, makes the audience start to feel he may well be in love, despite him saying many things of the like about Rosaline, who he has already forgotten about. When Romeo finally realises that Juliet is there they talk about the complication to their love, which is the feuding between their families. Juliet then says that she will “no longer be a Capulet” if it means that she can be with him.
Later in that scene Romeo starts speaking of “love’s light wings” and how the “stony limits cannot hold love out”. In fact in four lines he says love, no fewer than four times, emphasising to the audience how much he believes he is in love. Despite this Juliet is still thinks Romeo could just be lustful and even questions, “Dost thou love me?” Although Romeo assures her that he is in love with her, later on in the scene comes the line “O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?” making Romeo seem extremely lustful of Juliet. She seems to understand that she may be taken advantage of, so to protect herself and her good name, she sets a challenger to test him, and asks him to arrange their marriage when she days “Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow”.
Romeo accepts the challenge he has been set, and goes to Friar Laurence’s cell to ask him to perform the wedding ceremony for them. At first the Friar does not understand why Romeo is so excited and asks him “wast thou with Rosaline?” showing that although he knew about Romeo’s love for Rosaline, he did not yet know of his new love for Juliet. So because of this, he is shocked when Romeo asks him to marry them when he says “I pray, that thou consent to marry us today”. Friar Laurence wanders how it is possible for someone to be so in love with someone one day, but the next day wanting to marry someone completely different. From this he draws the conclusion that “young men’s love then lies not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.” This shows what the Friar thinks of the matter and how he feels that the only thing that Romeo and all young men really care about is just looks and that Romeo is basing his love only on that.
Although the Friar thinks that the marriage will fail and that they are rushing it, even saying as much in the line “Wisely and slow : they stumble that run fast” he does though agree to do it, but only because he believes it will bring the Capulets and Montagues together. He says this when he talks about how this marriage may “turn your households’ rancour to pure love”. This shows that although he does not believe in Romeo’s love, he believes that some good will come of it.
After this the two lovers meet at Friar Laurence’s cell to be wed, but before Juliet comes the Friar has some advice for Romeo. He tells Romeo to “Love moderately-long love doth so: Too swift arrives as tardy too slow.” This shows that, as Romeo’s love seems to be changing so frequently, Friar Laurence believes that he is need of advice and needs to be told that there is a right time for doing things, and that he should not waste his love for Juliet as he has already rushed it. After this Friar Laurence marries the couple, and he hopes it is the beginning of the end, of the families quarrels.
The Friar’s hope starts to come true during a confrontation between Mercutio and Tybalt. When Romeo sees what is happening he tries to intervene, even going as to call Tybalt “good Capulet, which name I tender as dearly as my own”. This shows how being married to a Capulet has changed Romeo and how now he does not wish to hurt any Capulet, only love them. This shows that he must really feel in love, as he stops himself from getting himself involved in a fight that has been running between the two families for centuries, showing that he really must care for Juliet.
He does however, become involved, even though he wishes to avoid trouble. The death of Mercutio affects him greatly, and when his killer, Tybalt, comes back, they become involved in a fight, ending up with Romeo killing Tybalt. This is extremely bad news for Romeo and his new wife as the Prince said the death penalty would go to anybody caught fighting. Luckily for Romeo he is spared, but banished from the land, meaning he can never see Juliet again, something to him that seems worse then death, showing his true deep feelings for Juliet.
He goes to Friar Laurence, who tries to console him and solve the dreadful problem that has arisen, but to Romeo being banished from Verona is the worst fate he could have. He goes as far as saying “There is no world without Verona walls, But purgatory, torture, hell itself”, showing how deeply and passionately he cares about the city, and his wife who is in it that he loves so much. He also says it is like “Thou cutt’st my head off with a golden axe”, showing how he feels that being banished from the city, is just as bad as if they would have killed him.
Later when the nurse comes, Romeo is anxious to see what Juliet thinks of him killing her family member when he says “How is it with her? “Doth not she think me an old murderer, now I have stain’d the childhood of our joy”. This shows how much he cares for her, as he is very scared that she might no longer love him, something that would hurt Romeo greatly. All of this helps show how much Romeo is in love with Juliet, and how much it affects him having to leave her.
When it comes for the time for the two lovers to finally part it is a very emotional scene, showing how they genuinely seem unwilling to part for the love that is shared between them. When Romeo describes his “woes” and Juliet talks of her “ill-divining soul”, the audience is given the impression of the great genuine affection between the two lovers.
When Romeo never receives the letter from Friar Laurence and hears that Juliet is dead, he is stricken with great emotion. He declares he will “defy you, stars” showing that he will not let fate decide what happens to him, instead he will act in defiance and heads straight for an apothecary to buy the strongest poison. He then says once he has bought the poison “Come, cordial and not poison, go with me to Juliet’s grave, for there I must use thee”. The fact that he is going to see Juliet one last time, then kill himself, shows how much he is in love with her and how he cannot bare to live without her. He then goes to the tomb, where he goes through with his plan, his life ending with the final word “Thus with a kiss I die”, showing how much she meant to him.
Even though the relationship between Romeo and Juliet seemed to start as a lustful encounter, it grew into something much more. Despite the fact that they were only young and had only known each other for a short time, their true love and feelings become clear at the end of the play. The fact the Romeo was willing to kill himself for Juliet shows how deep those feelings were, and the way in which Juliet was willing to do the same shows how those feelings were reciprocated and how they were truly in love.