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The tragic story of Romeo and Juliet is explained briefly to by the prologue. This prologue tells the audience some background information about the play and how it all started off.
The prologue starts off by saying “Two households, both alike in dignity”. This is talking about both the house of Montague and of Capulet, and how they are both respected by the public equally but their need to be greater than each other has caused war between the two families.
The place where these two families are is located in Verona which is a small town in Italy. “Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean” this means that the war between the two families has broken out into the streets of Verona and caused the deaths on innocent members of the public. “From forth the fatal loins if these two foes, a pair of star crossed lovers take their life” this line refers to Romeo and Juliet. They are both the children of these two houses who are constantly at war, and from this they fall in love even though their families are constantly trying to kill each other.
“Doth with their death, bury their parents strife”. This line refers towards the end of the play when both Romeo and Juliet kill themselves, and with doing stop the war between their families because they realised what their argument has caused. The story of Romeo and Juliet is not the first ever story of tragedy between two lovers. This sort of story was first started off by a man called Petarth, his was love poetry but in the form of a sonnet which was fourteen lines long compared to Shakespeare’s which had three groups of four lines and the last two lines which were a rhyming couplet.
However, Shakespeare’s is best known because it involves two people who love each other but whose families are ready to tear each other apart.
Romeo and Juliet are described in the prologue as a pair of star crossed lovers. This is anther word for fate, and back in Shakespeare’s time the audience would have believed in fate without question. Fate is defined as an event which inevitably happens to somebody or something it cannot be changed, stopped or predicted because we do not know what it holds in store for us. However, during the play some aspects of fortune are mentioned, and fortune is defined as chance regarded as affecting human activities. An example of fortune is Act 1 sc.1 when the civil war breaks out between the Montague’s and Capulet’s, and where Romeo shows up but avoids getting involved. He used fortune to change his fate because he chose whether to get into the fight or not and then his fate changed.
If Romeo had involved himself in the fight then the story might be slightly different. However, some members of the audience now believe that the meeting of Romeo and Juliet was a folly, a foolish mistake, they say that Romeo and Juliet met each other by accident and that they would never have met if it wasn’t for a couple of foolish mistakes. Back in Shakespeare’s time the audience believed that a persons dream were a sort of gateway which could tell the future. This is very much the case because Romeo has a dream about his past love Rosaline who he had liked but who did not like him. He is devastated and very sad by this rejection and expresses it by using oxymorons such as ‘loving hate’ which is poetic language and is used to describe strong emotions. This can be considered dramatic because he has just lost the love of his life and soon enough will meet another, Juliet.
The first impression given of Romeo is a young boy who is in love with a woman who is rejecting him, and making him into a sad state an almost depressive mood. He is the son of Montague and is stuck between listening to his father, who does not really care about him, and getting involved in this fight between the two houses. Romeo is looking for a new love and this is foreseen by him in a dream of his. Juliet is a young woman only fourteen years old and she is being pressured into marrying Paris who is in his twenties. Her father does not really want to rush her into marriage and does not want to give consent to this marriage until Juliet is happy and agrees to marry him. So Juliet’s father decides to hold a party so that they both can meet socially.
This is when, Romeo’s best friend, is invited to this social gathering and decides to gate crash the party he invites Romeo but he is still sad about his past love. Benivolo tries to explain his reasons why Romeo should come with him to the ball and how to forget about Rosaline, he tries to explain his points to Romeo and make Romeo understand these points and persuade him to believe in what he believes in. Once at the ball Romeo catches his first glimpse of Juliet he describes her as a person who catches his attention as he says “which doth enrich the hand of yonder knight?” translated it means which person is this that takes my interest. This shows that Romeo has already forgotten about his first love, and that pain she put him through, he now seeks Juliet. This is where the first problem occurs between Tyblat, Juliet’s cousin; he see’s Romeo and will stand him at the party because they are both sworn enemies.
As Tybalt says “I will not endure him”, in other words is trying to say that he cannot stand Romeo and he might do something drastic if he does not leave. We then see Romeo later on when he see’s Juliet on her balcony, and this is when his true feelings for her are expressed. The stage directions given show how Romeo see’s Juliet in his eyes. The directions state that Juliet is aloft in the window and behind he is a light shining through suggesting that Juliet is an angel in the eyes of Romeo. The moon is personified because the text suggests it is now a goddess is now being compared with the beauty of Juliet. “The brightness of her cheek would shame those stacs” Romeo is comparing Juliet’s cheek which is very bright and glowing, and in Shakespeare’s time most girls would find this as a compliment. After Romeo stops speaking, Juliet starts declaring his un-dying love for Romeo, and even states that if he swears his loves to her then she will no longer become a Capulet.
This is a very bold statement and shows the audience how much these two characters love each other. In this statement Juliet says “my only love sprung from my only hate! Too early seen unknown, and known too late! Prodigious birth of love it is to me, that I must love a loathed enemy” Juliet finds out that Romeo is a Montague and is shocked and says that why do I have to love the one person I’m not meant to! She also says she found out to late so she is making excuses up but still does not deny her love for Romeo. Juliet made a comment in the play; she said to Romeo that ‘you kiss by the book’, she meant that their kiss was something she would read in a love story and didn’t think she would really experience a kiss so perfect.
The nurse seems like a mother to Juliet because she is a surrogate mother who is not able to talk to her own daughter and so she takes Juliet as a daughter figure, and treats her as her own child and this is why the two seem to have a close relationship with each other. The relationship between Romeo and Friar Lawrence is very strong. He is more of a father figure to Romeo than his actual father. The nurse herself seems to be a comic character because all she seems to talk about is sex, and at one point she really acts like a mother and becomes disloyal to Juliet which really puts her in a predicament. An example of this bond is when Romeo is banished for the death of Tybalt and Juliet is told by the nurse, but Juliet is worried about is the wedding night.
The nurse makes it out to Juliet that it is Romeo’s fault as she says “blistered by thy tongue,” and then the distressed Romeo runs to Friar Lawrence but he is reprimembered first by the Nurse for trying to kill himself and then by the friar. Despite having a talking to with Romeo he decides to marry them both together. After the wedding night Romeo sneaks down from Juliet’s room reinforcing the symbolism of the balcony scene, but the words said by Juliet take their desire for each other a level further. After her small speech Juliet immediately talks about fortune. Fortune is described by her as fickle, which is caused by accident, and fate which is like concrete you cannot break it because it cannot be changed no matter what. We then see in act 5 when Juliet is rushing off to the friar because she seems to have a problem and that is that she would rather jump off the battlement of the tower than marry Paris as she says ” O bid me leap, rather than marry Paris from the battlements of any tower”.
The only solution that the friar can think of is to give Juliet a potion which will give the illusion of death, which means that she will then be able to run away with Romeo. Near the final scene of act 4 we see Juliet ‘dead’. Romeo is then told at the beginning of act 5 by his servant that Juliet is found dead, but he does not know of the plan to trick everyone and then run away and get them both married. Romeo opens his lines about a dream which he had and what he says is “my lady came and found me dead” he challenges the stars when he finds out that she is dead. This dramatically comes true as if to show where this love is going and how this fits into the idea that dreams could tell the future, give warnings etc.
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