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Romeo and Juliet – immortal tragedy of W.S.

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Contents

I. Introduction

1.1. General characteristics of the work

2.1. General characteristics of the plot

II. The Main Part

1. 2. Critical overview on the play

2. 2. Peculiarities of significant scenes (subjects and themes)

3. 2. “Romeo and Juliet” and their main characters

4. 2. Character relationship of Romeo and Juliet with Mercutio and Nurse

5. 2. The language of the play

6. 2. Peculiarities of stagecraft

7. 2. Contrasting the film and the play

8. 2. Comparing A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet (Lesson
Plan)

III. Conclusion

1.3. Studying Romeo and Juliet – criteria for assessment

IV. Bibliography

I. Introduction

1.1 General characteristics of the work

Before making the investigation in our qualification work we should give
some notions on its organization structure.

1. Theme of qualification work.

The theme of my qualification work sounds as following: “Romeo and
Juliet: the immortal tragedy of William Shakespeare” I have chosen this
theme as in my opinion it is this tragedy which is the most famous and
of the best educational value among the works of Shakespeare.

2. Actuality of the theme.

Actual character is based on the thesis that “Romeo and Juliet” does not
only teach us all the best features of human character but also shows us
the worst which we possess. All these, both good and evil, we still
have. One more actual character is in linguistic features: more than 500
new English words were introduced by the Avon Bard in this tragedy in
their peculiar diverse manner.

3. The tasks and aims of the work.

Before the beginning of writing our qualification work we set the
following tasks and aims before ourselves:

1. To investigate the peculiarities of the play and their difference
from other works of Shakespeare.

2. To analyze the moral value of the play.

3. To show the ways how the heroes are related to each other by finding
out oppositions and correspondences.

4. To analyze some popular scenes in the play.

4. The novelty of the work.

We consider that the novelty of the work is revealed in new materials of
the linguists which were published in the Internet. One more novelty is
the analysis of modern screen adaptations of the play made by famous
directors Franco Zeffirelli and James Cameron.

5. Practical significance of the work.

In our opinion the practical significance of our work is hard to be
overvalued. This work reflects modern trends in linguistics and we hope
it would serve as a good manual for those who wants to master modern
English language by classical language of William Shakespeare.

6. Ways of scientific investigation used within the work.

The main method for compiling our work is the method of comparative
analysis, translation method and the method of statistical research.

7. Fields of amplification.

The present work might find a good way of implying in the following
spheres:

1. In High Schools and scientific circles of linguistic kind it can be
successfully used by teachers and philologists as modern material for
writing research works dealing with William Shakespeare

2. It can be used by teachers of schools, lyceums and colleges by
teachers of English as a practical manual for teaching english
literature.

3. It can be useful for everyone who wants to enlarge his/her knowledge
in English.

8. Linguists worked with the theme.

As the base for our qualification work we used the works of a
distinguished Russian linguists Dmitry Urnov and modern Russian
philologist Ilya Gililov The full list of works and authors is mentioned
in bibliography to this qualification paper.

8. Content of the work.

The present qualification work consists of four parts: introduction, the
main part, conclusion and bibliography. It also includes the appendix
where some interesting Internet materials, tables, schemes and
illustrative thematic materials were gathered. Within the introduction
part, which includes two items we gave the brief description of our
qualification work (the first item) and gave general notion of the theme
and the tragedy. The main part of our qualification work includes
several items. There we discussed such problems as subject and themes of
the play, analysis some peculiar scenes and relations of the main
characters. We also compared the language of tragedy with the
corresponding language of Shakespearean comedies having performed such
comparison as methodic ellaboration for the lesson plan. In the
conclusion to our qualification work we tried to draw some results from
the scientific investigations made within the main part of our
qualification work. In bibliography part we mentioned more than 20
sources of which were used while compiling the present work. It includes
linguistic books and articles dealing with the theme, a number of used
dictionaries and encyclopedias and also some internet sources.
Appendices to our work include some interesting information on
Shakespeare and his works.

2.1 General characteristics of the plot

This play starts with a lovely sonnet, an unusual beginning given that
sonnets were meant to be from a lover to his beloved. The sonnet is also
a very structured form of prose, lending itself to order. Shakespeare
cleverly contrasts this orderly sonnet with the immediate disorder of
the first scene. The sonnet degenerates into a bunch of quarreling
servants who soon provoke a fight between the houses of Montegue and
Capulet.

This scene is wrought with sexual overtones, with the various servants
speaking of raping the enemies women. The sexual wordplay will continue
throughout the play, becoming extremely bawdy and at times offensive,
yet also underlying the love affair between Romeo and Juliet.

The disorder within the play is evidenced by inverted circumstances.
Servants start the quarrel, but soon draw the noblemen into the brawl.
The young men enter the fight, but soon the old men try to deny their
age and fight as well. The fact that this whole scene takes place in
broad daylight undermines the security that is supposed to exist during
the day. Thus the play deals with conflicting images: servants leading
noblemen, old age pretending to be youth, day overtaking night.

The Nurse speaks of Juliet falling as a child when she relates a story
to Lady Capulet. This story indirectly pertains to the rise and fall
ofthe characters. Since this is a tragedy, the influence of wheel’s
fortune cannot be overlooked. Indeed, Juliet’s role in the play does
parallel the wheel of fortune, with her rise to the balcony and her fall
to the vault.

The Nurse also foreshadows, “An I might live to see thee married once”
(1.3.63). Naturally she does not expect this to be realized in so short
a time, but indeed she does live to only see Juliet married once.

Romeo compares Juliet to, “a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear” (1.5.43)
when he first sees her. This play on the comparison of dark and light
shows up frequently in subsequent scenes. It is a central part of their
love that important love scenes take place in the dark, away from the
disorder of the day. Thus Romeo loves Juliet at night, but kills Tybalt
during the day. It especially shows up in the first act in the way Romeo
shuts out the daylight while he is pining for Rosaline.

In the fifth scene the lover’s share a sonnet which uses imagery of
saints and pilgrims. This relates to the fact that Romeo means Pilgrim
in Italian. It is also a sacriligeous sonnet, for Juliet becomes a saint
to be kissed and Romeo a holy traveler.

The foreshadowing so common in all of Shakespeare’s plays comes from
Juliet near the end of the first act. She states,

Juliet: If he be married,

My grave is like to be my wedding bed Here and futher we quote the
following issue: William Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet Bantam Doubleday
Day Publishing Co Inc. New York 1996.

(1.5.132).

This will be related over and over again, from her Nurse and later even
from Lady Capulet.

One of the remarkable aspects of the play is the transformation of both
Romeo and Juliet after they fall in love. Juliet first comes across as a
young, innocent girl who obeys her parents commands. However, by the
last scene she is devious and highly focused. Thus, she asks her nurse
about three separate men at the party, saving Romeo for last so as not
to arouse suspicion. Romeo will undergo a similar transformation in the
second act, resulting in Mercutio commenting that he has become
sociable.

There is a strange biblical reference which comes from Benvolio in the
very first scene, when he attempts to halt the fight. He remarks,

Benvolio: Put up your swords.

You know not what you do”

(1.1.56).

This is the same phrase used by Jesus when he stops his apostles from
fighting the Roman guards during his arrest. It seems to preordain
Juliet’s demise, namely her three day “death” followed by a resurrection
which still ultimately ends in death.

The interaction and conflict of night and day is raised to new levels
within the second act. Benvolio in reference to Romeo’s passion. states
that:

Benvolio: Blind is his love,

and best befits the dark”

(2.1.32)

And when Romeo finally sees Juliet again, he wonders,

Benvolio: But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?

It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon”

(2.1.44-46).

Romeo then invokes the darkness as a form of protection from harm,

Romeo: I have night’s cloak to hide me from their eyes” (2.1.117).

This conflict will not end until the disorder of the day eventually
overcomes the passionate nights and destroys the lives of both lovers.
It is worthwhile to note the difference between Juliet and Rosaline.
Juliet is compared to the sun, and is one of the most giving characters
in the play.

Juliet: My bounty is as boundless as the sea,

My love as deep. The more I give thee

The more I have, for both are infinite”

(2.1.175-177).

Rosaline, by contrast, is said to be keeping all her beauty to herself,
to die with her. This comparison is made even more evident when Romeo
describes Rosaline as a Diana (the goddess of the moon) and says to
Juliet,

Romeo: Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon” (2.1.46).

The balcony scene is more than a great lovers’ meeting place. It is in
fact the same as if Romeo had entered into a private Eden. He has
climbed over a large wall to enter the garden, which can be viewed as a
sanctuary of virginity. Thus he has invaded the only place which Juliet
deems private, seeing as her room is constantly watched by the Nurse or
her mother. One of the interesting things which Shakespeare frequently
has his characters do is swear to themselves. For instance, when Romeo
tries to swear by the moon, Juliet remarks that the moon waxes and
wanes, and is too variable. Instead, she says,

Juliet:Or if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self (2.1.155).

Shakespeare often has characters encouraged to be true to themselves
first, as a sign that only then can they be true to others..

Again, note the change in Juliet’s behavior. Whereas she used to obey
the authority of her nurse, she now disappears twice, and twice defies
authority and reappears. This is a sure sign of her emerging
independence, and is a crucial factor in understanding her decision to
marry Romeo and defy her parents.

There is a strong conflict between the uses of silver and gold
throughout the action.

Juliet: How silver-sweet sound lovers’ tongues by night” (2.1.210)

…”Lady, by yonder blessed moon I vow,

That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops”

(2.1.149-50).

Silver is often invoked as a symbol of love and beauty. Gold, on the
other hand, is often used ironically and as a sign of greed or desire.
Rosaline is thus described as being immune to showers of gold, which
almost seem to be a bribe. When Romeo is banished, he comments that
banishment is a “golden axe,” meaning that death would have been better
and that banishment is merely a euphemism for the same thing. And
finally, the erection of the statues of gold at the end is even more a
sign of the fact that neither Capulet nor Montegue has really learned
anything from the loss of their children. One of the central issues is
the difference between youth and old age. Friar Laurence acts as Romeo’s
confidant, and the Nurse advises for Juliet. However, both have advice
that seems strangely out of place given the circumstances of the play.
For instance, Friar Laurence says to Romeo, “Wisely and slow. They
stumble that run fast” (2.2.94). He also advises Romeo to “Therefore
love moderately” (2.5.9). The insanity of this plea to love “moderately”
is made (5.1.6). The use of dreams is meant to foreshadow, but also
heightens the dramatic elements of the tragedy by irrevocably sealing
the character’s fate.

When Romeo goes to the Apothecary to buy his poison, it is as if he were
buying the poison from Death himself. Note the description of the
Apothecary,

Romeo: Meagre were his looks.

Sharp misery had worn him to the bones

(5.1.40-1).

He is clearly an image of Death. Romeo pays him in gold, saying, “There
is thy gold – worse poison to men’s souls” (5.1.79). This description of
gold ties into the conflict between gold and silver. It is gold that
underlies the family feuding, even after the death of both Romeo and
Juliet when Capulet and Montegue try to outbid each other in the size of
their golden statues. Thus for Romeo gold really is a form of poison,
since it has helped to kill him.

The analysis of the first act pointed out some of the numberous sexual
references throughout the play. In the final death scene there is even
the full force of the erotic element. Romeo drinks from a chalise, a cup
with a shape that is often compared to the torso of a woman. Meanwhile
Juliet says,

Juliet: O happy dagger,

This is thy sheath!

There rust, and let me die” (5.3.169).

The dagger is of course Romeo’s, and the sexual overtones are starkly
clear. In addition to this, there is ambiguity about the use of the word
“die.” To die actually had two meanings when Shakespeare was writing,
meaning either real death or sexual intercourse. Thus, even at the very
end of the play, we cannot be sure from the words alone whether Juliet
is committing suicide or engaging in sexual relations with Romeo.

A final comment concerns Friar Laurence. His actions at the end of the
play are remarkable for a holy man because he attempts to play God.
Friar Laurence gets Juliet to drink a potion which puts her to sleep,
faking death, and then he tries to resurrect her. In his attempt to play
God, Friar Laurence is condemned to fail by the simple arrogance of his
act. This tie-in with the death of Christ would not have escaped the
Christian audiences watching the play.

II. The Main Part

1.2 Critical overview on the play

The central pair of lovers are the only characters in “Romeo and Juliet”
featured as changing, against all the others who are static. The
critical opinion on Romeo and Juliet is practically unanimous. The
inseparability of their names reflects the very nature of love: people
seeking “their other halves”, completeness in a union with the other. So
all the critics agree that Romeo and Juliet are the ideal pair of
lovers. The tradition of psychological analysis of Shakespeare’s
characters was founded by S.T.Coleridge in his Shakespearean lectures
(1811-1812) See: T. Coelridge To Shakespere’s Memory Chicago 1997 Col.
of works Vol.14 p.343 . In the seventh lecture he described
Shakespeare’s unparalleled understanding of love: “Shakespeare has
described this passion in various states and stages, beginning, as was
most natural, with love in the young. Does he open his play making Romeo
and Juliet in love at first sight — at the first glimpse, as any
ordinary thinker would do? Certainly not: he knew what he was about: he
was to develop the whole passion, and he commences with the first
elements – that sense of imperfection, that yearning to combine itself
with something lovely. Romeo became enamoured of the idea he had formed
in his own mind, and then, as it were, christened the first real being
of the contrary sex as endowed with the perfections he desired. He
appears to be in love with Rosaline; but, in truth, he is in love only
with his own idea. He felt that necessity of being beloved which no
noble mind can be without. Then our poet, our poet who so well knew
human nature, introduces Romeo to Juliet, and makes it not only a
violent, but a permanent love. Romeo is first represented in a state
most susceptible of love, and then, seeing Juliet, he took and retained
the infection.” The typical Continental point of view is represented by
the words of the most influential Russian critic of the XlXth century
V.G.Belinsky. In 15th installment of his “Alexander Pushkin’s Works”
(1844) he wrote: “The idea of love makes the pathos of “Romeo and
Juliet”, and the lovers’ enthusiastic dialogues are like ocean waves
shining in the stars’ bright light. Their lyrical monologues are full
not only of mutual admiration, but of the proud assertion of Love’s
divine nature See: В.Г.Белинский Мой Пушкин М. ИХЛ 1969 р.178″. Dmitrii
Urnov considers “Romeo and Juliet”’s place among Shakespeare’s early
plays, because it ludicrous by the rapid events which follow. In fact,
by the end of the play we even see Friar Laurence rejecting his own
advice and stumbling to reach Juliet’s grave before Romeo can find her.
“How oft tonight have my old feet stumbled at graves?” (5.3.123).

Mercutio leads the action in this most dramatic of the five acts. When
wounded, he cries out “A plague o’ both your houses” (3.1.101), saying
it three times to ensure that it becomes a curse. Indeed, it is the
plague which causes the final death of both Romeo and Juliet. Friar John
says that he was unable to deliver the letter to Romeo because, “the
searchers of the town, / Suspecting that we both were in a house / Where
the infectious pestilence did reign, / Sealed up the doors, and would
not let us forth” (5.2.8-11).

One of the most beautiful soliloquys is that of Juliet when she beckons
for nightfall, again representing the contrast to the disorder of the
day’s events.

Juliet: Come, gentle night; come, loving, black-browed night,

Give me my Romeo, and when he shall die

Take him and cut him out in little stars,

And he will make the face of heaven so fine

That all the world will be in love with night

And pay no worship to the garish sun”

(3.2.20-25).

The Nurse’s arrival in this act with information about Romeo and Tybalt
reinforces the fact that this is now a tragedy, not a comedy. This can
be seen in the contrast of this scene with the first scene where the
Nurse withholds information from Juliet. In the first scene, the Nurse
is playfully devious in telling Juliet about where Romeo wants to meet
her for their marriage. Now however, the same playfulness is no longer
comic, rather it is infuriating. In this sense Shakespeare turns the
Nurse from a comic character into a tragic character, one who cannot
realize the importance of what she is saying.

Juliet’s dedication to Romeo emerges very strongly at this point. At
first she derides Romeo for killing Tybalt, but she soon has a change of
heart and says, “Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband?” (3.2.97).
She then states that she would sacrifice ten thousand Tybalts to be with
Romeo, and later includes her parents in the list of people she would
rather lose than Romeo. This dedication to a husband or lover is
something which emerges frequently in Shakespeare, and is a point he
tries to emphasize.

Romeo’s misery at being banished is clearly shown in his preference for
death.

Romeo: Then ‘banished’

Is death mistermed. Calling death ‘banished’

Thou cutt’st my head off with a golden axe”

(3.3.20-22).

Friar Laurence tries to show him that by being alive he at least still
has a chance to see Juliet again. Even the Nurse, entering where Romeo
is hiding, says, “Stand up, stand up, stand an you be a man” (3.3.88).

The analysis of the first act introduced the image of the wheel of
fortune. This was applied to Juliet, who throughout the previous acts
rose from a humble daughter to become a strong woman standing on a
balcony, and completely in charge of her situation. However, at this
juncture the Nurse informs Romeo that Juliet “down falls again”
(3.3.101) as a result of his banishment and her loss of Tybalt. Later,
Juliet takes this image even further, saying, “Methinks I see thee, now
thou art so low / As one dead in the bottom of a tomb” (3.5.55-6).

This of course also is integrated with the foreshadowing so common in
Shakespeare’s plays. Lady Capulet comments about Juliet’s refusal to
marry Paris that, “I would the fool were married to her grave”
(3.5.140). This phrase will of course come true quite soon, when Juliet
dies while still married to Romeo.

The conflict between the older generation and the younger comes to head
in the final scene of act three. The Nurse advocates that Juliet forget
about Romeo and instead focus on Paris, the virtues of whom she proceeds
to extol. Juliet, poisoningly sweet in her sarcasm, sends the Nurse away
from her for the first time, remarking, “Ancient damnation!” (3.5.235),
both a reference to the Nurse’s age and to the problems she must deal
with. This leaves Juliet completely alone to face the hostile world Much
in the way that the characaters in Richard VI dream about their fates in
the final act of that play, Romeo too has a dream which tells of his
fate. “I dreamt my lady came and found me dead” does not express “the
basically tragic view of life, as the later plays would; it expresses
the tragedy of individual destiny under tragic circumstances”.

Many tragic love stories have been compared to “Romeo and Juliet”; the
most successful modern versions are not in books, but in film. The most
popular are: The classical American musical movie “West Side Story”
(1961) based on the play by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein,
lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The action takes place against the
background of New York gangs war and is strictly parallel to
Shakespeare’s plot. The Jets, white boys’ gang, rival the Sharks,
Puerto-Rican gang, just as the Montague rival the Capulet; prince
Escalus and his guards find counterpart in police officers Krupke and
Schrank; Friar Laurence – in Doc; etc. The Polack Tony and the
Puerto-Rican Maria follow in the steps of Romeo and Juliet, the major
alteration of the plot occuring in the final scene. Tony is shot by
Maria’s suitor Chino, and the curtain falls with Maria and Chino alive.
“West Side Story” reads like a social document and the Hollywood musical
was celebrated for its haunting music and dynamic dance (choreographed
by Jerome Robbins). In contrast, “Romeo and Juliet” (1968), directed by
Franco Zeffirelli, offers a very careful, historically accurate scene:
Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey starring as Romeo and Juliet were
respectively 17 and 14, which are exactly the characters’ ages in
Shakespeare. “Romeo+Juliet” (1996), directed by Baz Luhrmann, starring
Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, is the most unconventional
adaptation of star-crossed lovers’ story. It is set in futuristic urban
backdrop of Verona Beach, and the dazzling contrast between classical
lines and visual image of modern street violence makes this
controversial movie worth special attention. The most recent
spellbinding version is “Shakespeare in Love” (1998), awarded by the
Academy as the best film of the year (directed by John Madden), starring
Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow. The screenplay was written by Marc
Norman and Tom Stoppard. The film combines the story of

Shakespeare writing and directing “Romeo and Juliet” in 1593, and “Romeo
and Juliet” as it might be performed by its first cast, thus the show of
Elizabethan England incorporates the show of “Romeo and Juliet”. It uses
the principle of “show within the show”. The movie makes a beautiful
example of modern cinema, and the Academy Award must be regarded as the
confirmation of Shakespeare’s triumph through ages.

In Verona, Sampson and Gregory (Capulet servants) complain that they
will not put up with insults from the Montague family. Abram and
Balthasar (Montague servants) appear and the four start quarreling.
Benvolio (Lord Montague’s nephew) appears and tries to break up the
quarrel, but Tybalt (Lady Capulet’s nephew) appears and picks a fight
with Benvolio. At length, officers try to break up the fight, even while
Lord Capulet and Lord Montague begin to fight one another. The Prince of
Verona (Escalus) appears and stops the fighting, proclaiming sentences
of death to any that renew the fighting. At Montague’s house, he, his
wife, and Benvolio discuss how melancholy Romeo (Montague’s only son)
has been lately. Benvolio vows to find out why. Speaking with Romeo,
Benvolio finds Romeo is in love with a woman who has sworn to stay
chaste (Rosaline). Benvolio suggests pursuing other women, but Romeo
refuses. Separately, Paris (a kinsman of the Prince of Verona) talks to
Lord Capulet about wooing his daughter Juliet for marriage. Capulet
responds that she is too young (nearly 14 years old) and must wait two
years to marry, and then only to the man whom she chooses. Still,
Capulet invites Paris to a party in the evening. Capulet’s servant is
sent to invite guests, but he can’t read the list so he entreats Romeo
to do so. Upon hearing of the party, Benvolio convinces Romeo to attend
and compare his unattainable love Rosaline to more beautiful women to
get his mind off Rosaline. At Capulet’s house, Lady Capulet speaks to
Juliet about her feelings for marrying Paris while Juliet’s Nurse
listens on, telling stories of Juliet’s childhood. Juliet, although
hesitant, promises to be courteous. Masked, Romeo, Mercutio, and
Benvolio head to the Capulet patty. Romeo is still depressed, saying he
dreamt a fearful dream of an untimely death that will result because of
the evening’s events, but Benvolio just makes fun of him. At Capulet’s
house, the Montagues attend the party (in masks), Romeo spies Juliet,
and he falls in love with her. Tybalt sees Romeo and takes up arms, but
Lord Capulet attempts to calm him, though Tybalt vows to revenge Romeo’s
intrusion the next day. Juliet, too, falls for Romeo, but falls into
despair when her Nurse informs her Romeo is a Montague, as does Romeo
when he learns Juliet is a Capulet.

While leaving the party, Romeo hides in the orchard while Mercutio and
Benvolio call for him to come out of hiding and go home with them; yet
he will not. After they leave, Romeo appears and speaks to Juliet under
her window, saying “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!” By and by they swear their love
to one another. Juliet tells Romeo she’ll send a messenger to him the
next day to learn the details of their wedding. Having stayed up all
night, Romeo visits Friar Lawrence’s cell and tells him of this new love
for Juliet. Although Lawrence is critical at first, Romeo eventually
convinces him to marry them. In the street, Benvolio tells Mercutio that
Romeo did not come home that night, and that Tybalt has sent the
Montagues a letter challenging Romeo to a duel. Romeo appears and they
tease him for hiding from them. Juliet’s nurse and servant Peter appear
and Romeo tells her to tell Juliet to go to the Friar’s cell that
afternoon to be married. The Nurse returns to Juliet and, though she
skirts around the message, she finally tells Juliet the wonderful news.
Soon, at the Friar’s cell, he marries Romeo and Juliet, and Romeo plans
to visit Juliet’s bedroom that evening.

At the street, Benvolio and Mercutio encounter Tybalt and Petruchio,
leading to Tybalt and Mercutio fighting since Tybalt tries to pick a
fight with Romeo, but he refuses. Romeo tries to break up the fight, but
Tybalt slays Mercutio under Romeo’s arm, then Tybalt flees. As Mercutio
dies, he declares “A plague on both your houses,” since he is only a
friend of Romeo’s and not his kinsmen. When Benvolio informs Romeo that
Mercutio is dead, Romeo seeks out, fights, and slays Tybalt in revenge.
Benvolio convinces Romeo to flee. The prince appears and Benvolio
explains all to him, at which the Prince exiles Romeo for slaying
Tybalt. At the Capulet’s orchard, Juliet waits for Romeo when her Nurse
appears and informs her of Mercutio and Tybalt’s deaths, and Romeo’s
banishment. Juliet falls into despair, realizing she would rather Tybalt
dead than Romeo, but also that a banished Romeo is virtually dead. At
the Friar’s cell, he informs Romeo of the Prince’s edict of banishment,
putting him into despair. Romeo states he would rather be dead than
banished. The Nurse arrives and tells Romeo that Juliet is sad too, but
forgives Romeo. Still, Romeo pulls a dagger and tries to kill himself,
but the Friar stops him and tells him to stay the night with Juliet,
then flee to Mantua. At Capulet’s house, he and Paris set the wedding
date for Paris and Juliet to be three days hence. In Juliet’s bedroom,
Romeo says a tearful goodbye to Juliet. After he leaves, Lady Capulet
appears and, while discussing Tybalt’s death, states she will send a
henchman to mantua to kill Romeo (though she never does). She then
informs Juliet of her impending marriage to Paris. Juliet tells her
parents she will not marry, but Lord Capulet commands it will be so. The
Nurse, too, tells Juliet she should marry Paris. In private, Juliet
decides to no longer trust the nurse and vows to kill herself if the
Friar cannot find a way to save her from marrying Paris.

At Friar Lawrence’s cell, Paris informs the Friar of his upcoming
wedding to Juliet. When Juliet arrives to see the Friar, Paris politely
leaves. The Friar, hearing Juliet threaten suicide, tells her of a
“distilled liquor” she can take to fake death. He explains the drug will
keep her asleep and seemingly dead for 42 hours, during which she can be
placed in the Capulet tomb. Then, when she wakes, Romeo can be there
waiting for her to take her to Mantua. Friar Lawrence send Friar John to
Mantua with an explanatory letter for Romeo. Juliet returns to her
father and apologizes for refusing to marry, causing her dad to move the
wedding up to the next morning (two days early). In her bedroom, Juliet
sends her mother and nurse away, then, after much worrying over the
future, she drinks the vial of medicine and sleeps. Later in the early
morning, all feverishly prepare for the wedding and Capulet sends the
Nurse to wake Juliet. The Nurse wails upon finding Juliet “dead”,
summoning the others to find her and mourn. The Friar instructs all to
prepare Juliet for her funeral.

In Mantua, Romeo’s servant Balthasar arrives and tells Romeo that Juliet
is dead. Romeo vows to see Juliet in her tomb and poison himself there,
buying the poison from a poor Apothecary who illegally sells it to Romeo
only because he (the Apothecary) needs the money. At Lawrence’s cell,
Friar John reports he could not deliver the letter to Romeo since he
(John) got stuck in a quarantined house while searching for Romeo. Friar
Lawrence heads to the cemetery with a crowbar. At the tomb, Paris and
his page arrive and Paris mourns Juliet’s death. Paris hides when he
hears Romeo and Balthasar approach. Romeo orders Balthasar to leave him
alone, no matter what he hears. When Romeo opens the tomb, Paris steps
out and tries to stop him by provoking him to fight. Romeo entreats
Paris to simply walk away and not fight, but Paris forces Romeo to fight
him, resulting in Romeo slaying Paris. In sorrow, Romeo lays Paris in
the tomb, while Paris’ page secretly leaves to call the watch. Romeo
finds Juliet and mourns her death, then drinks his poison and dies.
Outside the tomb, Friar Lawrence arrives and meets Balthasar who tells
the Friar that Romeo has been in the tomb for one half hour. Lawrence
enters the tomb and finds Romeo and Paris dead. Juliet then awakes and
spots Romeo. The Friar, upon hearing noises outside flees, leaving
Juliet with Romeo. Juliet tries to kill herself with Romeo’s poison, but
can find none, either in the vial or on Romeo’s lips. In desperation,
she stabs herself with Romeo’s dagger. The watch arrives, having found
Balthasar and the Friar. The Prince and Lord and Lady Capulet arrive and
learn Paris, Romeo, and Juliet are dead (amazingly to them, Juliet seems
to have been alive, and then newly dead again). Lord Montague arrives
and reports that his wife has died from grief over Romeo’s exile, then
learns himself of Romeo’s death. Capulet and Montague make peace and
swear to never fight again. They vow to build solid gold statues of
Romeo and Juliet and place them side by side so all can remember their
plight.

Between tragedy and comedy the transition is often but slightly marked.
Thus Romeo and Juliet differs but little from most of Shakespeare’s
comedies in its ingredients and treatment-it is simply the direction of
the whole that gives it the stamp of tragedy. Romeo and Juliet is a
picture of love and its pitiable fate in a world whose atmosphere is too
sharp for this, the tenderest blossom of human life. Two beings created
for each other feel mutual love at the first glance; every consideration
disappears before the irresistable impulse to live for one another;
under circumstances hostile in the highest degree to their union, they
unite themselves by a secret marriage, relying simply on the protection
of an invisible power. Untoward incidents following in rapid succession,
their heroic constancy is within a few days put to the proof, till,
forcibly separated from each other, by a voluntary death they are united
in the grave to meet again in another world.

All this is to be found in the beautiful story which was told long
before Shakespeare’s day, and which, however simply told, will always
excite a tender sympathy; but it was reserved for Shakespeare to join in
one ideal picture purity of heart with warmth of imagination; sweetness
and dignity of manners with passionate intensity of feeling. Under his
handling, it has become a glorious song of praise on that inexpressible
feeling which ennobles the soul and gives to it its highest sublimity,
and which elevates even the senses into soul, while at the same time it
is a melancholy elegy on its inherent and imparted frailty; it is at
once the apotheosis and the obsequies of love. It appears here a
heavenly spark that, as it descends to earth, is converted into the
lightning flash, which almost in the same moment sets on fire and
consumes the mortal being on whom it lights. All that is most
intoxicating in the odor of a southern spring, all that is languishing
in the song of the nightingale or voluptuous in the first opening of the
rose, all alike breathe forth from this poem. But even more rapidly than
the earliest blossoms of youth and beauty decay does it, from the first
timidly bold declaration and modest return of love, hurry on to
unlimited passion, to an irrevocable union; and then hasten, amid
alternating storms of rapture and despair, to the fate of the two
lovers, who yet appear enviable in their hard lot, for their love
survives them, and by their death they have obtained an endless triumph
over every separating power. The sweetest and the bitterest love and
hatred, festive rejoicings and dark forebodings, tender embraces and
sepulchral horrors, the fullness of life and self-annihilation, are here
all brought close to each other; and yet these contrasts are so blended
into a unity of impression, that the echo which the whole leaves in the
mind resembles a single but endless sigh. The first scenes of nearly
every play of Shakespeare are remarkable for the skill with which they
prepare the mind for all the after scenes. We do not see the succession
of scenes; the catastrophe unrevealed; but we look into a dim and
distant prospect, and by what is in the foreground we can form a general
notion of the landscape that will be presented to us, as the clouds roll
away and the sun lights up its wild mountains or its fertile valleys.
When Sampson and Gregory enter “armed with swords and bucklers”-when we
hear “a dog of the house of Montague moves me”~ we know that these are
not common servants, and live not in common times; with them the
excitement of party spirit does not rise into strong passion—it presents
its ludicrous side. They quarrel like angry curs, who snarl, yet are
afraid to bite. But the “furious Tybalt” in a moment shows us that these
hasty quarrels cannot have peaceful endings. The strong arm of authority
suspends the affray, but the spirit of enmity is not put down. The
movement of this scene is as rapid as the quarrel itself. Tt produces
the effect upon the mind of something which startles; but the calm
immediately succeeds. Benvolio’s speech-Madam, an hour before the
worshipp’d sun

Peer’d forth the golden window of the east…

-at once shows us that we are entering the region of high poetry.
Coleridge remarks that the succeeding speech of old Montague exhibits
the poetical aspect of the play even more strikingly:

Many a morning hath he here been seen,

With tears augmenting the fresh morning’s dew.

It is remarkable that the speech thus commencing, which contains twenty
lines as highly wrought as anything in Shakespeare, is not in the first
copy of this play. The experience of the artist taught him where to lay
on the poetical coloring brighter and brighter. How beautifully these
lines prepare us for the appearance of Romeo—the now musing, abstracted
Romeo—the Romeo, who, like the lover of Chaucer, Solitary was ever
alone,

And walking all the night, making moan.

The love of Romeo was unrequited love. It was a sentiment rather than a
passion—a love that solaced itself in antithetical conceits upon its own
misery, and would draw consolation from melancholy associations. It was
love without the “true Promethean fire,” but it was a fir preparation
for what was to follow. The dialogue between Capulet and Paris prepares
us for Juliet-the “hopeful lady of his earth,” who Hath not seen the
change of fourteen years.

The old man does not think her “ripe to be a bride;” but we are
immediately reminded of the precocity of nature under a southern sun, by
another magical touch of poetry, which tells us of youth and
freshness-of summer in “Aprir’-of “fresh female buds” breathing the
fragrance of opening flowers. Juliet at length comes. We see the
submissive and gentle girl; but the garrulity of the nurse carries us
back even to the Prettiest babe that e’er I nursed.

Neither Juliet nor Romeo had rightly read their own hearts. He was
sighing for a shadow-she fancied that she could subject her feelings to
the will of others: But no more deep will I endart mine eye, Than your
consent gives strength to make it fly.

The preparation for their first interview goes forward; Benvolio has
persuaded Romeo to go to the Capulet’s feast. There is a slight pause in
the action, but how gracefully it is filled up! Mercutio comes upon the
scene, and is placed by the side of Romeo, to contrast with him, but
also to harmonize. The poetry of Mercutio is that of fancy; the poetry
of Romeo is that of imagination. The wit of Mercutio is the overflow of
animal spirits, occasionally polluted, like a spring pure from the
well-head, by the soil over which it passes; the wit of Romeo is
somewhat artificial, and scarcely self-sustained–it is the unaccustomed
play of the intellect when the passions “have come to the clenching
point,” but it is under control, it has no exuberance which, like the
wit of Mercutio, admits the coloring of the sensual and the sarcastic.
The very first words of Romeo show the change that has come o’er him. He
went into that “hall of Capulet’s house” fearing Some consequence yet
hanging in the stars.

He had “a soul of lead”–he would be “a candle-holder and look on.” But
he has seen Juliet; and with what gorgeous images has that sight filled
his imagination!

Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! Her beauty hangs upon the
cheek of night As a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear.

We have now the poetry of passion bursting upon us in its purple light.
The lovers show the intensity of their abandonment to an overmastering
will. “They see only themselves in the universe.” That is the true moral
of their fate. But, even under the direst calamity, they catch at the
one joy which is left—the short meeting before the parting. And what a
parting it is! Here again comes the triumph of the beautiful over the
merely tragic. They are once more calm. There love again breathes of all
the sweet sights and sounds in a world of beauty. They are parting, but
the almost happy Juliet says:

It is not yet near day-Believe me, love, it was the nightingale.

Romeo, who sees the danger of delay, is not deceived: It was the lark,
the herald of the morn.

Then what a burst of poetry follows!–

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day

Stands tiptoe on the misty mountains’ tops.

Note the exquisite display of womanly tenderness in Juliet, which
hurries from the forgetfulness of joy in her husband’s presence to
apprehension for his safety. After this scene we are almost content to
think, as Romeo fancied he thought:

Come what sorrow can,

It cannot countervail the exchange of joy.

The sorrow does come upon poor Juliet with redoubled force. The absolute
father, the unyielding mother, the treacherous nurse—all hurrying her
into a loathed marriage—might drive one less resolved to the verge of
madness. But from this moment her love has become heroism. She sees

No pity sitting in the clouds– She rejects her nurse—she resolves to
deceive her parents. This scene brings out her character in its
strongest and most beautiful relief.

The final catastrophe comes. They have paid the penalty of the fierce
hatreds that were engendered around them, and of their own precipitancy;
but their misfortunes and their loves have healed the enmities of which
they were the victims.

Montagues and Capulets

At the very beginning of Romeo and Juliet, the Chorus chants that the
blood feud between the Montagues and Capulets has been going on for a
long time.

The audience never learns the source of the quarrel, but certainly the
“ancient grudge” has recently grown stronger. According to the Prince,
brawls that “have thrice disturb’d the quiet of our streets” (1.1.91).

Audiences may wonder why the Montagues and Capulets can’t move forward
and forgive. Blood is spilling in the streets and their children wind up
in an awful situation. What’s the matter with these people? Are they
terribly uncaring See: G. Bargons “Translation of the tragedies” Yale
University Press, New Haven 1958, pp. 23-26?

The audience learns that these are respectable people — “two households,
both alike in dignity,” (Prologue. 1) from the outset of the play. The
Montagues and the Capulets are venerable families of Verona, and as such
they command respect. Even Prince Escalus shows them respect though
their longstanding enmity angers him. The lenient sentence of Romeo’s
banishment (rather than the punishment of death) demonstrates the
Prince’s willingness to cut the families a break. He would not likely
extend the same courtesy to a family of lesser stature

But the respect commanded by a noble family does not give very much
insight into the nature of these parents and their relationships with
their children. Shakespeare leaves those clues in the text.

In only two scenes in the entire play are all four parents are present.
The first is the street fight involving Benvolio, a Montague, and
Tybalt, a Capulet. The elder generation arrives when the battle is
already underway. Old Montague and Capulet immediately want to enter the
fray, particularly when each sees the other ready to fight.

This brief exchange among the four parents provides a lot of insight
into the dynamic of the relationships. First, Capulet demands his
weapon. Why does he want it? Not because he has any idea what started
the fight or because he wishes to aid his nephew, Tybalt, but because
Old Montague is drawing his own weapon. Capulet is angered because
Montague is not afraid of him. Capulet’s response is awfully immature.

And Montague appears no better. He immediately renews the old,
unexplained quarrel. He calls Capulet a “villain,” though Capulet has
not yet done anything villainous. Montague also insists that he not be
held back from having his way with Capulet.

Imagine the foolishness of this scene. Two old men in nightgowns are
brandishing weapons at one another and name-calling while blood is being
spilled around them. Is this noble? Only their wives demonstrate
restraint and prevent them from fighting. Look how each woman addresses
her husband. Though both women are saying the same thing –“Calm down.
You can’t fight.” — each uses a very different tone.

Lady Capulet is bitter and sarcastic. One word, in particular,
underscores her cynicism. Lady Capulet tells her husband, “Who are you
kidding. You are way too old to fight. You need a crutch, not a sword.”

Lady Montague, too, seems to have a pretty tight reign on her hubby. She
says, “Though shalt not stir one foot to seek a foe” (1.1.80). She might
as well draw a line in the dirt with her foot and say “Don’t you dare
cross this line looking for a fight, buddy. If you do, you deal with
me.” Though the women don’t speak to one another or get involved in the
fighting, it seems clear that each is tired of the situation.

Lady Montague, too, seems to have a pretty tight reign on her hubby. She
says, “Though shall not stir one foot to seek a foe” (1.1.80). She might
as well draw a line in the dirt with her foot and say “Don’t you dare
cross this line looking for a fight, buddy. If you do, you deal with
me.”

Though the women don’t speak to one another or get involved in the
fighting, it seems clear that each is tired of the situation.

These are the last words Lady Montague speaks in the play. But, some
important aspects of her character have been established. She didn’t
want her husband involved in a brawl, and she is worried about her son.
She doesn’t seem like such a bad wife and mother.

Taking his wife’s cue, Montague inquires of Benvolio the reason for
Romeo’s distant and aloof melancholy.

These parents are worried about their son. They want to know what is up
with him, and they would like to be able to help.

2. 2. Peculiar features of significant scenes (subject and themes)

In Act I Scene 5 Romeo and Juliet meet. Note that in spite of its title,
this play has very few scenes in which both lovers are present. The
others are the balcony scene (2.2), the short wedding scene (2.6) and
the opening of Act 3, Scene 5. The lovers are both on stage in Act 5,
Scene 3 – but Romeo kills himself before Juliet wakes.

Shakespeare prepares for this scene by showing Romeo’s infatuation with
Rosaline (a very strong “crush” on her). On the guest list for the
party, Rosaline is described as Capulet’s “fair niece”, but she never
appears in the play. Benvolio (in 1.2) has promised to show Romeo a more
attractive woman, but doesn’t really have anyone special in mind, as far
as we know. Similarly, we know that Juliet is there because Capulet
wants to give Paris a chance to meet her – this is why he throws the
party Quoted from: Alexander P., Shakespeare. London: Oxford University
Press, 1964 p.34.

Capulet’s speech to Paris (in 1.2) suggests that Juliet has not been out
of her house much (only, perhaps, to go to worship and confession at
Friar Lawrence’s cell). Maybe this is why Paris (a family friend) has
noticed her, but Romeo has no idea who she is. Immediately before this
scene, Romeo has spoken of his fear that some terrible “consequence
[result] yet hanging in the stars” shall begin at “this night’s revels”
(Capulet’s party). Does this fear come true? Tybalt’s behaviour has also
been prepared for by the brawl in the play’s first scene.

In the scene, several things happen. Servants do their job, Capulet
chats to a friend, Tybalt sees Romeo, wants to fight him and is told off
by Capulet for his behaviour. Romeo and Juliet meet, and each finds out
who the other is. But the most important things in the scene are:

1 the way Romeo falls in love with Juliet at first sight

2 and the way this contrasts with Tybalt’s anger and hatred.

Romeo never knows that it is his presence at the party that causes
Tybalt later to challenge him to a duel. These things lead to the events
of Act 3, Scene 1, where Mercutio and Tybalt die.

The structure of the scene

In the opening the servants speak informally (in prose, not verse),
about all the work they have to do. This prepares for the grand entrance
when the Capulets come on stage, in procession, wearing their expensive
clothing and speaking verse. Romeo’s comments about Juliet alternate
with Tybalt’s attempt to attack Romeo – who does not know that he’s been
noticed. At the end of the scene, the Nurse tells each lover who the
other one is.

Within this general outline, Shakespeare shows the most important
episode is that where Romeo and Juliet speak for the first time. This
has the form of a sonnet (a rhyming fourteen line poem) – which many in
the 16th Century audience would notice, as they heard the pattern of
rhymes.

In Act 2 Scene 1 this scene occurs immediately after Romeo has married
Juliet – which explains his friendliness to Tybalt. The general contrast
of love and hate in the play is explicit (very clear) in this scene.

Another theme of the play that is strong in this scene is the idea that
we are not in control of our lives (the Friar will say to Juliet later:
“A greater power than we can contradict/Hath thwarted our intents”).
Here when Romeo has killed Tybalt he cries out: “I am fortune’s fool”.
What does this mean?

Yet another theme that appears is that of the feud and how innocent
lives are harmed by it. Here it is Mercutio who curses the feuding
families: “A plague on both your houses!” What does this mean? Later
Paris, too, will die because of the feud, as well as the young lovers
who belong to the feuding families but have wanted not to be part of the
quarrel.

Act III Scene 5 opens with Juliet saying goodbye to Romeo, who must
leave for Mantua. In the previous scene the audience has heard Capulet
offer Juliet’s hand in marriage to Paris. We understand why he does
this, but we know many things he does not know.

We can foresee that Juliet will not be happy about her father’s
decision. Once Romeo has gone, Lady Capulet tells Juliet she must marry.
Juliet refuses, and her father angrily insists that she marry Paris or
be turned out of the house. Alone with the Nurse, Juliet asks for
advice. She replies that Juliet should marry Paris. Juliet is astounded
and pretends to agree to this advice, while deciding that the only
person who can help her is Friar Lawrence. Now she feels most alone in
the world.

Modern audiences may wonder what the problem is – why does Juliet not
pretend to go through with the marriage? But Shakespeare’s audience
knows that it is a mortal sin to attempt marriage when you are already
married. If you do this, you will certainly be damned (go to Hell). And
there is no way that the Friar would conduct such a marriage ceremony,
which is one of the sacraments (holy ceremonies or mysteries) of the
church. The Nurse must know this, too, but it seems that she does not
really believe in, or care about, heaven and hell.

The key to this scene is what various people know:

Capulet thinks he knows what has upset his daughter (Tybalt’s death) but
he is quite wrong.

Lady Capulet knows as little as her husband.

Juliet knows about her marriage to Romeo, but cannot explain to her
parents.

Juliet doesn’t know, until they tell her, about their plans for her to
marry Paris.

The Nurse, at this point, knows about Juliet’s secrets.

Only the audience has the full picture. In the scene Juliet repeatedly
speaks ambiguously – with one meaning for the person to whom she speaks,
and another for herself and the audience. For example, the audience
knows that Juliet knows that the Nurse knows that Juliet’s parents don’t
know about her marriage to Romeo! (Think about it.) Later we know that
the Nurse does not know that Juliet is deceiving her. Throughout the
whole scene, Shakespeare makes dramatic use of what people do or don’t
know.

The structure of the scene is a very simple sequence – the one common
element being Juliet, who is present throughout. After the episode where
she bids farewell to Romeo (not set for the Key Stage test), Juliet
learns from her mother of the intended marriage to Paris. When Juliet
defies her mother, Capulet argues with her. He even shouts at the Nurse,
when she tries to defend Juliet. Finally, Juliet asks the Nurse for
help. When the Nurse lets her down, Juliet is left alone on stage to
explain (to the audience) what she is going to do.

3.2 “Romeo and Juliet” and their main characters

Romeo

Romeo may appear at first glance a changeable, inconsistent character.
Perhaps the playwright’s own idea of Romeo is not at first clear, or it
may be that his youth the strange and disconcerting circumstances in
which he finds himself explain the apparent changes in Romeo’s attitudes
and behaviour.

Though the action of the play occurs over a period of a few days only,
Shakespeare gives the impression of the passage of a longer time, and in
the course of the drama Romeo appears to be aged by his experiences. So
while Tybalt, in Act 3; scene 1, addresses Romeo as “boy”, in the play’s
final scene Romeo calls Paris “good gentle youth”.

The Romeo of the early part of the play is definitely boyish but his
serious, pensive and fatalistic traits mark him off from his less
reflective companions – especially from Mercutio, who, with his blunt
speech, his dislike of pretence, his cynical philosophy and his
reduction of all love to brutal lust, serves as an excellent foil for
Romeo.

Romeo’s unrequited love for Rosaline may be evidence of his pessimistic
and perverse character. It seems that Rosaline is attractive not for any
easily identified perfections, so much as for the fact of her being out
of reach (as a Capulet, and sworn to chastity), almost as if Romeo
wishes to be rejected, so that he can make a show of his despair. It is
a pose that invites criticism or even outright ridicule from Romeo’s
fellows, and Romeo appears to relish the argument, which is provoked by
these comments, and by his defence of his infatuation.

Though Romeo exaggerates his gravity and dejection into a pose, yet
these bespeak a real fatalism of outlook, so that he views the future
with apprehension, as when his mind “misgives…some consequence, yet
hanging in the stars”. While Romeo’s frequent references to fate are
often seen as evidence of the playwright’s drawing the
audience’s-attention to the workings of fortune, it may not be so much
fate (in the sense of some adverse force, external to the lovers) which
is at work, as Romeo’s belief in it. There are cruel accidents of
circumstance that befall the lovers, but in each case these are
compounded by their own deliberate actions. There is certainly a
self-destructive impulse at work in their passion for one another.

By frequent reference to Romeo’s youth (as in Capulet’s words to Tybalt,
at the feast) and by Romeo’s own account of Rosaline’s sworn chastity
Shakespeare suggests that Romeo, like Juliet, is a novice in matters of
the heart, and so, like her, pure. This is supported by the fact that –
(as only an inexperienced lover would) he seeks advice from the celibate
priest, Friar Laurence, and confirmed by the nature of his first
conversation with Juliet. This is in the form of a sonnet – a strikingly
formal device in such a situation – in which the etiquette of courtship
is metaphorically represented as an act of religious devotion; the
exchange of words here is almost sacramental in quality.

Romeo is ruled by passion rather than reason: thus, when he discovers
Juliet’s identity, he at once recognises the obstacle which confronts
his love, but is not at all deterred from it by considerations of
prudence, practicality or danger. “My life is my foe’s debt,” he admits,
without further ado.

The exuberance of youth – at its most conspicuous in unrestrained,
spontaneous, innocent passion – characterises Romeo’s conversations with
Juliet after he spies her on her balcony. The lovers say little of
direct importance, but the rapturous exchange of passionate sentiment
shows us how wrong Mercutio’s bawdy jests are in their dismissal of love
as a mere animal appetite demanding carnal gratification. (Shakespeare
hints that this is an error, by letting us see another error in
Mercutio’s prior assumption that Romeo is not to be found because he is
still pining for Rosaline.) Though Romeo’s behaviour immediately after
meeting Juliet may appear more boyish (because less melancholy) than his
earlier gravity, the real difference is between youthful dejection
(producing an exaggerated affectation of adult disillusionment) and
youthful rapture.

With the compliance of the Nurse and Friar Laurence the lovers are
swiftly married. In a way it is this that precipitates the unlucky
series of events, which leads to Romeo’s banishment. Tybalt’s slaying of
Mercutio and Romeo’s realisation of his part in his friend’s death call
forth a new quality in Romeo, which also springs from his awareness of
his adult (because married) status. In his avenging of Mercutio’s death,
Romeo displays a grim determination and manliness not hitherto seen, a
lack of thought or fear for the consequences of his action – he follows
the prompting of passion rather than of reason, just as in his
clandestine marriage to Juliet he has rejected politic calculation, and
obeyed his heart.

From this point Romeo’s actions are more and more dictated by passion,
and less and less by reason. He panics, and flies to Laurence’s cell.
Here he discovers that he is to be banished, and becomes almost
hysterical at the prospect of separation from Juliet. Drawing a hasty
conclusion from the first words of the Nurse (to whom he has not
properly attended) he believes he has forfeited Juliet’s love in killing
Tybalt, and attempts to stab himself, being prevented by the Nurse’s
intervention and Laurence’s plain-speaking. The manliness of Act 3,
Scene 1 has for the moment deserted the boy, Romeo.

Like the earlier balcony-scene, the bed-chamber scene serves to show the
unrestrained, imprudent character of the youthful lovers: at any moment
Lady Capulet may enter (she should, if she had obeyed her husband’s
instructions, already have done so) and Romeo’s life is forfeit if he be
found in Verona. Yet first Juliet, then Romeo (as their roles in the
argument are switched) pleads the case for his delaying his departure.
Juliet’s parting words to Romeo (“Methinks I see thee…As one dead in
the bottom of a tomb”) are not calculated to allay his fears. His
fatalistic outlook and impetuous haste bring about the completion of the
tragedy, every bit as much as accidents of circumstance, or decisions
made by other characters. (These include the decision of Capulet to
bring forward Juliet’s wedding-day from Thursday to Wednesday; the
nature of Laurence’s desperate scheme to prevent Juliet’s “marrying”
Paris; Friar John’s failure to bring Laurence’s message to Romeo.)

On hearing Balthasar’s news that Juliet has died, Romeo acts with
extreme haste, and the servant’s disregarded advice (“I do beseech you
… have patience”) draws attention to this. Romeo’s immediate thought
is of suicide. This might (for a heart-broken lover) make sense, if he
were sure of his bride’s death. But Romeo, surprisingly, seems
unconcerned to learn the circumstances and cause of Juliet’s death (it
might, after all, as Mercutio’s has done, require avenging). If Romeo
were to learn of the intended marriage to Paris and to note the timing
of Juliet’s death, he might discern something of Laurence s intention.
But Romeo does not question Balthasar further (how much more he knows or
believes is thus an academic question), nor does he, on returning to
Verona, consult the friar.

He may have some reason for this: he believes Balthasar has told him the
truth (and he will verify in the Capulet tomb what he has been told).
And the friar, were Romeo to visit him, would perhaps try to dissuade
him from suicide. However, it is Romeo’s failure to enquire into the
cause of Juliet’s supposed death, which guarantees the play’s fatal
outcome – though Shakespeare, at the last, taunts the audience by an
unforeseen interruption (Paris’s appearance, improbably coinciding with
Romeo’s arrival, at the tomb). This delays Romeo’s otherwise hasty
actions in this scene – but by just too little to save him. Though Romeo
acts precipitately in his suicidal return to Verona, there is a
necessary checking of his haste as he contemplates the scene before him
in the tomb. He has time to recognise the fact that he is not the only
victim of fortune, and he generously carries out the dying wish of
Paris, to be buried in the same tomb as Juliet, laying in the Capulet
vault the body of ‘lone writ” with him “in sour misfortune’s book”. He
delays taking the poison long enough to make sympathetic speeches to the
bodies of both Paris and Tybalt. And he delays further as he remarks
that Juliet, though dead (as he believes her) still has lively colour in
her lips and cheeks. (The audience knows why, but the hasty Romeo fails
to discern the cause of this symptom.) Yet it is the haste that has gone
before that has shaped the course of events.

Strikingly, though much has been made of the operation of fate in
determining Romeo’s and Juliet’s fortunes, Romeo, at the last, defies
its influence, and claims he will: “shake the yoke of unauspicious stars
From this world-wearied flesh”.

Convinced fatalists will argue that Romeo, ironically, is fulfilling the
decrees of fate, even as he claims to be free of its influence, because
he is fated to die at this point. Romeo himself, speaking to no-one who
is able to hear him, believes that in taking the poison, he makes
himself free of the “unauspicious stars”, under the yoke of which he has
suffered so much. The deeper irony is that the news that can, even now,
save him will come too late not because of the operation of inexorable
fortune, but because of his own excessive haste in his reaction to
Balthasar’s news.

Eyes, look your last.

Arms, take your last embrace.

And, lips, O you the doors of breath,

Seal “with a righteous kiss

A dateless bargain to engrossing death

Romeo thanks the apothecary for his skill and drinks the poison.

The effects of the sleeping potion wear off, and Juliet awakens calling
for Romeo. Finding him next to her, dead, with a cup in his hand, she
guesses what has transpired. She tries to kiss the poison from his lips,
but failing that, unsheathes his dagger and plunges it into her breast.

Friar Lawrence learns that Romeo has not received his letter and rushes
to Juliet’s tomb to rescue her. He discovers the tomb already open and
finds the sad contents within. Soon the Friar is joined by the Night
Watchman, who had been alerted to the disturbance. Then the families
gather around the star-crossed lovers. The Friar’s mournful account of
their death shames the two families into ending their feud forever.

Romeo is initially presented as a Petrarchan lover, a man whose feelings
of love aren’t reciprocated by the lady he admires and who uses the
poetic language of sonnets to express his emotions about his situation.
Romeo’s exaggerated language in his early speeches characterizes him as
a young and inexperienced lover who is more in love with the concept of
being in love than with the woman herself.

The play’s emphasis on characters’ eyes and the act of looking accords
with Romeo’s role as a blind lover who doesn’t believe that there could
be another lady more fair than his Rosaline.

Romeo denies that he could be deluded by love, the “religion” of his
eye. This zeal, combined with his rejection of Benvolio’s advice to find
another love to replace Rosaline, highlights Romeo’s immaturity as a
lover. Similar imagery creates a comic effect when Romeo falls in love
at first sight with Juliet at the Capulet feast. When Romeo sees Juliet,
he realizes the artificiality of his love for Rosaline: “Did my heart
love till now? Forswear it, sight! / For 1 ne’er saw true beauty till
this night” (1.5.52-53).

As the play progresses, Romeo’s increasing maturity as a lover is marked
by the change in his language. He begins to speak in blank verse as well
as rhyme, which allows his language to sound less artificial and more
like everyday language.

The fated destinies of Romeo and Juliet are foreshadowed throughout the
play. Romeo’s sense of foreboding as he makes his way to the Capulet
feast anticipates his first meeting with Juliet: my mind misgives Some
consequence yet hanging in the stars Shall bitterly begin his fearful
date (1.4.106-107)

Romeo’s role first as a melancholy lover in the opening scenes of the
play and then as a Juliet’s secret love is significant. Romeo belongs in
a world defined by love rather than a world fractured by feud. Tybalt’s
death in Act III, Scene 1, brings about the clash between the private
world of the lovers and the public world of the feud. Romeo is reluctant
to fight Tybalt because they are now related through Romeo’s marriage to
Juliet.

When Tybalt kills Mercutio, however, Romeo (out of loyalty to his friend
and anger at Tybalt’s arrogance) kills Tybalt, thus avenging his
friend’s death. In one ill-fated moment, he placed his love of Juliet
over his concern for Mercutio, and Mercutio was killed. Romeo then
compounds the problem by placing his own feelings of anger over any
concerns for Juliet by killing Tybalt.

Romeo’s immaturity is again manifest later when he learns of his
banishment. He lies on the floor of the Friar’s cell, wailing and crying
over his fate. When the nurse arrives, he clumsily attempts suicide. The
Friar reminds him to consider Juliet and chides him for not thinking
through the consequences of his actions for his wife.

The Friar then offers a course of action to follow, and Romeo becomes
calm. Later, when Romeo receives the news of Juliet’s death, he exhibits
maturity and composure as he resolves to die. His only desire is to be
with Juliet: “Well Juliet, I will lie with thee tonight” (V.I.36). His
resolution is reflected in the violent image he uses to order Balthasar,
his servant, to keep out of the tomb:

The time and my intents are savage-wild,

More fierce and more inexorable far .

Than empty tigers or the roaring sea.

(V.3.37)

After killing Paris, Romeo remorsefully takes pity on him and fulfills
Paris’ dying wish to be laid next to Juliet. Romeo notes that both he
and Paris are victims of fate and describes Paris as: “One writ with me
in sour misfortune’s book” (V.3.83) since Paris experienced an
unreciprocated love from Juliet similar to Romeo’s unrequited love for
Rosaline. Romeo is also filled with compassion because he knows that
Paris has died without understanding the true love that he and Juliet
shared.

Romeo’s final speech recalls the Prologue in which the “star-cross’d”
lives of the lovers are sacrificed to end the feud:

Ohere.

Will I set up my everlasting rest

And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars

From this world wearied flesh.

The Nurse

When we first meet the Nurse, we see her as a coarse and talkative, but
well-intentioned woman, without affectation, and having Juliet’s best
interests at heart. Finally we discover, as Juliet does (passing
judgement for us) that the Nurse does not really understand Juliet’s
love for Romeo and her faithfulness. The Nurse is shown to be
essentially lewd and promiscuous.

The first thing that strikes us about the Nurse is her manner of
speaking.

She is extremely garrulous, prone to trivial and irrelevant or
inappropriate reminiscences, Thus, when Lady Capulet broaches the
subject of Juliet’s marriage, her reference to her daughter’s age
provokes from the Nurse a stream of recollections of Juliet’s infancy
and childhood. This shows the Nurse to be both long-winded and
insensitive to the importance Lady Capulet accords to the subject of her
daughter’s future.

In her speeches the Nurse is rarely logical: thus, her evidence for
determining Juliet’s age is derived by estimating her birth to have
occurred three years before a celebrated earthquake (three years being
an approximation of the time taken for Juliet’s weaning); in her
advising Juliet to take Paris as husband in place of Romeo, the Nurse
again produces confused reasoning, changing her ground several times.

The Nurse’s conversation is marked by frequent and un-self-conscious use
of coarse and earthy expressions: she is not able (or does not realise
that she ought) to refrain from such coarseness even when speaking to
Lady Capulet – happily referring to her late husband’s improper
prediction concerning Juliet, and comparing the bump on Juliet’s
forehead to “a young cockerel’s stone”.

Lady Capulet’s changing of her mind, to allow the Nurse to be privy to
her suggesting to Juliet that she consider Paris as a suitor tells us
several things: Lady Capulet’s initial uncertainty doubtless stems from
her fear that the Nurse may (as she does) interrupt her own words to
Juliet; it also tells us, however, that the Nurse is in the confidence
of her mistress who, despite her faults, values her opinion.

The Nurse is evidently a much closer confidante of Juliet, her charge,
than of her employers, as she happily assists Juliet in her secret
marriage to Romeo. At the time of these events, we assume that the Nurse
is motivated by affection for Juliet, and an appreciation of the noble
character of her love for Romeo.

Whether Mercutio knows the Nurse rather better than Juliet (which seems
improbable) or whether (which seems more likely) his remarks are merely
intended to provoke a rather coarse old woman, his calling the Nurse (in
Act 2; scene 4): “A bawd, a bawd, a bawd!” is wholly just. Ironically
enough, on this occasion she is trying to appear genteel (hence her
instruction to her servant: “My fan, Peter”) and she takes offence at
Mercutio’s “ropery”. Yet her protestations against Mercutio’s remarks
seem to confirm her vulgarity, as she uses very common language,
referring to “flirt gills” and “skains mates”.

That the Nurse is a bawd becomes apparent (in 3; 5) in her advice to
Juliet to marry Paris, on the grounds that Romeo is effectively lost to
her. It is clear that the Nurse thinks Juliet should have a man in her
bed, and is not troubled by the nicety of marriage – bigamy, for her, is
no sin (so long as no-one finds it out, and she won’t tell). She has no
inkling that Juliet will take offence at this, and fails to perceive the
bitter irony of Juliet’s “Amen”. Knowing this, we now understand the
relish with which the Nurse has earlier told of her husband’s prediction
that Juliet would one day fall backward (before a man’s embraces). Her
assistance of the young lovers in their secret marriage has been
principally motivated by the prospect of seeing Juliet bedded.

The audience watches and listens with revulsion as the Nurse later
attempts to rouse the drugged Juliet on the morning set for her wedding
to Paris, by coarse remarks about the count’s designs on her. She last
appears in the play greatly distraught by her discovery that Juliet is
(apparently) dead, yet not giving a second thought to the far-worse fate
to which she would happily have delivered her. Juliet’s reproach and
judgement of her have been well-merited.

The Nurse’s key function within the play is to act as a go-between for
Romeo and Juliet, and is the only other character besides Friar Laurence
to know of their wedding. The Nurse, despite being a servant in the
Capulet household, has a role equivalent to that of Juliet’s mother and
regards Juliet as her own daughter.

The Nurse’s relationship with Juliet focuses attention on Juliet’s age.
In Juliet’s first scene, the Nurse repeatedly asserts that Juliet has
not yet had her 14th birthday. In contrast to Juliet’s youth, the Nurse
is old and enjoys complaining about her aches and pains. Juliet’s
frustration at having to rely upon the Nurse as her messenger is used to
comic effect in Act II, Scene 5, when Juliet is forced to listen to the
Nurse’s ailments while trying to coax from her the news of her wedding
plans:

The Nurse, like Mercutio, loves to talk at length. She often repeats
herself, and her bawdy references to the sexual aspect of love set the
idealistic love of Romeo and Juliet apart from the love described by
other characters in the play. The Nurse doesn’t share Juliet’s idea of
love; for her, love is a temporary and physical relationship, so she
can’t understand the intense and spiritual love Romeo and Juliet share.
When the Nurse brings Juliet news of Romeo’s wedding arrangements, she
focuses on the pleasures of Juliet’s wedding night,

Nurse: I am the drudge, and toil in your delight,

But you shall bear the burden soon at night” (II.5.75-76).

This clash in outlook manifests itself when she advises Juliet to forget
the banished Romeo and marry Paris, betraying Juliet’s trust by
advocating a false marriage:

I think it best you married with the County.

O, he’s a lovely gentleman.

Romeo’s a dishclout to him.

(III.5.218-220)

Juliet can’t believe that the Nurse offers such a course of action after
she praised Romeo and helped bring the couple together. The Nurse is
ultimately subject to the whims of society. Her social position places
her in the serving class—she is not empowered to create change around
her. Her maternal instinct toward Juliet buoys her to aid Juliet in
marrying Romeo; however, when Capulet becomes enraged, the Nurse
retreats quickly into submission and urges Juliet to forget Romeo.

Mercutio

Mercutio, the witty skeptic, is a foil for Romeo, the young Petrarchan
lover. Mercutio mocks Romeo’s vision of love and the poetic devices he
uses to express his emotions: Romeo, Humors! Madman! Passion! Lover!

Appear thou in the likeness of a sigh,

Speak but one rhyme and I am satisfied.

(0.1.7-9)

Mercutio is an anti-romantic character who, like Juliet’s Nurse, regards
love as an exclusively physical pursuit. He advocates an adversarial
concept of love that contrasts sharply with Romeo’s idealized notion of
romantic union. In Act I, Scene 4, when Romeo describes his love for
Rosaline using the image of love as a rose with thorns, Mercutio mocks
this conventional device by punning bawdily;

If love be rough with you, be rough with love;

Prick love for pricking and you beat love down.

(1.4.27-28)

The Queen Mab speech in Act I, Scene 4, displays Mercutio’s eloquence
and vivid imagination, while illustrating his cynical side. Mercutio,
unlike Romeo, doesn’t believe that dreams can act as portents. Fairies
predominate in the dream world Mercutio presents, and dreams are merely
the result of the anxieties and desires of those who sleep.

Mercutio’s speech, while building tension for Romeo’s first meeting with
Juliet at the Capulet ball, indicates that although Mercutio is Romeo’s
friend, he can never be his confidant. As the play progresses, Mercutio
remains unaware of Romeo’s love and subsequent marriage to Juliet.

When Mercutio hears of Tybalt’s challenge to Romeo, he is amused because
he regards Romeo as a lover whose experience of conflict is limited to
the world of love. So he scornfully asks:

“And is he such a man to encounter Tybalt?” (II.3.16-17). Mercutio seems
to exist outside the two dominant spheres of Verona because he takes
neither the world of love nor the feud seriously. However, Mercutio,
like Tybalt, is quick-tempered and they are both ready to draw their
swords at the slightest provocation.

Mercutio is antagonistic toward Tybalt by suggesting that Tybalt is a
follower of the new trends in swordsmanship, which he regards as
effeminate. Like Tybalt, Mercutio has a strong sense of honor and can’t
understand Romeo’s refusal to fight Tybalt, calling it, “0 calm,
dishonorable, vile submission” (III. 1.72). Mercutio demonstrates his
loyalty and courage when he takes up Tybalt’s challenge to defend his
friend’s name.

The humor with which Mercutio describes his fatal wound confirms his
appeal as a comic character; “No ’tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide
as a church door, but ’tis enough, ’twill serve” (III. 1.94—95).
Mercutio’s death creates sympathy for Romeo’s enraged, emotional
reaction in avenging his friend’s death. His death marks a distinct
turning point in the play as tragedy begins to overwhelm comedy, and the
fates of the protagonists darken.

Friar

Friar Laurence is presented as a holy man who is trusted and respected
by the other characters.

The Friar’s role as the friend and advisor to Romeo and Juliet
highlights the conflict between parents and their children within the
play. The centrality of the Friar’s role suggests a notable failure of
parental love. Romeo and Juliet can’t tell their parents of their love
because of the quarrel between the two families.

In their isolation, Romeo and Juliet turn to the Friar who can offer
neutral advice. At first, the Friar can’t believe how quickly Romeo has
abandoned Rosaline and fallen in love with Juliet, so he reminds Romeo
of the suddenness of his decisions. The Friar uses the formal language
of rhyme and proverbs to stress the need for caution to Romeo. However,
he agrees to marry Romeo and Juliet in the hope that their marriage will
heal the rift between the Montagues and the Capulets. His decision to
marry the lovers is well-meaning but indicates that he has been naive in
his assessment of the feud and hasn’t reflected on the implications of
Romeo and Juliet’s clandestine marriage.

The conflict between youth and old age also manifests itself in the
Friar’s relationship with Romeo and Juliet. When Friar Laurence tries to
soothe Romeo’s grief at the news of his banishment with rational
argument, Romeo quickly responds that if the Friar were’young and in
love, he wouldn’t accept such advice any better.

The Friar’s knowledge of plants—especially their dual qualities to heal
and hurt—play an important role in the action that follows. His attempts
to heal the feud by reversing nature— causing Juliet’s “death” in order
to bring about acceptance of her life with Romeo is notably unnatural.
The Friar must extricate Juliet from the tomb in order to save her
life—another reversal of nature. This use of nature for unnatural
purposes precipitates many of the consequences leading to the tragic
conclusion of the play. Ultimately, the Friar acts distinctly human—he
flees the tomb and abandons Juliet.

4.2 Character relationships of Romeo and Juliet with Mercutio and Nurse

Shakespeare uses Mercutio and the Nurse to explore the relationship
between comedy and tragedy in Romeo and Juliet. These characters, in
their comic roles, serve as foils for Romeo and Juliet by highlighting
the couple’s youth and innocence as well as the pure and vulnerable
quality of their love.

Mercutio, Romeo’s quick-tempered, witty friend, links the comic and
violent action of the play.

He is initially presented as a playful rogue who possesses both a
brilliant comic capacity and an opportunistic, galvanized approach to
love. Later, Mercutio’s death functions as a turning point for the
action of the play. In death, he becomes a tragic figure, shifting the
play’s direction from comedy to tragedy.

Mercutio’s first appearance in Act I, Scene 4, shows Romeo and his
friend to be of quite opposite characters. Mercutio mocks Romeo as a
helpless victim of an overzealous, undersatisfied love. Romeo describes
his love for Rosaline using the cliched image of the rose with thorns to
stress the pain of his unrequited love.

Mercutio ridicules Romeo as a fashionable, Petrarchan lover for his use
of conventional poetic imagery. He puns lewdly, “If love be rough with
you, be rough with love; / Prick love for pricking and you beat love
down.” Whereas the naTve Romeo is in love with the idea of being in love
and devoted to the distant Rosaline, Mercutio is a predatory lover,
hunting for objectified, female prey. His bawdy wit thus sets up Romeo
to take the role of the innocent tragic hero.

When Mercutio delivers his Queen Mab speech (also in Act I, Scene 4), he
again characterizes Romeo as a clueless romantic for believing that
dreams portend future events. Dismissing Romeo’s Petrarchan outlook,
Mercutio presents his vision of a fantasy world in which dreams are the
products of people’s fleshly desires. The speech reflects both
Mercutio’s eloquent wit and his aggressive disposition. In his speech,
the comic activities of the mischievous fairies are juxtaposed with the
violent images of a soldier’s dream:

Sometime she driveth o’er a soldier’s neck

And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,

Of breaches, ambuscados, Spanish blades ….

(1.4.82-84)

After falling in love with Juliet, Romeo cannot confide in his
anti-romantic friend, so Mercutio never discovers Romeo’s love for
Juliet. Mercutio’s ignorance of Romeo’s new love, although potentially
comical, propels him to the fatal fight with Tybalt in Act III, Scene 1.
Mercutio’s death enables Shakespeare to develop him as a tragic figure
and alter the trajectory of the play from a comic to a tragic course.

Mercutio’s final speech employs dark comedy to illustrate the tragic
significance of the latest violence. After being stabbed by Tybalt, he
admits his wound is fatal. Mercutio puns, “Ask for me tomorrow and you
shall find me a grave man.” Mercutio dies frustrated and angry—shocked
and in disbelief that his fate is upon him. Until and even in the midst
of that moment, his ignorance of the underlying forces that brought him
to such an untimely end provides much of the ironic humor for the play.

In Act II, Scene 1, Mercutio and Benvolio’s search for Romeo after the
feast provides a comic interlude between Romeo and Juliet’s first
meeting and the famous balcony scene in Act II, Scene 2, juxtaposing two
very different and conflicting attitudes to love. Mercutio and Benvolio
call to Romeo, who has climbed into Capulet’s orchard in the hope of
seeing Juliet again. Mercutio’s teasing is ironic because he is unaware
that Romeo has fallen in love with Juliet and mistakenly invokes images
of Rosaline to call him: I conjure thee by Rosaline’s bright eyes, By
her high forehead and her scarlet lip, By her fine foot, straight leg,
and quivering thigh, And the demesnes that there adjacent lie.
(11.1.17-21)

Mercutio’s coarse physical imagery and sexual jokes contrast sharply
with Romeo’s religious imagery for love. Romeo describes Juliet as
“bright angel” and “dear saint.” Shakespeare uses Mercutio’s cynical
attitude to distinguish Romeo and Juliet’s love as innocent, spiritual,
and intense. Because the audience is aware that Mercutio’s speech falls
on deaf ears, Mercutio’s speech illustrates that the Romeo, the
lovestruck youth, has begun to mature in his outlook on life and love. :

Like Mercutio, Juliet’s Nurse views love as a purely sexual and
temporary relationship, as opposed to Homeo and Juliet’s love which is
presented as fragile and eternal. The Nurse’s bawdy humor is less
sophisticated than Mercutio’s. Her comedy comes from the Nurse’s
misunderstanding of language and her habit of repeating herself, rather
than clever wordplay. For example, in Act 1, Scene 3, the Nurse
exasperates Lady Capulet, who has come to talk to Juliet of the proposed
marriage to Paris, with her repeated and unrelated assertions that
Juliet is only 13 years old.

Likewise, when the Nurse laughingly recounts the lewd joke her husband
made when Juliet fell over learning to walk—”Thou wilt fall backward
when thou hast more wit”—her earthy humor contrasts with Juliet’s
adolescent innocence, while simultaneously pointing to Juliet’s sexual
development from a girl to a woman. Reflecting on the sensual pleasures
that await Juliet on her wedding night, the Nurse puns about the likely
consequence of pregnancy for her young charge: “I am the drudge, and
toil in your delight, / But you shall bear the burden soon at night.”
The Nurse’s preoccupation with sexual love prevents her from
understanding the nature of Juliet’s love for Romeo. Even though she
fully understands that Juliet is being bartered like livestock, she
cannot see that any other social fate could exist for women. So, in Act
III, Scene 5, the Nurse advises Juliet to forget Romeo and marry Paris
when Capulet demands it. This development of her character further
isolates the couple and fuels the tragic consequences of their elevated
love. Thus, while the Nurse drives some of the most comedic scenes in
the play, within her comic commentaries are woven the subtler threads of
tragedy created by enslavement to social conventions.

Shakespeare uses the comic roles of Mercutio and the Nurse to develop
the roles of Romeo and Juliet as young tragic lovers. Prior to Tybalt
and Mercutio’s deaths, the Nurse had served primarily as comic relief.
After Mercutio dies, the Nurse’s comic role changes to a less
sympathetic one—helping to shift the focus to the tragic plight of Romeo
and Juliet. Both comic characters’ rejection of the ideal of love shared
by Romeo and Juliet emphasizes the vulnerable quality of that love and
its inability to survive in the world of the play.

Juliet

In Act 1 Scene 5 Romeo and Juliet meet. Note that in spite of its title,
this play has very few scenes in which both lovers are present. The
others are the balcony scene (2.2), the short wedding scene (2.6) and
the opening of Act 3, Scene 5. The lovers are both on stage in Act 5,
Scene 3 – but Romeo kills himself before Juliet wakes.

Shakespeare prepares for this scene by showing Romeo’s infatuation with
Rosaline (a very strong “crush” on her). On the guest list for the
party, Rosaline is described as Capulet’s “fair niece”, but she never
appears in the play. Benvolio (in 1.2) has promised to show Romeo a more
attractive woman, but doesn’t really have anyone special in mind, as far
as we know. Similarly, we know that Juliet is there because Capulet
wants to give Paris a chance to meet her – this is why he throws the
party.

Capulet’s speech to Paris (in 1.2) suggests that Juliet has not been out
of her house much (only, perhaps, to go to worship and confession at
Friar Lawrence’s cell). Maybe this is why Paris (a family friend) has
noticed her, but Romeo has no idea who she is. Immediately before this
scene, Romeo has spoken of his fear that some terrible “consequence
[result] yet hanging in the stars” shall begin at “this night’s revels”
(Capulet’s party). Does this fear come true? Tybalt’s behaviour has also
been prepared for by the brawl in the play’s first scene.

In the scene, several things happen. Servants do their job, Capulet
chats to a friend, Tybalt sees Romeo, wants to fight him and is told off
by Capulet for his behaviour. Romeo and Juliet meet, and each finds out
who the other is. But the most important things in the scene are:

3 the way Romeo falls in love with Juliet at first sight

4 and the way this contrasts with Tybalt’s anger and hatred.

Romeo never knows that it is his presence at the party that causes
Tybalt later to challenge him to a duel. These things lead to the events
of Act 3, Scene 1, where Mercutio and Tybalt die.

The structure of the scene

In the opening the servants speak informally (in prose, not verse),
about all the work they have to do. This prepares for the grand entrance
when the Capulets come on stage, in procession, wearing their expensive
clothing and speaking verse. Romeo’s comments about Juliet alternate
with Tybalt’s attempt to attack Romeo – who does not know that he’s been
noticed. At the end of the scene, the Nurse tells each lover who the
other one is.

Within this general outline, Shakespeare shows the most important
episode is that where Romeo and Juliet speak for the first time. This
has the form of a sonnet (a rhyming fourteen line poem) – which many in
the 16th Century audience would notice, as they heard the pattern of
rhymes.

In Act 3, Scene 5 we find out quite a lot about all of the characters
here. Juliet, only moments after being together with Romeo, is in a
difficult situation. At first she tries simple defiance, like many a
teenager. At the same time she uses irony – saying things that have a
different real meaning from what appears on the surface. But she is also
resourceful and ultimately very brave. Lady Capulet at first seems
concerned for her daughter, but when Juliet defies her, she passes the
problem on to her husband.

Capulet cares about Juliet, but he has given his word to Paris, and now
he is angry and bullying. But it must seem to him that Juliet is being
proud and ungrateful. Modern audiences should remember that arranged
marriages are normal for people of Juliet’s class, and that Paris, a
wealthy relation of the Prince, is a very good prospective husband for
her. She is beyond the usual age for marriage, and it is her father who
in the past did not wish to marry her off. So now he feels he has
spoiled her, and made her “proud”.

This scene makes the audience completely rethink our opinion of the
Nurse. She has always seemed to care for Juliet and understand what
matters to her. Now it becomes clear that the Nurse has never really
understood her. We are made to think again about coarse remarks the
Nurse makes in Act 1, scene 3, and Mercutios’s even coarser insults in
Act 2, Scene 4. In this scene he calls her a “bawd” and suggests that
she is “an old hare hoar” (“a hairy old whore”), as well as speaking
obscenely about “the bawdy hand of the dial” being on “the prick of
noon”. Perhaps Mercutio knows, or can see, what she is really like.

At the end of Act 3, scene 5 Juliet, now alone, says that from now on
she will not trust the Nurse. She only speaks to her one more time in
the play, very briefly in Act 4, Scene 3, and here too Juliet misleads
her. It is shocking to think that the Nurse cares more about Juliet
marrying, and perhaps having babies, than about her eternal soul or
about her real love for Romeo, her husband.

5.2 The language of the play

The interesting features of the play’s language can be obviously seen in
the first act (scene 5). When Romeo sees Juliet he speaks about her,
using metaphor: “She doth teach the torches to burn bright”. This tells
us that Juliet’s beauty is much brighter than that of the torches – so
she is very beautiful. She is so much brighter that she teaches the
torches how to shine – a poetic exaggeration, since torches can’t really
be taught. It is important for Romeo to say this, as the audience cannot
see Juliet’s beauty directly – in Shakespeare’s theatre a boy, perhaps
seen at some distance, plays Juliet. But the metaphor also tells us that
it is night, as Romeo can see the torches he compares her to. The
audience must imagine this, as the play is performed by daylight, and no
lighted torch would be safe in the theatre (the real Globe theatre was
eventually destroyed by fire). At a private performance, at night in a
rich person’s house, there might be real torches on the walls, of course
Quoted from the book: Alfred Bates The Drama: Its History, Literature
and Influence on Civilization, vol. 13. ed.. London: Historical
Publishing Company, 1996. pp. 152-157..

There are other interesting comparisons. In 1.2 Benvolio has said that
he will show Romeo women who will make his “swan” (Rosaline) look like a
“crow” (supposedly a common and ugly bird). Now Romeo, in a very similar
comparison, says that Juliet (whose name he does not yet know) is like a
“snowy dove” among “crows” (the other women). She stands out in a dark
room as a bright jewel (which would catch the torchlight) in the ear of
a dark-skinned person. The contrast of light and darkness in these
comparisons suggests that Juliet is fair-skinned and perhaps fair-haired
while most of the other women are dark. Although other people are on
stage as Romeo says these things, he really speaks his thoughts or
thinks aloud – so these speeches are soliloquies (solo speaking).

When Romeo speaks to Juliet he compares her hand to a holy place
(“shrine”) which he may defile (“profane”) with his hand. He compares
his lips to pilgrims that can “smooth” away the “rough touch” of the
hand with a kiss.

“Gentle sin” is what we call an oxymoron – a contradiction. Why? Because
“gentle” means noble or virtuous (in the 16th Century) while a “sin” is
usually the opposite of noble. Juliet explains that handholding is the
right kind of kiss for pilgrims, while lips are for praying. Romeo’s
witty response is to ask for permission to let his lips do what his
hands are allowed to, and Juliet agrees to “grant” this for the sake of
his prayers. When Romeo kisses her, Juliet says she has received the sin
he has “purged” from himself. Romeo insists at once that he must take it
back – and kisses her again!

Note how, throughout this scene (apart from the servants who use
informal thou/thee/thy pronoun forms) the characters (even Romeo and
Juliet) often address each other with the formal and respectful pronoun
you. When Capulet is being pleasant to Tybalt he uses thou/thee/thy but
when he becomes angry he switches to you. The same thing happens when he
becomes angry with Juliet in Act 3, scene 5.

Verse and prose

There is too much interesting language in the scene to cover in this
short guide, which will give a selection of interesting features of
language in act II (scene 1) We should notice here that often in this
play Mercutio speaks in prose. This is a mark of informality, but not of
low social class – Hamlet, Theseus and Prince Hal (in three other plays)
as well as Mercutio are all from royal families yet all sometimes speak
in prose. Speaking in prose shows their attitude to the situation they
are in or the person they are addressing.

In this scene various characters speak in prose, but after Mercutio’s
death the more serious mood is shown as characters all speak in blank
(unrhymed) verse. This is kept up until the end of the scene, where
Benvolio, Lady Capulet, Montague and the Prince all speak in rhyming
verse (Benvolio drops the rhyme in the middle of his long narrative).
Comment on the effect this has on the audience.

Language use for dramatic effect

Look at how the enemies try to win the verbal battle. Explain how
Mercutio tries to upset Tybalt in various ways. First, he plays on his
name (“ratcatcher…King of cats…nine lives”). He ridicules (he has also
done this in an earlier scene) Tybalt’s supposed skill in fencing (“Alla
stoccata…Come, sir, your passado”).

Look at attitudes to social class. Why does Tybalt call Romeo a
“villain” and why does Romeo deny this? He also refers to Romeo as “my
man”, and Mercutio challenges this. Why? Comment on the word “gentlemen”
which appears several times, and “sir”. Explain why Tybalt calls Romeo
“boy” more than once in this scene. Look at the form of the second
person pronoun. See whether people call each other “you” (formal) or
“thou/thee” (also “thy” = your) which is informal (less respectful).
Tybalt usually calls Mercutio “you” but changes to “thou” when he
accuses him of “consorting” with Romeo. Why?

If you are puzzled by this, be aware that language use has changed since
Shakespeare’s time. A villain in earlier times was a common person – so
the name, applied to a nobleman like Romeo, would be an insult. In
calling him my man Tybalt speaks of him as if he were a servant – which
is why Mercutio says he won’t “wear” Tybalt’s “livery” the uniform of
his servant). The 16th century audience would understand this as they
heard it – today it needs spelling out.

What is the effect of Mercutio’s response to Tybalt’s request for a
“word” – “Couple it with something; make it a word and a blow”? Note
also Mercutio’s last words: “A plague” is a powerful curse in Verona
(the plague is in the city) and Shakespeare’s audience would find it
effective.

Language use for poetic and figurative effect

This very active scene is not the best place to look for good poetry (we
find this in the scene where the lovers meet, or the balcony scene or
even in Mercutio’s description of “Queen Mab”).

For figurative language we need only look at Mercutio’s “fiddlestick” –
what is a real fiddlestick and what has he instead? A more powerful
poetic image is found in Romeo’s challenge to Tybalt:

“…for Mercutio’s soul

Is but a little way above our heads,

Staying for thine to keep him company

Either thou, or I, or both must go with him.”

Explain this image and its effect on the audience.

Perhaps the most powerful (and famous) poetic image is in Romeo’s last
words in the scene, where he says he is “fortune’s fool”. What does he
mean by this? What is its effect on the audience?

Benvolio gives a convincing account of the fighting, contrasting
Tybalt’s and Mercutio’s aggression with Romeo’s attempts at peace. We
see why Lady Capulet disbelieves him, but he tells the truth. Comment on
the audience’s response here:

we know Benvolio is truthful

we know why Lady Capulet disputes his account

we know why what she says might seem plausible (believable)

we know that the Prince knows Tybalt’s character, as reported by
Benvolio

Patterns and details of words and images

This scene (like this whole play) has lots of patterns and wordplay.
Much of it is from Mercutio. See for example his claim that Benvolio (a
very peaceful person) would quarrel with a man for “cracking nuts” as he
(Benvolio) has “hazel eyes”.

A more developed series of jokes is in his response to Tybalt’s claim
that he “consortest” with Romeo. This is the cue for a series of puns
about music (“minstrels” and “dance” leading to “fiddlestick”).

Another series of jokes comes when Mercutio is wounded: first he is
sarcastic (his wound is not as “deep as a well” or “wide as a church
door” but quite enough to kill him) then he makes a bad pun (“grave
man”). Finally, he lists animals to insult his killer: “A dog, a rat, a
mouse, a cat, to scratch a man to death”.

A more elaborate pattern is found in Tybalt’s challenge to Romeo and
Romeo’s replies. Earlier in the play we have heard Romeo take up others’
words (Benvolio’s or Mercutio’s) and answer them with a slightly changed
version. When Tybalt sarcastically says “the love I bear thee” (no love
at all) Romeo responds with “the reason that I have to love thee”, while
“Thou art a villain” becomes “villain am I none”. “Boy, this shall not
excuse the injuries…” is met with “I do protest I never injur’d thee”.
Finally the direct challenge: “Therefore turn and draw” is countered
with “And so…be satisfied”.

In explaining the effect of this scene on the audience, you are
encouraged to refer to any versions of the play in performance that you
have seen. How particular directors or actors interpret it may be
helpful. Make sure you present this work in an appropriate written or
spoken format.

One more peculiar features of Shakespeare’s language can be observed in
act III (scene 5). The most important feature of Juliet’s speech in this
scene is ambiguity or double meanings. When Lady Capulet says that Romeo
(by killing Tybalt) has caused Juliet’s grief, she agrees that Romeo has
made her sad, and that she would like to get her hands on him. By
placing one word – “dead” – between two sentences, Juliet makes her
mother think she wants Romeo dead, while really saying that her heart is
dead because of him.

When she swears “by Saint Peter’s Church and Peter too”, her mother
thinks she is just using a strong oath – but the audience knows that
Saint Peter decides who goes to heaven or hell: so she is swearing by
the saint who would disallow a bigamous marriage. Later, Juliet speaks
sarcastically to the Nurse, who thinks she is sincere, when she says
that the Nurse has comforted her “marvellous much”, with her suggestion
of “marrying” Paris.

Juliet’s last speech in this scene, as she is alone on stage, is, of
course, a soliloquy – it shows what she is thinking.

Both parents use interesting comparisons for Juliet’s tears. Lady
Capulet suggests that Juliet is trying to wash Tybalt from his grave,
because she is crying so much – she tells her daughter that she is
crying too much, and makes a play on the words much and some – “Some
grief shows much of love”, but “much grief shows some want [absence] of
wit” [common sense or sense of proportion]. Lady Capulet means that
Juliet is overdoing her show of grief. This kind of contrast, where
similar words are rearranged in two halves of a sentence to show
opposite meanings, is called antithesis.

Capulet also notices Juliet’s tears but uses an extended metaphor. He
compares the light rain [drizzle] of a real sunset with the heavy
downpour of Juliet’s tears for the metaphorical sunset [death] of his
brother’s son [Tybalt]. He develops this into the idea of a ship in a
storm at sea – Juliet’s eyes are the sea, her body is the bark [ship]
and her sighs are the winds.

Another feature of the language is Capulet’s range of insults. He claims
that Juliet is proud: she insists that she is not, and Capulet repeats
the word as evidence of her “chopt-logic” or splitting hairs. These
insults may seem mild or funny today, but were far more forceful in the
16th Century: “green-sickness carrion”, “tallow-face”,
“baggage…wretch” and “hilding”.

Capulet contrasts Paris’s merits as a husband with Juliet’s immature
objections. He says that Paris is “Of fair demesnes, youthful and nobly
ligned” and “stuffed…with honourable parts”. He calls his daughter a
“wretched puling fool” and a “whining mammet”, before sarcastically
mimicking her objections to the match: “I cannot love…I am too young”.
The audience knows of course that she can and does love (it is Rosaline
who cannot), and that she is obviously not “too young” to marry. See if
you can find out what these insults mean. Try to remember them, and act
out the scene, making them as forceful as you can.

Also, when Capulet becomes angry, he uses language inventively – so the
adjective [describing word] proud becomes both verb and noun: “proud me
no prouds”. And finally, he reminds us of his power over Juliet by
speaking of her as if she were a thoroughbred horse, which he can sell
at will – “fettle your fine joints”, he says, meaning that she must
prepare herself for marriage.

6.2 Peculiarities of stagecraft Found in Internet:
http://www.shakespeareantheatre.com

Most adequately stagecraft can be analyzed through act I, Scene 5: when
Romeo sees Juliet he speaks about her, using metaphor: “She doth teach
the torches to burn bright”. This tells us that Juliet’s beauty is much
brighter than that of the torches – so she is very beautiful. She is so
much brighter that she teaches the torches how to shine – a poetic
exaggeration, since torches can’t really be taught. It is important for
Romeo to say this, as the audience cannot see Juliet’s beauty directly –
in Shakespeare’s theatre a boy, perhaps seen at some distance, plays
Juliet. But the metaphor also tells us that it is night, as Romeo can
see the torches he compares her to. The audience must imagine this, as
the play is performed by daylight, and no lighted torch would be safe in
the theatre (the real Globe theatre was eventually destroyed by fire).
At a private performance, at night in a rich person’s house, there might
be real torches on the walls, of course.

There are other interesting comparisons. In 1.2 Benvolio has said that
he will show Romeo women who will make his “swan” (Rosaline) look like a
“crow” (supposedly a common and ugly bird). Now Romeo, in a very similar
comparison, says that Juliet (whose name he does not yet know) is like a
“snowy dove” among “crows” (the other women). She stands out in a dark
room as a bright jewel (which would catch the torchlight) in the ear of
a dark-skinned person. The contrast of light and darkness in these
comparisons suggests that Juliet is fair-skinned and perhaps fair-haired
while most of the other women are dark. Although other people are on
stage as Romeo says these things, he really speaks his thoughts or
thinks aloud – so these speeches are soliloquies (solo speaking).

When Romeo speaks to Juliet he compares her hand to a holy place
(“shrine”) which he may defile (“profane”) with his hand. He compares
his lips to pilgrims that can “smooth” away the “rough touch” of the
hand with a kiss.

“Gentle sin” is what we call an oxymoron – a contradiction. Why? Because
“gentle” means noble or virtuous (in the 16th Century) while a “sin” is
usually the opposite of noble. Juliet explains that handholding is the
right kind of kiss for pilgrims, while lips are for praying. Romeo’s
witty response is to ask for permission to let his lips do what his
hands are allowed to, and Juliet agrees to “grant” this for the sake of
his prayers. When Romeo kisses her, Juliet says she has received the sin
he has “purged” from himself. Romeo insists at once that he must take it
back – and kisses her again!

Note how, throughout this scene (apart from the servants who use
informal thou/thee/thy pronoun forms) the characters (even Romeo and
Juliet) often address each other with the formal and respectful pronoun
you. When Capulet is being pleasant to Tybalt he uses thou/thee/thy but
when he becomes angry he switches to you. The same thing happens when he
becomes angry with Juliet in Act 3, scene 5.

When analyzing act II, scene 1 we should refer to different performances
of the play that you have seen. You must comment on the action, use of
properties and the structure of the scene.

To take the last first, the scene is really in a number of episodes:

1 first, Mercutio and Benvolio wait for the Capulets to arrive, and
Mercutio trades insults with Tybalt when they do;

2 then Romeo is challenged by Tybalt and refuses;

3 Mercutio fights Tybalt and is fatally wounded when Romeo intervenes;

4 Romeo pursues Tybalt and kills him;

5 finally Benvolio gives an account of events to the Prince, who
banishes Romeo.

Use of props

In this scene, the most obvious stage props are the swords used in the
fighting (in Baz Luhrmann’s 1997 feature film there are guns [“Sword” is
the manufacturer] and other weapons). Explain how swords would be used
in Shakespeare’s theatre, and how they are used in performances of the
play that you have seen. Are any other props used in this scene?

Action

There are two passages of fighting. The stage directions merely tell us
who fights and who dies. Shakespeare’s own company would have known
without any written directions how to perform the fights – such scenes
were like stunts in films today: the actors would impress the audience
by their virtuosity (evident skill) with the swords.

How long would this take on stage? How long does it take in productions
you have seen? Are both fights similar? (They are very different from
each other in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film version.) Critical to the
outcome of the first fight is Romeo’s intervention – explain how this
proves fatal for his friend, and how it is shown in performances you
have seen. Is there any other action of interest?

Costume

How is costume important in this play, especially in versions you have
seen? Look at how costume distinguishes Capulet from Montague (shows who
is who). How does Zeffirelli use costume effectively to show the change
in mood in this scene?

Act III, scene 5 takes place in Juliet’s bedchamber. We may see a bed
(or something to represent a bed), but no other furniture is needed.
Juliet’s costume may show that she has been in bed – though her parents
do not suspect that she has had Romeo’s company. Otherwise, the scene
relies mostly on speech. There are not many clues about action or use of
props.

Both her parents speak about Juliet’s weeping, and at one point Juliet
kneels to beg her father for pity. Capulet’s outbursts against Juliet
and the Nurse may be opportunities for some physical action as well as
verbal aggression to show his anger. What might he do to show how angry
he is?

7.2 Contrasting the film and the play Based on the screenversions: B.
Luhrmann Romeo and Juliet Rome 1996 Bantam Doubleday Dell Pub. NewYork

To assess Baz Luhrmann’s use of setting in his film, Romeo + Juliet, we
can begin by contrasting the film with the play as it was originally
performed in the 16th-century theatre. The key difference between the
manner in which the film and the play deal with location is that the
film is primarily an image-intensive medium that can visually show the
audience the locale. Shakespearean drama, on the other hand, was written
to be heard as an auditory experience. Shakespeare’s audience referred
to going to hear a play rather than see it, emphasizing that the
Elizabethan theater was an aural rather than visual experience. On
stage, the characters described the setting in their speeches. The
actor’s words had to convey all necessary information about plot,
characters, and setting because the action took place on a bare,
open-air stage, with only a few props and limited costumes. The plays
were performed in the afternoon, and the playhouses did not have the
advantages of lighting or special effects. For example, the scenes which
take place at night make repeated references to objects associated with
darkness, such as the moon, stars, and artificial sources of light, such
as lamps and torches, to help create a sense of atmosphere and setting.
The Prologue sets the scene in both the play and the film. In Romeo +
Juliet, Luhrmann presents the Prologue as a news bulletin that gives the
events a feeling of immediacy – the urgency of an on-the-spot news
report. The news broadcaster has replaced the Shakespearean Chorus for a
modern audience while retaining the Chorus’s function of providing
commentary on events before they happen.

Luhrmann emphasizes the setting as the Prologue ends. The camera zooms
forward to scenes of Verona, with the words “in fair Verona” flashing on
the screen. Luhrmann presents Verona as a modern city, dominated by
scenes of chaotic urban violence. Aerial shots pan across the cityscape
as police cars and helicopters dart about, and human casualties are
strewn across the ground. Watching impassively is an enormous statue of
Jesus. These opening shots of a city divided by violence sets the scene
for the subsequent action of the film.

These vivid location shots perform the same function as the Prologue for
Shakespeare’s first audience. A 16th-century playgoer would have
associated the hot climate, fiery, passionate nature of the people, and
strong sense of family honor with the Italian locale. By comparison, the
film puts the viewer in the midst of the strife-torn city infected with
crime and decay. The film uses these graphic images of violence to
communicate the setting to the audience. In the film, the first six
lines of the Prologue are repeated as a voice-over to accompany more
news footage covering the latest outbreak of violence caused by the
feud. Media coverage of the civil unrest stresses how the feud affects
the entire city. As the voice reads, “Two houses both alike in dignity,”
the camera pulls back to reveal the photographs of both families on the
front page of the city’s newspaper. The next two lines of the Prologue
are displayed as newspaper headlines and juxtaposed with clips of riot
police attempting to restore order on the streets. The media’s
presentation of the feud illustrates the impact of the “ancient grudge”
on the city while importing the play’s introductory content in a format
familiar to a modern audience. Both the Prologue and the opening scene
of the film use setting to establish the opposing parties. In the film
version, we see how the two opposed families dominate Verona Beach from
the way skyscrapers bearing the names Montague and Capulet overshadow
the city’s horizon. Luhrmann follows this image with photographs of the
two families on the front of the newspaper separated by a photograph of
the statue of Jesus. The repeated focus on the Jesus statue and other
religious icons comments on how religion, like the law, is no longer an
effective means of maintaining peace and harmony in modern society.
Shakespeare’s disregard of religion as a force in maintaining social
order may not have been so blatant as Luhrmann’s treatment in the film.
Shakespeare presents the Friar as a well-intentioned character despite
the Friar’s impotence to affect the tragic outcome of the action.

In the opening scene, the city of Verona is renamed Verona Beach,
evoking America’s famous city on the beach, Miami. The film draws on
pop-culture images such as those from Miami Vice, which depicted both
urban glamour and crime. Luhrmann clearly distinguishes the downtown
area from the beach. He associates the city with the violence of the
feud and the idyllic beach with love and peace.

The film illustrates these opposing forces through the use of a fire and
water motif. In both the news footage and an encounter between the
Montagues and Capulets at a gas station, flames repeatedly engulf the
surroundings. “Fiery” Tybalt in particular seems to have a distinctly
combustible effect on his surroundings. Romeo and Juliet, in contrast,
are connected with water throughout the film. We first see Romeo on the
beach looking to the ocean. Later, Romeo and Juliet see each other for
the first time through a fish tank, and the famous balcony scene takes
place in a swimming pool.

The beach, through its connection with the sea, becomes a place for
change as opposed to the concrete, unchanging nature of the city.
Luhrmann uses the beach as the place where the worlds of love and
conflict clash when peaceable Romeo encounters “fiery” Tybalt. Moments
later, Mercutio is killed there, symbolizing a loss of innocence, a
violation of purity, and a defamation of a natural order.

Luhrmann places a huge Elizabethan stage on the beach to acknowledge the
film’s awareness of its Shakespearean heritage. The stage also provides
several characters an alternative vehicle for expressing their emotional
development, or lack thereof. Luhrmann presents a youthful, immature
Romeo seated on stage, delivering his Rosaline-inspired “O brawling
love” speech as a voice-over. The speech sounds stilted, stiff, and
staged as though Romeo were a young, incompetent actor who merely
recites his lines mechanically without understanding their meaning.

Luhrmann chooses a modern city as the setting for his film adaptation of
Romeo and Juliet to present a chaotic urban world familiar to a
20th-century cinema audience. The media coverage of the feud makes the
play’s events familiar to a modern audience as they watch violent video
of the chaos on the streets of Verona Beach and are drawn into the
feud-ravaged world of the film.

The updated and renamed Verona Beach is a clever mechanism by which
peaceful and violent worlds collide.

8.2 Comparing A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet (Lesson
Plan)

Key questions:

1. The course of true love

2. Friar Laurence and the Nurse

3. Almost fairy time: Verona and Athens

4. Tragedy and comedy: the problem of fathers and daughters

5. Contrast of order and disorder

6. Pyramus and Thisbe and the plays in performance

7. Conclusion

For the best understanding of the play “Romeo and Juliet”we are required
to study one or more of Shakespeare’s plays for makink the comparative
analysis.. This task will allow us to discuss two plays. We could write
at great length but this is not necessary, or even sensible. We will not
try to retell the plot of either play as a narrative (story). We shall
only look at how the play works on stage: use of props, costume and
physical actions – either as suggested in the text, or as these appeared
in any versions we have seen in performance. We should consider effects
of language and imagery, in context. Below are some ideas, which could
form the outline of a response to the plays. We may find these helpful;
ignore those that aren’t.

When you (speak or) write about the play, you must refer to evidence:
either quote dialogue, or explain what is happening in terms of action.
Ideally, you should give Act and Scene (Roman [e.g. III, ii] or Arabic
[e.g. 3.2] numbers) and line numbers (not page numbers – do you know
why?). Always comment on, or explain the point of, what you quote. Do
not write the verb quote at any point in your work, unless it is to
explain that one character in the play quotes another! In formal written
English, quote is a verb and quotation is the corresponding noun. Quote
as a noun is fine in speech, especially when referring to an estimate
for work to be done (builder’s quote).

The two plays were first performed at around the same time in the 1590s.
They have obvious similarities of plot and theme, but clearly different
structure and outcome. Briefly (no more than half a page) summarise
these similarities and differences.

“The course of true love never did run smooth”

How far are Lysander’s words proved true by the (total) events in either
play? Are they a more suitable motto for one than the other? Why?

Puck and Oberon versus Friar Laurence and the Nurse

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream Puck and Oberon watch over the young lovers
(and Bottom) and save them from coming to any harm. Explain how they are
able to do this, through their magical powers. In Romeo and Juliet the
Friar and the Nurse try to help the tragic lovers but fail to save them.
Compare their efforts to help Romeo and Juliet with the efforts of Puck
and Oberon. How and why are the fairies successful where human helpers
fail? Compare the Friar’s use of magical or seeming magical herbs with
Oberon’s use of magical plants (Cupid’s flower and Dian’s bud).

“‘Tis almost fairy time”

In both plays characters refer to fairies. Romeo and Juliet’s longest
speech (spoken by Mercutio) is a description of Queen Mab, the “fairies’
midwife”, but he admits to making it up. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Theseus refers jokingly to “fairy time”, but may well not believe in
fairies any more than Romeo and Mercutio. What difference do the fairies
make to the comic world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream compared to the
harsher view of the world that we see in Romeo and Juliet?

Verona and Athens

In both plays, the place where the action occurs is important. Comment
on the various settings within each play, and explain what it has to do
with what happens. (In A Midsummer Night’s Dream look at Athens and the
Palace Wood outside the city; in Romeo and Juliet look at the city
square in Verona, Capulet’s house and garden, the Friar’s cell, Mantua,
and the Capulet tomb.)

Tragedy and comedy

Try to explain what these terms mean, as descriptions of types of play,
when we apply them to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet.
Try to refer to their structure, theme and mood.

Fathers and daughters

In both plays we find heroines (Juliet and Hermia) who are subject to
the authority of their fathers. In one play we see a father begin by
giving his daughter a lot of freedom, and end by removing it from her;
in the other, we see a father try to control his daughter’s life for
most of the play, but who is reconciled to her near its end. Comment on
these relationships, as you see them in the two plays. (Pyramus and
Thisbe also supposedly have tyrannical parents).

Contrast

Both plays exploit obvious contrasts for theatrical effect. Among these
are light and dark (or day and night), love and hate and the upper and
lower ends of the social scale. Explain how any of these work to make
the drama more effective.

Order and disorder

This is a contrast of theme you will find in almost any of Shakespeare’s
plays. In both A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet we see
rulers (Theseus/Oberon and Prince Escalus) try to restore or maintain
order, in the face of disruptive or anarchic behaviour. Show how this
appears in each play, and how important it is to the play’s central
themes. In each play there are figures who represent disorder (Bottom
and Puck; Mercutio and Tybalt). Explain how these challenge the rulers’
attempts to preserve order in their domains (territory).

Pyramus and Thisbe

In A Midsummer Night’s DreamThe workmen’s Lamentable Comedy can be seen
as a parody (silly copy) of Romeo and Juliet. There are obvious
similarities in the plot (can you say what these are?) but not in the
theatrical qualities of the two pieces. In Pyramus and Thisbe we see how
not to do things which are done much better elsewhere in A Midsummer
Night’s Dream,in Romeo and Juliet or in other plays by Shakespeare.
(These include depicting wild animals, a wall, moonlight and killing on
stage). Comment on how these things are done both in Pyramus and Thisbe
and in the plays proper. Comment on how hard or easy it is for actors to
speak the dialogue in Shakespeare’s plays generally, and to speak the
verse we meet in Pyramus and Thisbe (look at the end of the Prologue,
and the dying speeches of the two lovers). Explain how the workmen’s
play is a good commentary on young lovers who take themselves too
seriously.

The plays in performance

Comment on how the plays were presented in the versions you have seen.
Was it a cinema, TV or stage performance? Comment on such things as
costume, props and action; you may also refer to lighting, music, SFX,
and anything else which caught your interest. If you were to direct (in
a given medium – stage, TV, cinema) how would you approach these things?

Conclusion

Explain what you like about either play or both. Say how well they work
in performance, and what kind of response they provoke in the audience.

Remember to present your work attractively, with illustrations (for
eaxmple, to show costume or props) and any diagrams (ideas for staging)
to clarify your ideas.

III. Conclusion

1.3 Studying Romeo and Juliet – criteria for assessment

The headings below show how details of the play relate to the broad
headings for assessment of work on Shakespeare.

1 Nature of play/implications/moral or philosophical significance

This refers to the ideas or themes in the play – what it is about but
not its story. In Romeo and Juliet this means at least the following:

Love – the difference between Romeo’s pretended love (affectation) for
Rosaline and real love.

Fortune: “a greater power than we can contradict” – how we are not
always or fully in control of our own lives

Authority – of parents · of the law; · of the Prince.

Tragedy – what does this mean? Does the play show general or universal
truths about tragic love?The causes of tragedy.

2 Stagecraft/appeal to audience

Characterization – this is not description of characters but how they
are presented.

The structure of the play.

Important props (swords, the Friar’s drugs, the poison, Romeo’s dagger).

Contrast – light and dark · fate and free will · love and hate · death
and life · appearance and reality · public and private lives.

Oppositions of time – youth and age · past and present · fast and slow ·
real time and dream time

3 Language

Important figures of speech (metaphor/simile).

Descriptive language for things we can’t see – Romeo’s description of
Juliet’s beauty (essential in a theatre where Juliet is played by a boy
Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech.

Forms of verse and prose for dialogue: blank verse; · occasional rhymed
verse (often at the end of a scene); · sonnet forms – the Prologue, the
lovers’ meeting

Stichomythia (alternating one-liners) and other patterned language in
the characters’ speeches.

Puns and other verbal humour

Language showing attitudes to class – villain, My man, second-person
pronoun form: you/your (polite/formal) or thou/thee/thy (derogatory or
informal).

IV. Bibliography

1. William Shakespeare Tragedies, Comedies, Sonnets, Chronicles in 47
volumes Yale University Press, Yale New Haven 1958, pp.1, 3-5, 7-9,
23-26, 45-87

2. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. The Shakespeare Head Press
Edition. The Wordsworth Poetry library. 1994 by Wordsworth Edition Ltd.
Hertfordshire. Vols 1,3,4,6,10,11, 16-18

3. Г. Брандес “Шекспир. Жизнь и произведения” Серия “Гений в искусстве”,
М.: “Алгоритм”, 1997. стр. 117, 127, 139-143

4. “Вильям Шекспир. Сонеты”. Перевод с английского И.М. Ивановского.—
СПб.: “Тесса”, 2001.

5. Комарова В.П. “Творчество Шекспира”.– СПб.: Филологический факультет
Санкт-Петербургского государственного университета, 2001.

6. W. Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet New Folger library 1978

7. Alfred Bates The Drama: Its History, Literature and Influence on
Civilization, vol. 13. ed.. London: Historical Publishing Company, 1996.
pp. 152-157.

8. Вильям Шекспир Комедии, хроники, трагедии. Собр. соч. в 2тт., Т.1 М.
ИХЛ. 1988 стр7-31 Т.2 стр. 48-49, 79-126, 149, 216, 442-451

9. Д.Урнов Шекспир М. ИПЛ. Стр.23-27

10. Ю.Г. Зеленецкий Шекспир и время М. Рипол-классик 2000 стр.23

11. G. Bargons “Translation of the tragedies” Yale University Press, New
Haven 1958, pp.1, 3-5, 7-9, 23-26, 45-87

12. Alfred Bates The Drama: Its History, Literature and Influence on
Civilization, vol. 13. ed.. London: Historical Publishing Company, 1996.
pp. 152-157.

13. Вильям Шекспир Комедии, хроники, трагедии. Собр. соч. в 2тт., Т.1 М.
ИХЛ. 1988 pp. 7-31

14. Д.Урнов Шекспир М. ИПЛ. Стр.23-27

15. Adams J. Q. A Life of William Shakespeare. New York;
Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1923.p.345

16. Alexander P., Shakespeare. London: Oxford University Press, 1964
p.34

17. Barber C. L. Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy. Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1959 p.67

18. Bentley G. E. Shakespeare, a Biographical Handbook. Theobold Lewis,
ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961 p.78

19. Bethell S. L. Shakespeare and the Popular Tradition. London: King
and Staples, 1944 p.158-160

20. Parrott Th. M. Shakespearean Tragedy. New York: Oxford University
Press, 1949 p.220-221

21. Clemen W. The Development of Shakespeare’s Imagery. London: Methuen
and Co., 1951 p.35

22. Craig H. An Interpretation of Shakespeare. New York: Dryden Press,
1948 p.300-304

23. Ellis-Fermor M. Shakespeare the Dramatist. London: Geoffrey
Cumberlege, 1948 p.84-86

24. Palmer J. Comic Characters of Shakespeare. London: The Macmillan
Company, 1946 p.110-111

25. Internet: http://www.shakespeareantheatre.com

26. World Book Encyclopedia Chicago 1993 Vol. 16 p.442-443

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