In Act 1 Scene 5 of Romeo and Juliet, there is a dramatic sense of romance and danger. How does Shakespeare convey these emotions through his text? Consider how Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation of this scene has brought out the emotions present in the text.
In Act 1, Scene 5, of “Romeo and Juliet”, Shakespeare conveys romance and danger to the audience through his text in many ways, including his use of language and the way he structures his scene. The scene is important as Romeo meets Juliet and they find out they are from rival families. Tybalt also decides to take revenge on Romeo because he came to the feast uninvited and assumes Romeo wants to mock the Capulets. Previously, there had been a civil brawl between the Montagues and the Capulets. Afterwards, the Prince declared that the next person to start a fight, would be executed. Meanwhile, Paris and Capulet are discussing the possible marriage of him and Capulet’s daughter Juliet. Paris is told to wait two years before marrying her but he can meet her at the feast that night. In Scene 1, Romeo talks to Benvolio about being ‘in love’ with Rosaline but unfortunately she does not want any involvement with him. Benvolio advises Romeo to go to the Capulet feast and compare her to the other women there.
The consequences of this scene are largely involved with death as Tybalt kills Mercutio and then is killed himself by Romeo in revenge, as he and Mercutio were best friends. Therefore, Romeo is banished to Mantua and Juliet takes a potion to avoid marrying Paris. Friar Lawrence plans go awry and both lovers take their own lives.
To truly understand “Romeo and Juliet”, its historical and social context must be considered. Verona, like Elizabethan England, is a patriarchal society which puts a great constraint on Juliet. She is considered as her father’s possession and the father of the family dominates. This was a law and not just an expectation. Juliet was controlled, captive and can only go to confession by herself. Women had no rights and this impacts in the play. Capulet and Montague are powerful people but their wives still have no rights. Juliet accepts that her father will choose a husband for her, but at first Capulet says he will let her decide, but when she decides not to marry Paris, he strikes back with harsh treatment.
The scene begins with the servants clearing space for a dance which creates a sense of excitement and celebration. References to “silverware” and “marzipan” suggest how expensive and important the feast is. Capulet takes this feeling and expands it to include romance or at least flirtation with his opening speech as he teases the ladies to dance. “Ladies that have their toes/unplagu’d with corns will walk a bout with you.” He then welcomes the masked Montagues, whim he does not recognise, which adds a sense of danger as there could be another civil brawl if the Montagues were revealed. By having Capulet speak to several people, Shakespeare creates a certain sense of busyness and importance. Capulet tries to be a brilliant and entertaining host to all his guests as it is an important tradition to uphold. He then talks to his cousin about past feasts they had been to: “For you and I are past our dancing days”. All of this creates a festive and exciting mood and makes for the possibility of romance in everyone’s mind which in hindsight, predicts Romeo and Juliet’s first meeting ending in love.
The scene suddenly shifts focus from flirtation to love as Romeo sees Juliet for the first time to show a contrast between the two emotions as Romeo’s feelings are a lot more serious. In Romeo’s ten line speech, Shakespeare shows Romeo’s feelings are much more genuine as he is incredibly more articulate than when he spoke to Benvolio about Rosaline, “I do love a woman”. Romeo asks a servant who Juliet is and he answers, “I know not, sir.” This shows that Juliet is kept inside the mansion which once again shows the social context of the play. Verona being a patriarchal society means Juliet, as her father’s possession, is kept inside the mansion. In ten lines, the audience will be convinced of Romeo being in love and of Juliet’s beauty. To begin with, he compares her to light, “she doth teaches the torches to burn bright”.
Romeo then extends this image by saying she is “like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear”, again emphasizing her rarity and dazzling beauty. His comment “Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear”, makes her seem to good to be true and is prophetic as it also seems Juliet is too good for this world; indeed she dies in four days. Romeo says she stands above everyone, “a snowy dove trooping with crows”. He has compared her to Rosaline but Juliet is a much better sight. In the last four lines Romeo declines his love for Rosaline and announces his love for Juliet. Romeo speaks in rhyming couplets during the ten line speech which shows his passion for his new found love.
There is another dramatic shift in emotion as Tybalt sees Romeo and shows his anger, conveyed through the sharp sounds and rhythms of the lines. His first reaction to Romeo is “Fetch me my rapier”. “Rapier” is a sword which illustrates Tybalt’s intention to kill. His last two lines are a rhyming couplet which shows his passion for hate; “Now by the stock and honour of our kin/To strike him dead I hold it not a sin.” This adds tension as Tybalt is willing to kill and that is against the Prince’s law. His first reaction is to get his sword which could ruin the feast and result in an execution. Shakespeare’s language makes Tybalt seem spiteful with sharp sounds and rhythm: “Hear and scorn at our solemnity”, conveying his love for hate and violence, proved in the final two lines written in the form of a rhyming couplet. When Capulet hears of Tybalt’s plans, he immediately tries to calm him down: “Content thee, gentle coz, let him alone”. Tybalt argues and Capulet suddenly is filled with rage as he interrupts Tybalt, “I’ll not endure him”, “He shall be endured”. Repetition and broken sentences, “Go to!-Go to!”, show Capulet’s rage at Tybalt’s attempt to disrupt the feast. Tybalt’s final threat foreshadows his and Mercutio’s death and is in the form of a rhyming couplet again conveying his passion for hating the Montagues.
From sharp danger to romantic hope, Shakespeare introduces the lovers to each other through a sonnet. This is appropriate because sonnets are usually poems about love but another key theme in Elizabethan sonnets was death and time which could prelude the tragedy to come in the play. Also Romeo as a courtly lover would be expected to write sonnets to his beloved. Every sonnet is built upon an argument, and Romeo argues for a kiss; “My lips two blushing pilgrims ready stand/To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.” Juliet being able to respond in sonnet form shows how well matched she is with Romeo, especially as she has had no experience in courtship; this shows she has found her soul mate. There is a lot of religious imagery in the sonnet, “pilgrim” and “saint” which creates the impression that their love is holy and above the ordinary. At the beginning of their second sonnet, they are interrupted by the nurse who says: “Madam, your mother craves a word with you.” The interruption indicates that the family will always come in between their love and sends a sense of danger through the relationship which remains throughout the scene.
Romeo then finds out that Juliet is a Capulet and “he that can lay hold of her, shall have the chinks.”, said by the nurse, once again shows the Capulet obsession with money. Romeo is shocked as he now owes his life to his enemy because of his love, “My life is my foes debt.” This creates suspense as the audience wonders if they will ever be together or if the families will stop them. Within this scene Shakespeare alternates from romance and danger many times.
Juliet then seeks the identity of Romeo in excitement but doesn’t want the Nurse to suspect anything so she asks the identity of two other men. Already, Juliet is keeping secrets which is a sign of things to come. Her thoughts as the nurse seeks Romeo’s identity, “If he be married, my grave is like to be my wedding bed,” shows Juliet is already thinking of marriage in terms of death. She finds out Romeo is a Montague and is instantly distressed. She now loves him and cannot change her feelings, even though now he is a Montague. Her rhyming couplets express her passion for Romeo, but with Juliet her passion often leads to desperation. We then see Juliet isolated as the “strangers” leave and keeping her love secret from her Nurse makes Juliet alone literally with her new found love.
Act 1, Scene 5 is a scene full of dramatic emotion, especially romance and danger. As the final scene of Act 1, it is the catalyst for the rest of the action in the play. It is clear from this scene that Romeo and Juliet will never be together and even they know it.