For some, the most satisfying love stories are those that end in “happy ever after”. Shakespeare however has presented us with an extremely heart-breaking close to his play surrounding two young lovers.
The extract beings with each family beginning to cast the blame for the tragedy on each other. The Friar however steps forward and explains the circumstances which have led to the deaths of their tender children, whose only sin was to have loved.
After this, the Prince says “We still have known thee for a holy man” which suggests that he thinks Friar Lawrence should only be known as a holy man, and really that the Prince himself is not interested in listening to the Friar’s recall of events. Therefore, the Friar almost ends up talking to himself, as a sort of soliloquy. As Shakespeare makes Friar Lawrence do this, and reveal his thoughts without addressing the audience, he increases the dramatic effect and makes the moment a very moving one. Within this soliloquy, a variety of ways are used to add to the effect and to make the ending a memorable one. For example, Friar Lawrence says:Order now
“Miscarried by my fault, let my old life
Be sacrificed, some hour before his time,
Unto the rigour of severest law.” (Act 5, Scene 3, Line 267-269)
In this quotation, we are able to see how the Friar offers his life in atonement, adding to the dramatic effect as this is such an unexpected and extreme thing to do. Balthasar then presents the letter Romeo had given him for Montague. The Prince reads it and discovers the Friar to be truthful. The Prince acknowledges the Friar’s benevolent intent and instead lays the blame for the deaths squarely on Montague and Capulet for their longstanding quarrel:
“Where be these enemies? Capulet! Montague!
See, what a scourge is laid upon your hate” (Act 5, Scene 3, Line 292)
He therefore decided to punish the feuding families for having brought this tragedy upon themselves by saying “Have lost a brace of kinsmen: all are punish’d.” This again is a very serious and severe action, but it helps bring the play to a close and tie up lose strings, creating an emotional and moving atmosphere. The Prince also recognizes his own fault for not forcing an end to the feud before so many people died – “And I for winking at your discords too”. This quotation not only shows that, but also shows how love has acted to teach society a lesson and how love has shown itself to be stronger than even the power of fate. This is one of the morals of the play, and is therefore a very dramatic and vivid quotation. The forgiveness and reconciliation of the Prince and the Friar in my opinion is one of the main ways in which the poignant and expressive feeling is set in this ending to the play.
The extract continues with Capulet and Montague reconciling, by the shaking of hands – “O brother Montague, give me thy hand”. Capulet is the first to offer his hand and in my opinion, the degree of effect which is created upon the audience from the final act will greatly depend on how it is performed. For example, the audience may be lead to feel strong agreement or disagreement with the way Montague and Capulet shake hands: has the feud really ended? Do they really mean it? This handshake action then leaves the audience to make a decision for themselves, the tension increases and pressure is built up, to create an overall dramatic effect.
The two households draw the play to a conclusion by deciding to raise gold statues of their children side-by-side in a newly peaceful Verona as a memory and a vow of reconciliation. The fact the statues are gold symbolises how important and special Romeo and Juliet are to their families and the future of Verona. Romeo and Juliet’s deaths reunited Verona and brought peace to its streets. Prince Escalus then brings the play to a close by almost summarising the events. He does this using rhyme, in a short six-line poem. More than half the play is set in rhyme and this gives the drama the quality of an extended dramatic poem. The first line of the ‘poem’, “A glooming peace this morning with it brings” is an oxymoron, adding effect and also adding to the idea of contrast which runs throughout Romeo and Juliet. The next line, “The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head” is again an important one, as the sun is personified to express how the story of Romeo and Juliet is so sad that the sun will not rise. It also conveys how the feud ends in darkness because the light belonged to the young lovers, and they are now dead.
Romeo and Juliet have been immortalized as the models of true love, not because their tragic deaths resolve their parents’ conflict, but rather because they are willing to sacrifice everything, including themselves, for their love. That Romeo and Juliet must kill themselves to preserve their love is tragic. That they do kill themselves to preserve their love makes them transcendent.
The most important thing to note about this final scene is how quickly the action moves. In just a few short pages, all of the characters come together and their individual fates are determined, providing an end to all of the problems Shakespeare presented throughout the play. This pace and fluency adds to the effect, and is helped by the rhyming and enjambment which also contributes towards the pace and flow of the play. A final stasis of hard-won peace is established in Verona, and the major conflict of the play has been resolved. Unfortunately, in most peoples’ eyes this resolution is not a happy one, but the final stasis shows hope for Verona’s future thanks to its “star-crossed lovers”.
In conclusion, I think Shakespeare uses a variety of ways to make this ending to Romeo and Juliet such a moving and dramatic one, including costumes, setting, characterisation and various language techniques. He does this so well, that even today many are still moved by the play. It is so emotional and inspiring that two composers, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky both wrote music for ballets of Romeo and Juliet. This just proves: