In this essay I intend to examine how Shakespeare makes the prologue and Act 1 of ‘Rome and Juliet’ exciting, dramatic and memorable for the audience and how he prepares us for the tragedy to come.
Romeo and Juliet, set in Verona, tells the story of how two star cross’d lovers life comes to an end after nothing but their deaths would put a stop to a long existing feud between their families.
The play ‘Rome and Juliet’ was written in 1595, inspired by a poem by Arthur Brook called ‘The tragical story of Romeus and Juliet’. This was written in 1562, one of the early origins of the play.
‘Rome and Juliet’ is based around a mixture of love, hate, tragedy and disguise. Shakespeare added a few changes to the play such; Act 1 scene 1 was added, he invented the character of Mercutio who acts as a balance to Tybalt as they are on opposing sides of the two families. He also made the Nurse and Benvolio more important and shortened the time scale from 9 months to 5 days, faster pace is more exciting as it is more interesting for the audience.
I think he made these changes to get people more interested and improve it for what he thought was best. Tragedy occurs as various points of the play, the most memorable bit being when both ‘Rome and Juliet’ die, I thing this fits in well with the traditional idea of death in the play. Love also features in the play and links in with the tragedy as ‘Rome and Juliet’s’ love for eachother ultimately leads to their deaths. Four main types of love are included in the play, courtly, true, sexual and dutiful. ‘Rome and Juliet’s’ love for eachother is an example of true, where as Paris’ love for Juliet is courtly, ‘rules’ that they were supposed to follow in marriage. Dutiful love is that where the marriage of two people is set up. True love is usually passionate and fast moving.
Marriage was different then from how it is today, in their time girls married around the age or 13 or 14 and in most cases the lady’s husband was picked by her parents. In play Capulets’ were reluctant to see this happen so quickly. ‘She hath not seen the change of fourteen years’. This is slightly true in our play and Juliet is reluctant to marry Paris but more than happy to marry Romeo, this is dramatic irony as the two were married the next day.
The prologue is an introduction to the play which is meant to draw people in and make them find out more, similar to a blurb on a book. Shakespeare set it out as a sonnet, this is appropriate as sonnets nearly always include love and so does the play. The lines in the prologue all have 10 syllables. It is also set out chronologically to match the sequence of events in the play. Phrases included in the prologue which prepare us for the tragedy are; ‘Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean’ which indicates that blood is shed which could refer to death. Another phrase is ‘from fort the fatal loins of these two foes’. This talks of the two families being enemies. ‘Whose misadventur’d piteous overthrows, a series of tragic accidents’. This interests the audience into finding out what ‘accidents happen’.
Lurhmann directs the play in a modern way; this could include contrast between the uses of language of then and now. He uses a news bulletin to begin to begin it, usually things which appear on the news are important, and it also introduces people to the play and the setting. The same thing is soon after repeated by Friar Lawrence with images included, these help us get an insight to the play and also the religious resemblance of it.
There are a series of dramatic events in the play of ‘Rome and Juliet’. The play begins with act 1 scene 1 and the introduction of Sampson and Gregory, 2 Capulet servants boasting about what they are going to do to the Montague’s. ‘I will show myself a tyrant…I will cut of their heads.’ This would shock the audience because of his boldness and aggression, it is the first real part of the play we see one of the families’ threats towards the other and puts into to contrast the situation between them for us. The two of them also highlight this again. Sampson makes use of puns ‘I will take the wall of any man or maid of Montague’s’. The threatening words help us prepare to see fights or disagreements between the families when they come to meet later on in the play. Also in act scene 1 Romeo is discussed by his father and a fellow Montague talking about his ‘heavy’ mood, this is interesting for the audience as we learn about how Romeo is feeling and that he is also in love with Rosaline. Romeo is also being melo-dramatic and talks in oxymoron’s.
‘Thou canst not tech me to forget’ Romeo appears to be obsessed with love which could be his fat flaw. We also learn in this scene that Benvolio is a sensible character. ‘I do but keep up the peace’ he clearly does not want a fight to break out between the two families, in the end his wish is granted by the prince who breaks it up. All this rivalry shows a link back to the prologue in shown in the 3rd line. Another exciting and memorable occurrence is when love is personified as gal (poison) this shows and interesting link to the theme of tragedy as poison can lead to death, this could also foreshadow Romeo’s death.
The most important thing which happens in act 1 scene 2 is when Paris to marry Juliet. ‘My Lord, what say you to my suit?’ this shows an example or courtly love, supposed rules you were meant to follow in marriage at that time. Lord Capulet seems reluctant for this to happen ‘She hath not sent he change of fourteen years’ but later he does agree to go through with it.
The scene that follows brings the event of Lady Capulet announcing to her daughter that they have agreed for Paris to marry her, but Juliet is unhappy about this and she loves Romeo.
In act 1 scene 4 a Capulet party is arranged, an alliterate servant is used to invite the guests; ‘I pray you, come and crush a cup of wine.’ This brings in the presence of fate. In this part of the play we meet the Nurse and we learn about her personality as being affectionate towards Juliet but bawdy, she describes a bump on her head as ‘A bump as big as a young cockerels stone.’ We also find out that Mercutio plans to attend the party even though he is not welcome. He plans to bring Romeo and sees it as the perfect opportunity to find a replacement for Rosaline. ‘Find a new love and the old one will die’. Romeo is unwillingly put eventually goes along with it, it is a masked party and that’s how they disguise themselves so they can get inside, this links to one of the themes of the play.
In act 1 scene 5 Romeo and Juliet meet and are together, Rosaline seems totally out of Romeo’s mind a this point, however, Romeo is spotted by Tybalt and is not best pleased they are about to fight when Juliet’s father comes to break it up. Romeo and Juliet then go off and talk about their feelings for eachother. The Nurse then drops a bombshell on their relationship by telling them that they are both from opposing families and they would not agree to them being together.
There are many key characters in the play of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. We first meet the characters of Sampson and Gregory who are not so important but give us an important insight towards the situation between the two families and how they feel about eachother.
Another character in the play is the Nurse, she is very bawdy and is not afraid to speak her mind. She is affectionate towards Juliet and sees her as a replacement to her own daughter who died years ago.
The character of Mercutio was invented by Shakespeare and acts as a balance to Tybalt. Mercutio is Romeo’s best friend and his personality is that of he is reliable of trustworthy.
Benvolio is a more sensible character and is a sort of a peacemaker, ‘I do but keep up the peace.’
Romeo and Juliet are the two main characters of the play and are described as ‘two star cross’d lovers’ in the prologue.
Juliet comes across as a very mature character compared to some others, even though she is younger than them, she is naive and loyal ‘It is an honour I dream not of’. However she is only loyal until the point where she refuses to marry Paris and marries Romeo instead.
Romeo is a very passionate character and his feelings show towards Juliet. To begin with we first hear about Romeo being described as sad. He appears obsessed with love and is deeply in love with Rosaline. However, he soon is over her after he meets Juliet at the party.
Paris character is not a very important one, but he adds a bit of shock for the audience when he asks to marry Juliet, it is exciting for the audience to see if this will hinder Romeo and Juliet’s love for eachother.
Friar Lawrence is an important character as he adds the religious resemblance to the play, he also supplies Juliet with the potion which consequently ends Romeo and Juliet’s lives.
In Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ there are 2 main ways in which the language is used. The first of the two is blank verse; it is used by the higher class people such as Lord and Lady Capulet. The second one is prose, used by more lower class people such as the Nurse. Romeo also uses it in a different way at one stage of the play as he talks in oxymorons; this helps us to establish his sad mood and interests us into what has caused it. Another noticeable change is in the speeches of the play and also in the prologue, they usually come to the end with a rhyming couplet. ‘Which with you if patient ears attend, what here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend’.
The man themes in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ are a mixture of love, hate, betrayal, disguise and fate. The main example of love is between ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and hate between the Capulet and Montague families. Betrayal is shown when Juliet refuses to marry Paris and ends up with Romeo. Disguise is shown at the party when Romeo and a few other Montague’s go in masked disguise to the Capulet party.
Shakespeare makes act 1 exciting by the use of a range of styles of language and devices. Some events are memorable for the audience because they have shocked them, such as Sampson’s comment in the first scene. ‘The heads of the maids or their maiden heads’. The clear feud between the two families also helps us prepare for the tragedy. A faster pace is used during arguments and makes the characters words more aggressive and threatening. I feel the prologue and the first act sets up the whole play and in a way lays out the foundations for it. They are both exciting and intriguing for the audience, this makes them want to find about the rest of the play and you can see clear links back to prologue in various places of the play.