I’m going to analyse and comment on how Shakespeare has made these two scenes dramatically interesting and exciting for the audience. In act 1, scene 5, he manipulates a potentially explosive situation between two rivalling families and in act 5, scene 1, he leaves the audience in a state of fearful anticipation. Shakespeare uses a wide range of techniques throughout the play such as: iambic pentameter, imagery, similes, metaphors and oxymorons.
The story of Romeo and Juliet is a love affair between two young people from feuding families (lines 3 to 6) ‘From ancient grudge…a pair of star cross’d lovers take their life.’ The prologue tells us the story in advance and the knowledge of their certain deaths adds pity to our view of events. We can see them struggling to attain happiness and know that they are always doomed to fail. Along the way people try to help them, but in fact this only leads to disaster, and in the end death for both of them is a better choice than to live without each other.
It is a play full of coincidences, which the audience could interpret as fate, and by introducing the situation where Romeo and his friends appear at the Capulet party uninvited, the audience anticipate some kind of disaster, especially as it has been established that the two families hate each other. In Act 1, scene 1, a fight had broken out between the servants of the Montague and Capulet families, and the course language used makes the bad feelings between them obvious, (line 39) “Do you bite your thumb at us sir?” This defiant gesture was considered to be an insult in Elizabethan England.
Scene 5 opens at the party and the atmosphere is relaxed and festive, when within minutes of being there Romeo is struck by Juliet’s beauty and he admits it, (line 43 to line 52), ‘O she doth teach the torches to burn bright! … I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.’ It is very dramatic in the sense that Romeo seems to be falling instantly in love with Juliet, and the audience, knowing their families to be enemies, are gripped by the tenseness of the situation. A part of the audience could believe this to be love at first sight, whereas the less romantic members might feel that Romeo is being fickle, insincere and unfaithful to Rosaline. Earlier in Act 1 when she rejected him, Romeo came across as a very lovesick and unhappy young man (line 194) ‘What, shall I groan and tell thee?’ and later in the same conversation with Benvolio, Romeo has a great deal to say about Rosaline’s virtues, his admiration and love for her all the while Benvolio tries to convince him to forget her and look elsewhere. It seems incredible that such deep feelings of love for Rosaline at the beginning of the act can be so quickly and easily transferred to Juliet.
No sooner has Romeo spoken, when Tybalt recognising his voice, wants to start a fight, (line 58), ‘To strike him dead I hold it not a sin.’ This is very exciting as Romeo is in a room full of people who loathe him and his family. His revealing himself would put his life in great danger. The audience now realise that the evening is not going to go smoothly and the seed of drama and tension has been sown.
Tybalt’s uncle tries to calm the situation (line 70 to 72), ‘Therefore be patient, take no note of him…Show a fair presence, and put off these frowns.’ He has heard Romeo to be ‘Virtuous and well-govern’d’ (line 67) and knows that the Prince has banned the two families from fighting. In the end Tybalt backs off, but his presence is felt throughout the scene, reminding the audience of the potential danger that exists while they watch the romance develop between the young couple. This underlying feeling of apprehension remains and is brought to a climax when Romeo realises she is a Capulet, (line 117), ‘O dear account! My life is my foe’s debt.’ Revealing his feeling of devastation.
Romeo and Juliet’s first meeting is handled most unusually, in the form of a sonnet (lines 93 to 106). Shakespeare would have had music and dancing going on, and because of the nature of the dances in those days, the couple would not always have been dancing with each other. Bearing this in mind, the exchange of conversation would have been broken up while the partners were dancing with someone else, leaving the audience in suspense and longing for the next exchange of words in the sonnet; involving the audience in this most intimate moment. Shakespeare uses much religious imagery for example; (line 93) This ‘holy shrine’ refers to Juliet’s hand and makes an analogy between a pilgrim (Romeo), and a saint (Juliet); allowing Romeo to take the initiative to kiss Juliet when she says ‘Saints do not move, though grant for prayers sake.’. Words such as ‘sin’, ‘trespass’ and ‘prayer’ are all used as imagery in these fourteen lines. It is an appropriate and original choice of words and has a beauty and formality, which perfectly captures the awkwardness yet, irresistibility of the moment.
Throughout the play Shakespeare uses and keeps coming back to this theme of fate. He first mentions this in the prologue when he says they’re a ‘pair of star-crossed lovers’ and develops this idea throughout the play. In Act 1 scene 5 Juliet and Romeo find out that they are both from opposing families but are in love. In this scene Romeo comes across as immature and quite desperate. He acts like he is hard done by when actually he has a life most would envy. The reason why this scene is so important is because Shakespeare has now introduced the two ‘star-crossed lovers’ and they are on the threshold of the fateful romance that turns into disaster, expressed by the chorus, (lines 144 to 157), ‘Now old desire doth in his death-bed lie…Temp’ring extremities with extreme sweet.’ Leaving the audience hoping that against all odds everything will work itself out.
Act 5, scene 1, opens with Romeo awaiting news of Juliet and full of optimism that young love inspires. ‘My dreams presage some joyful news at hand’ (line 2) as previously he had dreamt of Juliet bringing him back to life.
The audience have watched the romance between the young lovers develop; they have been infused with the knowledge of the marriage and deceit, they know that Juliet is not really dead, and are hoping that Friar Lawrence’s plan may work. Even when Balthazar arrives with the news that Juliet is dead, “Her body sleep’s in Capel’s monument,” (line 18), they still believe that somehow the messenger will arrive and put things right.
As Romeo begins to absorb what has happened, Balthazar is frightened for him “I do beseech you sir, have patience…. some misadventure.”, (Lines 27-29) because Romeo is looking “pale and wild” and might do something foolish and dangerous. After Balthazar has gone the audience understand what Romeo intends to do when he says “Well, Juliet I will lie with thee tonight…What ho, apothecary” (lines 34-57) as in this long speech he talks of poison and how he will obtain it. It seems very convenient and coincidental that Romeo happened to remember seeing a poor apothecary nearby, who would be only too glad to sell him something illegal in exchange for “gold”, so he might have a good meal.
The audience must want to shout out to Romeo and tell him that Juliet is only sleeping, but they still hope that the messenger will suddenly rush on stage with Friar Lawrence’s letter. They wait, not believing that Shakespeare could allow Romeo to kill himself- the young couple so near to happiness together- but the scene closes with no news from the Friar, only Romeo’s determination to end his life next to Juliet in Verona.
Some of the audience fear the worst, whereas others pray for some kind of intervention before its too late, but no one can yet be certain of the outcome. Just like a good suspense, as the curtain closes on scene 1, Shakespeare has the audience on the edge of their seats in alarm.