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    Language & Literature Coursework: Shakespeare; Romeo & Juliet Essay

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    Q. How does Shakespeare maintain tension and interest in Act 1 scene 5 and who do you blame for Romeo’s and Juliet’s death?

    Shakespeare maintains interest in Act 1 scene 5 using dramatic devices like dramatic irony, mood/atmosphere, shifts of focus, contrasts of emotion language etc. As well as imagery, hyperbole, contrast of language and so on. Shakespeare tends to use contrast which means placing two things in comparison (in this case probably two characters) highlighting the qualities of one thing to the less apparent one. For instance when the feeling of pain is contrasted with the feeling of relaxation people would appreciate relaxation because they wouldn’t know what I would be talking about unless they felt pain. In other words, contrast shows the reader the appreciation of one quality only through the experience of both the qualities that are being juxtaposed. The essay that I will be writing will be about what characters are the most to blame for Romeo and Juliet’s death, but first I will be writing about how Shakespeare maintains tension and interest in Act 1 scene 5.

    At the end of Act 1 scene 4, the mood of the play is foreboding this is due to Romeo’s soliloquy as it seems that he has foreseen his death, Romeo expresses this by saying a ‘…consequence, yet hanging in the stars…’ knowing that fate doesn’t allow him to be with Juliet. Also Romeo’s soliloquy consists of dramatic irony Shakespeare shows this ‘…vile forfeit of untimely death…’ which means that Romeo is having a premonition of something that might happened to him gravely. This is dramatic irony as the audience knows what will happen to Romeo and that his premonition is of his death. Furthermore Shakespeare creates tension by Romeo’s carefully chosen words announcing his strong belief in God. ‘…He that hath steerage of my course…’ and ‘…Direct my sail…’ these are also metaphors that Shakespeare uses describing a ship carrying Romeo’s fate and God as the ship’s captain.

    He is also representing fate as the sea; the reason for this is that the sea depicts a force of power and unpredictability. Shakespeare continues using dramatic irony in this scene as the audience already know that Romeo’s fate is fixed. Also Shakespeare represents God as stars; this could be because they were seen as mystical and powerful objects during Romeo’s time. From this scene the reader can see that Romeo is troubled and doesn’t know whether to go to the Capulet’s ball or not. In anguish he expresses his great belief in religion and rests his fate in God, showing his fatalistic bravery. Basically, in this scene the atmosphere is serious as there is tension because of Romeo’s soliloquy.

    In the opening of act 1 scene 5, Shakespeare relieves the tension of Romeo’s soliloquy from the last scene with servants of the Capulets getting ready for the ball; the atmosphere is wholehearted with the servants in a happy mood joking among each other.

    The scene changes to Lord Capulet and his cousin inviting the guests to the ball whilst reminiscing about their youth when they once used to go to balls and dance. The mood at this point is one of excitement, anticipation, nostalgia and humour. This positive sense among the Capulets continues when the pay suddenly switches to Romeo once he gatecrashes. Once Romeo sees Juliet he considers her to be the most beautiful girl he has ever seen as he had ‘…ne’er saw true beauty till this night.’ The effect of this is instantaneous as Romeo is captivated by her beauty. Romeo expresses his love for her by contrasting her to a ‘…rich jewel…’ he also associates her with a glowing light and compares her to a dove among crows presuming that her beauty outshines every other girl, he then concludes his speech with a question ‘…Did my heart love till now?’ this suggests that Romeo’s love for Juliet is so strong that he cannot think that he loved a girl as much as this. Shakespeare uses metaphors i.e. ‘…a rich jewel…’ to portray to the reader Juliet’s beauty and Romeo’s love for her. Romeo’s emotions and thus the tone of the play at this point are the ones of desire, love and passion. Shakespeare immediately juxtaposes these emotions with ones of anger, hatred and frustration as Tybalt enters and sees Romeo.

    Shakespeare contrasts Romeo’s gentle love speech and Tybalt’s hatred for Montagues. The reader can notice that Tybalt is as eager to hate as Romeo is to love. Whilst Tybalt is rearing for a fight with Romeo, Capulet is a calming influence and stops him due to Romeo’s good reputation, yet Tybalt persists to fight Romeo saying ‘…I’ll not endure him.’ Capulet becomes angry at Tybalt’s disobedience but still restrains him.

    Nevertheless, Romeo pursues Juliet; Shakespeare shows their connection by making a duet take place between them in sonnet form. The sonnet consists of words related to religion as words are mentioned pilgrims, holy shrine, saint, faith, prayer etc. these somehow cause isolation to the rest of the ball, focusing on their passionate love. As Romeo’s and Juliet’s speeches towards each other contains religious overtones but most of the sonnet refers to the human body and touching and kissing and they actually touch and kiss each other. However their formal use of language has a dignified tone which focuses on sincerity and purity of their love for each other. The mood at this stage is again one of desire, passion and love.

    After their sonnet, the atmosphere changes to a dramatic one as Romeo learns that Juliet is a Capulet, the family that is at a feud with his own. Romeo is at distraught and expresses this saying ‘…My life is my foe’s debt.’ As the guests leave Juliet also discovers that Romeo is from her family’s enemy, she becomes distressed with the idea of Romeo being a Montague and says if she cannot marry him she will die- this is an ominous comment. Juliet continues saying ‘…My grave is like to be my wedding bed…’ this tells the reader that death is portrayed as a bride groom, although this image occurs again at the end. Moreover Juliet now feels devastated due to the fact that she has found her only love within the family that she was brought up to hate as she says ‘…My only love sprung from my only hate!…’ Shakespeare ends this scene on a cliff-hanger, creating tension between the characters. This scene also gives it away to the audience what might befall Romeo as the scene leaves them with questions, like ‘Is Romeo going to carry on seeing Juliet and at what cost-death?’

    Overall, we can see that Shakespeare uses a variety of dramatic devices suited to what atmosphere he wishes to create or how much tension he may inflict upon the characters. He maintains interest by using contrast which is to highlight one quality by placing to another quality so the reader may see the appreciation of it. He also uses things like a sonnet to portray how strong the connection between Romeo and Juliet is, as well as imagery which was used in Romeo’s soliloquy.

    I believe that every character has a part to blame for the death of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo and Juliet are also fatalistic as they believe that life is controlled by a higher power as people would do so at the time. However I also believe (even though it’s not a character) that fate is the most to blame. The reason for this is that it is as if fate will not allow these two to be together hence ‘A pair of star crossed lovers’ in the prologue and in result a tragic event occurs. Fate plays a lot in this play as people believe in a powerful presence that controls life, they also believe that there is a minor repelling force which allowed Romeo and Juliet in the first place also fate’s course was to repel these two lovers as they weren’t meant to be, as all these actions are against fate. Fate culminates increasing it further and further becoming more unstable eventually when the mounting pressure is released; a tragic event occurs, time after time leaving death behind its trail i.e. Tybalt, Mercutio, Paris, Romeo and Juliet.

    As Shakespeare introduces the play with a prologue it already tells the reader that there is a war or feud between ‘two households, both a like in dignity’ who are the Capulets and the Montagues. It also tells the reader that ‘a pair of star crossed lovers’ take their life due to their ‘death-marked love’. The prologue tells the reader that there is a feud between two respectable families and that there will be two lovers who are ‘star crossed’ suggesting that fate will not allow these two together, the text also forebodes the death of these two lovers by using the words ‘death-marked love’, this also tells the reader what to expect.

    The plot of this tragedy is based on two lovers who will take any length to be together however the obstacle between them is their families’ feud. The play opens with a fight between the servants of the Capulets and the servants of the Montagues, this already tells the reader at what magnitude of hatred is there between these two families, although it doesn’t tell the reader how the feud began. The feud between these two families is so great that even the prince of Verona has to intervene as it is causing a problem portraying him as a symbol of order but even he cannot stop it, again Shakespeare is expressing the families’ magnitude of hatred towards each other. Then the discussion begins between Romeo and Benvolio-his cousin-we discover that Romeo is in love or more like infatuated as well as depressed with Roseline due to her not returning love for him. However Romeo then sees Juliet in the Capulet party he gate crashed with his companions he secretly falls in love with her and so does she. Later on in the play they eventually get married only the Friar and the Nurse knowing about it.

    After that Tybalt has a fight with Mercutio who is related to the Prince of Verona, the fight leads to Mercutio’s death. Romeo then fights and kills Tybalt for the revenge of his friend Mercutio, the result of this is that Romeo is exiled from Verona. Juliet becomes distressed with the news of Romeo’s banishment and is pressurized from her family, in particular her father Lord Capulet to marry Paris. On the other hand Friar Lawrence come up with a plan for Romeo and Juliet to be together, he does this by giving Juliet a potion which makes it seem that she is dead but she wakes up from a sleep 24 hours later. By then the family would have placed her in the tombs, below ground level and because of this and not the usual burial process it seems as the perfect plan. However the plan’s flaw was that the news of Juliet’s death reached Romeo before the Friar’s letter explaining he situation, because of this everything goes wrong. Romeo decides to rush back to Verona but not to mourn next to Juliet but to die next to her, once he arrives at the tombs he finds Paris who came to visit his so called future wife. Paris jumping to conclusions fights with Romeo who kills him. Romeo then drinks poison to die next to his love, Juliet then wakes up noticing that Romeo is dead she kills herself with his knife dying next to him. Only after knowing the full story of Romeo and Juliet, the families end their feud.

    At the beginning of the play the reader can see that Romeo is inexperienced in love and that he takes it too seriously. It seems that Romeo is drowning in self pity; also he reader can tell that he is inexperienced in real love due to how he expresses this which is through his speech that is full of artificial expressions. When Romeo meets Juliet for the fist time he is instantly in love with her, furthermore Romeo makes peace with Tybalt which suggests that he is not a violent person. Shakespeare puts these two in contrast with each other in order for the reader to see how Romeo is juxtaposed to Tybalt; Shakespeare changes the reader’s view of Romeo from a foolish boy in love with love itself too much to a mature young adult as he sees that violence is unnecessary. It is because of this contrast that Tybalt seems that bit more ferocious or that more passion for violence. Due to Juliet, Romeo finds some maturity and tolerance towards the Capulets and as he has the marriage between Juliet to think of, he basically becomes less interested in anything else such as Romeo being vulnerable to plans that are thought up by other people like the Friar or Juliet and not contributing his thoughts. Romeo forebodes a tragedy will take place by saying ‘…some consequence yet hanging in the stars, shall bitterly begin his fearful date…’ Moreover this reveals that Romeo is a strong fatalistic by placing his life in the hands of fate.

    Friar Lawrence acts as Romeo’s confidant and an important role in the play, the reason for this is that it was he who had concocted the potion and it was he who had come up with the plan to allow Romeo and Juliet to be together. But this was the same plan that had ultimately killed both Romeo and Juliet. However the Friar’s intentions seem to be good although he proves to be too optimistic for instance he believed that Romeo’s and Juliet’s marriage would bring the feud to an end. The Friar is also quite afraid and impatient, he is impatient as he shouts at Romeo violently saying ‘…these violent delights have violent ends…’ this suggests to the reader that The Friar is aware of the dangers of violent passion, he also kind of forebodes Romeo’s and Juliet’s love towards each other will destroy them both.

    The Montagues, who are the family of Romeo, do not appear much in the play but are obviously in the feud with the Capulets. The Capulets who are Juliet’s family are much involved as they are the ones who host the ball and Lord Capulet-Juliet’s father-is the one who pressurizes her to get married to Paris like making an ultimatum. But at some other times he acts as a loving father, this makes it very difficult to analyse Lord Capulets character as he behaves quite contradictory.

    Juliet compared to Romeo is more involved in her family’s situations, her mother who in those times didn’t care for her when she was young but was rather given to a maid to look after, this shows how much their is a connection with Juliet and her mother which is hardly any. Juliet also shows much more maturity and independence even though she is under the age of fifteen. At the beginning of the play the reader can suggest that Juliet is an obedient daughter to her parents but she suddenly changes this when she meets Romeo, yet Shakespeare makes Juliet seem more perceptive and intelligent than Romeo she is also aware of the problems she will face because she says ‘… O Romeo, Romeo wherefore art thou Romeo. Deny thy father and refuse thy name…’ She probably obeys him because of their utmost love towards each other, this is shown at the end of the play when Juliet kills herself, there is irony due to the fact that it was fate that had brought them together and it was fate that had destroyed them both.

    The Nurse also acts as a confidant, and she ahs a much stronger bondage with Juliet then Juliet’s mother, Shakespeare shows this when Lady Capulet wanted to talk to Juliet about Paris’ proposal however she had found it uncomfortable and then called for the Nurse as they had a stronger connection. The reason for this is that The Nurse had a daughter about the same age as Juliet but sadly died while an infant, she was then looking after Juliet and saw her as her daughter caring for her, giving her a mother’s love that she never had from her own mother. Furthermore this could suggest that Juliet’s absence of love from her own parents-which should have happened naturally-acted as a catalyst for her to love Romeo that bit more and was willing to defy her parents ‘name’ for it. The Nurse is a sincere intended person although she has a bawdy sense of nature, all the actions that the Nurse does is seen by her for Juliet’s benefits. As I had said before, the Nurse acts as Juliet’s confidante and helping her throughout the ordeal she faces but Juliet thinks of her disloyal and is shocked once she the Nurse advises Juliet to marry Paris and reconsider Romeo.

    Benvolio is basically the peacekeeper of the play as he says ‘…I do but keep the peace…’ This in juxtaposition to Tybalt’s character is hugely diverse, as Tybalt is more or less the opposite of Benvolio. Also Benvolio is a person which can be trusted as it was him that the Prince asked for information about the feud, Benvolio is also more cautious than Romeo in love and has the tendency not to fall in love deeply.

    Mercutio on the other hand is of a lively nature rather than a peacekeeper; he also uses imaginative language such as Queen Mab to describe his views of abstract things e.g. love, peace and so forth. Mercutio who is clever and eloquent in speech indicates that he cares little for life or death, but even though they have contradicting views of life Mercutio is considered to be loyal to Romeo and interferes on his behalf to fight against Tybalt causing him to die.

    Tybalt who by far surpasses everyone else in hate and anger towards the feud held between the two families. He proves this by attacking not only Benvolio seen as a peacekeeper but then was encouraging his uncle Lord Capulet to fight against Romeo and Mercutio who had gate crashed at the time. Tybalt expresses his hate and enmity towards the Montagues and everything that stands in its way like for instance peace saying ‘…What, drawn and talk of peace? I hate the word, as I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee. This further shows his ever increasing passion towards hate and loyalty towards his family.

    In conclusion, Romeo and Juliet is a romantic tragedy which consists of tension, amusing parts and the climax of several characters actions. Thought and emotion play a major role as they all somehow revolve around each other. In addition to this every character has a part to blame for the death of Romeo and Juliet however fate which people at the time believed in or were fatalistic- that life was controlled by a more powerful force or presence.

    There are numerous key characters that are to be blamed for the death of Romeo and Juliet, but fate is the most to be blamed. It is as if fate will not allow these two to be together and in result a tragic event occurs. This takes a toll on both the families as well as the royals as Paris and Mercutio were killed. When Romeo and Juliet die it causes the feud to end as both families finally recognize their wrong and mourn for the death of their young. Furthermore the Prince’s family were affected by the feud as well, as two of their relatives were killed; Paris and Mercutio. Actually both of them had died due to their own fault as it was Mercutio’s pride and quick temper and Paris’ anger and misunderstanding. But what plays mostly in everything of this play is fate. However there was a minor repelling force which allowed Romeo to meet Juliet but fate’s course was to repel these two lovers as they weren’t meant to be, all these actions are against fate. Also once fate culminates it becomes unstable as it reaches its peak, finally it then releases the mounting pressure and a tragic event occurs time after time leaving death behind its trail; Mercutio, Tybalt, Paris, Romeo and Juliet.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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