William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is an Elizabethan tragedy play, written in the sixteenth century. This is an important aspect to the play because terms like ‘courtly lover’ would have been initially understood by an audience of that time, whereas, at present, it is virtually unknown. The phrase ‘courtly lover’ was a way to describe Romeo in the beginning of the play. If a person was a courtly lover, they were usually in a false love with an older woman. In Romeo’s case, Rosaline, an unobtainable Capulet woman. A courtly lover was a person who felt that they were in love, but was simply infatuated with a person who was beyond their reach. This immature description could be contrasted as Romeo develops throughout the play.Order now
From the beginning of the play Shakespeare shows Romeo to be rather immature and adolescent. His short-lived infatuation with Rosaline could be contrasted with a more genuine love for Juliet. Shakespeare makes it clear to his audience that the character of Romeo is shallow and disingenuous. He does this by depicting Romeo to be reveling in his own misery and despair. Shakespeare uses dramatic devices in the form of riddles and contrived rhyme to show Romeo’s confusion. An example of this is in a conversation between Romeo and his cousin Benvolio in Act 1, Scene 1. Romeo uses a series of oxymora like ‘loving hate’ and ‘heavy lightness’. Shakespeare shows through the forced poetic language that Romeo is seeking attention and enjoying the company of his misery. Shakespeare also makes it clear to his audience that a person truly in love would not speak in this manner.
Although Shakespeare spends a lot of time in the beginning showing Romeo’s lack of maturity and false poetic language, after meeting Juliet for the first time, Romeo’s language is no longer false, and is more sincere. Although his words are still poetic, they are not false, but rather more natural. At the party at the Capulet household in Act 1, Scene 5, Romeo first meets Juliet. Although Shakespeare creates the idea that Romeo has fallen in love with Juliet, and that this love is also felt by Juliet, it is also questionable that Romeo’s new ‘love’ is merely another adolescent infatuation, except this time, it is reciprocated by Juliet. Shakespeare uses a sonnet between Romeo and Juliet, indicating that their love is unforced and spontaneous.
The sonnet indicates that Romeo and Juliet’s conversation is natural and flowing, as opposed to forced and contrived. Also, contrary to Elizabethan customs, the sonnet between Romeo and Juliet is shared, as opposed to the usual ‘courtly lover’ manner of the man speaking the verse, not the woman. The language that Romeo and Juliet use is a total contrast to the noise of the party, and to the language of hate throughout the play, for example, ‘Then move not, while my prayers effect I take’ could be contrasted with ‘Patience perforce with willful choler meeting…’. It is also a contrast with the entire violent background of the story, being about hatred between two families, with a pair of ‘star-cross’d lovers’ between it.
Shakespeare shows Romeo to be devastated when he finds out that Juliet belongs to the Capulet family, as is Juliet when she finds out Romeo is a Montague. ‘My only love sprung from my only hate’, Juliet says, showing the deep contrast of love over hate in the play. Although Romeo is deeply saddened to find that Juliet is a forbidden love, he proves that he is serious about his love by showing determination to see Juliet again, which results in the balcony scene. Shakespeare shows Romeo using a lot of imagery, particularly of light, for example ‘The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars’. In this part of the play, Shakespeare leaves it up to the audience to make their decision as to whether Romeo has grown up, or is still a boy. Romeo is still using rhetoric and rhyme similar to his earlier scenes, for example, ‘But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.’ but it is questionable as to whether this is different and more genuine than before. By the end of this scene, Romeo and Juliet have agreed to marry. This is a way of Shakespeare showing that Romeo is willing to take responsibility for his feelings, as opposed to when his misery was simply about appearance.
In Act 3, Scene 1, after Romeo and Juliet have been married by Friar Lawrence, Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, is looking to fight Romeo. Shakespeare shows Romeo’s new found maturity in his will not to fight Tybalt. Romeo explains to him that he loves him, yet cannot say why, therefore he doesn’t want to fight. Although Shakespeare shows Romeo’s considerable change of character and new level of maturity, he also shows that Romeo can be erratic and spontaneous as he was before. Shakespeare does this through Romeo’s killing of Tybalt for murdering Mercutio, a very close friend of Romeo’s.
Romeo’s punishment for the murder of Tybalt was banishment, and at this point in the play, the audience may question whether Romeo has gone back to his immature self. Romeo’s reaction to being banished from Verona is devastation. He implies in: ‘Be merciful, say death’, that he would rather die than be without Verona or Juliet. He says ‘There is no world beyond Verona walls’, again saying that death would be a better solution. Romeo’s mood, however, is quickly restored when he hears of Friar Lawrence’s arrangement for Romeo and Juliet to spend a night together. This is clear when Romeo says ‘How well my comfort is revived by this.’
Upon meeting with Juliet again, Romeo’s mood is changed considerably, as is his will to seek a practical solution to his problems. Romeo is clearly more mature as he is more cautious about his actions so as not to get caught with Juliet. Romeo says ‘I must be gone and live, or stay and die’, indicating he knows what he has to do, and is again, taking responsibility.
Act 5, Scene 3 shows Romeo visiting Juliet at her tomb, where as far as he knows, she lies dead. Shakespeare makes it clear to his audience that Romeo’s love for Juliet is genuine and deep. Romeo cannot bare to live without Juliet, and his plan is to kill himself and be with her. Romeo’s final speech is clearly shown by Shakespeare to be sincere and without self-pity, as some of his previous speech had been. Shakespeare is able to show the audience that Romeo’s death was a decision made consciously and in a controlled way. He does this mainly through Romeo’s final speech. In previous parts of the play, Romeo’s language was contrived and self-deceiving. At this point, however, his language is clearly deep and sincere. It is possible here to think that Romeo’s decision to kill himself was erratic and immature, as if he was looking for an easy way out. However, I believe that it is clear to see that the decision made by Romeo to take his own life was made sensibly and in a non-self-pitying way. He was thinking clearly and it was what he truly wanted, and showed his love for Juliet to be deep and meaningful.
In his final speech, Romeo speaks of a ‘desperate pilot’, meaning that his body is being steered towards this fate of death with Juliet. Romeo’s last words, ‘Thus with a kiss I die’, show that in his last living moments her was thinking not of himself, but of Juliet.
The death of Romeo and Juliet eventually ended the colossal feud between the Montague and Capulet households. I think this was a device used by Shakespeare to show the power of love over war.
Throughout the play Shakespeare used many methods and techniques to present the character of Romeo. In the first part of the play, before meeting Juliet, Romeo’s language was very poetic, far too poetic for someone genuinely in love. It is made clear by Shakespeare that Romeo’s language is extremely forced and that he is seeking the attention of those around him, by dwelling in his misery. Shakespeare satirized the form of a ‘courtly lover’, showing that Romeo’s feelings are full of artifice.
Through a lot of the play I noticed that Shakespeare’s descriptions of Romeo are very ambivalent. This gives me the impression that Shakespeare wants his audience to draw their own conclusions from Romeo’s behaviour. I drew the conclusion that through meeting Juliet, the character of Romeo quickly matured. He started to think of others rather than crave their attention. I realise that it is possible to come to the conclusion that Romeo is in another false love, but I noticed many differences in Romeo’s character as the play progressed. For example, the rhyme Romeo uses in Act 1, Scene 1, like ‘smoke made with the fume of sighs; and ‘a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes’, were all extremely forced.
Romeo was looking for attention, but as the play progressed, I noticed that Romeo thought little in the way of attention for his feelings, but more about dealing with the problems he faced. Romeo’s selfless final speech made me realise that he was thinking of Juliet, and doing what he truly thought was right, rather than trying to appear depressed, which shows, to me, that Romeo did change through meeting Juliet. Shakespeare’s many devices clearly depicted Romeos thoughts and feelings throughout the play, and the variety of each type of device showed Shakespeare’s ability to convey a character through many different perspectives.