The presentations of both love and hate reach their first climaxes in Act 1, in the meeting of Romeo and Juliet, and in the hatred that Romeo stirs in Tybalt during that meeting. The characters playing major roles in this scene, Romeo, Juliet and Tybalt, are each seen to experience both ends of the emotional spectrum, and the way Shakespeare orders events highlights this contrast, and also helps build dramatic irony.
Shakespeare’s presentation of love and hate is defined in the Prologue, where the Chorus recites a sonnet that informs the audience of the conclusion of the entire drama, where “A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life”. It is here that Shakespeare destroys the notion of free will inside his play, and the underlying theme of fate in association with love and hate is announced. Also, with the audience forewarned of the outcome, all that takes place is seen in a new light, as now the audience care less about what happens, but how. Romeo and Juliet’s sonnet later in the play contains echoes of the opening one, further enhancing the idea that we are watching two people being carried inexorably toward their destiny, an image that epitomises the whole tragedy.Order now
A different type of love is seen prior to Scene Five. It is the more orthodox Petrarchan love, and Romeo seems to be trapped in the role of stereotypical lover, talking in clichï¿½s and inert metaphors, and it seems that Romeo is almost in love with the idea of being in love rather than with the elusive Rosaline. This is a world away from the love later shared by Romeo and Juliet, which is a far more equal and tender love; and the contrast serves to make the play much more effective.
The wait before scene five is also used to establish the personality of Juliet; her meekness toward her parents is made evident, as well as her relationship with the Nurse, in Scene Three of Act 1. Juliet’s impending marriage to Paris is also introduced, and by examining the way it is discussed, we can deduce a lot about the attitudes toward love and marriage held by Juliet, Lady Capulet and the Nurse, and perhaps even Elizabethans in general. Juliet calls the marriage an “honour” before even meeting her prospective husband, showing that love was not considered important for marriage, and also giving her eventual (informal) elopement an element of self-sacrifice. The Nurse says “Women grow by men”, compounding this idea, and adding that increased status was more an incentive for marriage than love, which shows that Juliet’s affair with Romeo would have been considered atypical and rather risquï¿½ by an Elizabethan audience. Today however, Juliet’s actions would have been thought of as a liberation from the constraints of society, and therefore applauded.
Scene Five opens with dialogue between two servants rushing busily around the stage, a sequence that’s purpose is to break the static atmosphere left by the previous scene; dissipate the fraught passion left in the wake of Mercutio’s ‘Queen Mab’ speech; and also to announce the new setting to the audience. The opening speech of Capulet follows, further enhancing the setting, and also injecting a touch of humour into proceedings, which puts the audience at ease, and therefore makes the drama that ensues that much more effective. The first event of note is the initial glimpse Romeo gets of Juliet. “What lady’s that…?” he asks a servant, but the servant doesn’t know (although the audience does), and the dramatic irony begins to increase.
As a result of Romeo’s blissful ignorance to Juliet’s lineage, he goes on to make a lengthy speech that makes judicious use of metaphors in describing her many virtues. He creates a variety of natural images, “a snowy dove trooping with crows” being a prime example. Here, in portraying Juliet as ‘snowy’, Romeo compliments her fair complexion (and also perhaps comments on her innocence), while ‘dove trooping with crows’ is a comparison between Juliet, the exquisite ‘dove’, and the other women at the ball, whom she has relegated by her beauty to the status of ‘crows’, a distinctly drab form of bird.
Throughout his monologue, Romeo depicts himself as unworthy of Juliet, and hence elevates her to an almost angelic level, an idea supported by the many religious references made by Romeo in his conversation with Juliet later in the scene. Although it could be suggested that this is the typical exaggeration of a lover, it is more likely that Shakespeare meant for Romeo’s soliloquy to lend extra poignancy to the plight of the lovers, whom the audience knew were doomed.
Before that, however, comes the darker of our two themes: hatred in the form of Tybalt. The uplifting mood of the scene is shattered immediately as the sweet tone of Romeo is replaced by Tybalt’s rasping dialogue. He is outraged that Romeo would dare to show his face at one of the Capulet’s greatest occasions, and instantly calls “fetch me my rapier, boy”, an act that is an omen of future bloodshed, and also establishes the violent undertone that accompanies Romeo and Juliet’s relationship from here until its tragic conclusion. Shakespeare places Tybalt’s outburst immediately after Romeo’s speech, and the change in mood is shocking in it’s speed, throwing the audience off-balance. However, Romeo is oblivious to all of this, and again dramatic irony comes into play.
On the other hand, Capulet, when informed of Romeo’s presence, does not succumb to the same rage that grips Tybalt, even though his enmity towards the Montagues may be greater. This gives an interesting insight into his character, as in his response to Tybalt he says “I would not… here in my house do him disparagement…”, an honourable sentiment. This chivalric attitude might perhaps embody that of all the elders of both houses, in a contrast with the fierce passionate hate displayed by the younger players in the battle. The grudge may have been borne so long by Capulet that it has become enshrined, in a way someone might treat an old wound: it still hurts, but is now worn with a certain amount of pride.
The respite from Tybalt given by Capulet’s good humour is temporary, and as we are soon reminded that he will neither forgive nor forget, the audience is left with a feeling of foreboding as the mood of the scene shifts yet again, and love returns to centre stage. It is halfway through this scene when Romeo and Juliet finally converse with each other, and it is fitting that this long awaited exchange takes the form of a Petrarchan sonnet, a traditionally romantic form of English. It is here the tempo of the scene slows, reflecting the delicacy and tenderness of the emotions exhibited by the couple, along with their twin narcissism. Romeo uses religious imagery for the second time in this scene when referring to Juliet, perhaps in an attempt to compare her with the most important thing in his world. He calls himself a “pilgrim”, and talks of her as a shrine, one that he has presented himself at for absolution, and in doing so elevates her to the same plane occupied by angels and saints, the most pure beings in his knowledge.
Juliet develops this religious theme in her responses, which take up half the sonnet for the first four lines, showing that she is Romeo’s equal in both intellect and social standing. This was quite uncommon in the Elizabethan era, as traditionally male sonnets silenced the female, reflecting the patriarchal nature of the times. That Juliet had such a significant share of the dialogue marked her as a powerful woman, and her fate was in keeping with the tradition of powerful women either dying or getting married at the end of a drama.
The sonnet finally culminates in a visually powerful coup de grace: the famous first kiss.
Romeo and Juliet immediately launch into another sonnet, but are ominously interrupted by the Nurse, a reminder to the audience that the romance will end in tragedy. The couple are forcibly broken from their trance, and the one perfect moment of the romance is broken, as Romeo and Juliet are parted, and their respective lineages discovered. Never again is the romance so perfect; the theme of untainted love has reached it’s apex.
In conclusion, Shakespeare presents true love, as between Romeo and Juliet, as an overwhelming, bewildering and thoroughly compulsive experience, as opposed to the confined and orthodox role-play acted out by Romeo and Rosaline. Hatred is portrayed as Love’s eternal nemesis: it is always hate in some form that disrupts the romance in this scene, violence that follows the lovers wherever they go, and hate that triggers the chain of events that concludes with double suicide.