* Romeo and Juliet was written by William Shakespeare in the 1500’s, and is the story of two “star-cross” lovers from two rival families who find love with one another amongst the hate and violence between their two families.
* The play belongs to the genre of plays known as “tragedies”, and more specifically, belongs to “Romantic Tragedy”, a genre Shakespeare created, and started off with this very play. “Romeo and Juliet” is a tragedy as the two main characters (Romeo and Juliet), die at the end of the play.
* The main themes of the play: Love, Destiny, Power, Honour, “Masculinity and Manhood”.Order now
* Socio-historical Context: Male Dominance, Arranged Marriage, Plague, City of Verona-City associated with hot-blooded people.
Act 1 Scene 1:
* The Elizabethan society was strongly male-dominant, and men had the role of the “breadwinner”, the person who works and earns income. Women were thought of as “mothers and child bearers” and were considered “subservient” to men. Masculinity is a key theme of this scene- servants show off and boast – “I strike quickly to be moved.” “Thrust his maids to the wall”.
* Shakespeare contradicts this widely-held belief of the time in Act 1 Scene 1, where he portrays the wives of Lord Capulet and Lord Montague as being very strong, powerful women, who prevent their husbands from going to war. “Crutch! A crutch!” Shakespeare could have portrayed them in such a way as he feels that society needs to be rid of these stereotypes, and could have tried to convey this message to his audience in this way, trying to get them to question the “male dominancy” in society. . Shakespeare could have believed that this view was outdated and that men were just “arrogant and irrational”. Also, it could be said that Shakespeare merely wanted to show this “powerful role” of women to appease Queen Elizabeth I, who ruled England during Shakespeare’s lifetime.
* The “groundlings” of the audience were peasants and poor servants. In this scene, Shakespeare shows the Lords and Ladies of Verona to be arrogant and uncaring, whilst the servants are hard-working and loyal to their masters despite being treated unfairly. Shakespeare would have done this to please the groundling crowd, and send a message to the Upper and Middle Classes that they need to change their attitudes and behaviour.
* This first scene is also very aggressive and loud, and is used to hook the audience into the play. A large amount of violence is used, with loud arguments and fighting, which draws the audience in and grabs their attention straight away.
Act 3 Scene 1:
* Shakespeare structures the play in an “oxymoron” form. The previous scene to Act 3 Scene 1 is very peaceful, and is when Romeo and Juliet get married. The scene is very “sweet” and calm. This atmosphere is “turned on its head” and is contrasted sharply with the very tense and violent scene of Act 3 Scene 1. Shakespeare does this to draw in the attention of the audience, and to show the contrast between love and hate, a very core theme of the play.
* Shakespeare highlights the faults of the upper-class, and more importantly, of men in this scene. The fight between Mercutio and Tybalt which lead to both of them being killed was caused by the simple fault of arrogance, and the need for upper-class men to live upto their “reputation”, their “manhood”, and their need to compete for power. This could have reflected the social situation at the time, and Shakespeare could have been trying to send a message to these men in the upper class of society that their boisterous ways can only lead to unfortunate outcomes.
* At the beginning of the scene, the atmosphere is quite relaxed, yet tense and agitated, due to the scorching heat of the day, and the restlessness of Mercutio. When Tybalt enters the scene, things suddenly become extremely tense; with the hot weather and the agitation adding to the effect (This is called Pathetic Fallacy).
* Shakespeare uses dramatic Irony to create tension in this scene. The audience and Romeo know why Romeo cannot fight Tybalt, but the other characters do not. Romeo is now married to Juliet, and Tybalt is now his brother-in-law, something that Tybalt is unaware of. As a results, Tybalt is hell-bent on fighting Romeo to regain his “honour”, which he considers to have lost when letting Romeo attend the Capulet Banquet. The audience is given the impression here that Tybalt is a stubborn and hot-headed character, while Romeo is calm, collected and more emotionally stable than Tybalt.
* This builds tension as the characters get more and more agitated and more closer to fighting. Tension is also created as the audience is aware of the consequences the characters will face if they brawl once more. These consequences “plague” the minds of the audience who themselves become even more agitated and tense as the tension builds in the scene, which climaxes with the death of (L)Mercutio, which is swiftly followed by Tybalt’s own death.
* Romeo makes a “realisation” that Juliet’s love has “made him soft”, and has prevented him from “being a man” and retaining his honour. Here, Shakespeare again highlights the irrational beliefs of upper-class men, but also, he may also be sending a message that it is important to “love moderately” and control your emotions and passions, as it can distract you from the realities of life, and eventually cause the love to die out prematurely.
* Mercutio curses the two houses, both Capulet AND Montague, calling for a “plague on both your houses”. The plague of which Mercutio speaks of refers to the black plague that was rife in most parts of the world at the time. This plague is associated with death and devastation. This is the point at which the play turns for the worst. Before this scene, and this point in the scene, the play was heading towards a happy outcome, with Romeo and Juliet marrying in an effort to join the two families. After this point, Mercutio and Tybalt are killed, and Romeo exiled. It could be said that this curse foreshadows the rest of the play and inevitably leads to the end outcome of the play, with both Romeo and Juliet taking their lives.
This scene is vital, as it is the climax of the whole play, and is the point at which the play turns for the worst. This scene creates a feeling of pity and fear within the audience, which is the main purpose of a tragedy play and “flips” the whole play around, and converts the atmosphere from one of peace and love to one of hate, violence and bloodshed. Shakespeare also points out many of the flaws of Society in this scene, and communicates with the audience, showing them that the beliefs of “male dominance” and the attitudes of the upper-class must be eradicated to create a peaceful, happier society.