In Act One, Scene Five, the masked ball scene, of Romeo and Juliet, a myriad of different moods and tensions are created through Shakespeare’s use of characters and their interactions. He brings up emotions such as warmth, anger and romance and from this, opinions of the characters are created in the audience. His utilisation of techniques like dramatic irony and rhyming couplets causes the atmosphere to change, through the scene, from jubilance and frivolousness to romance and mystery. This becomes anger and tension and then returns to tender romance; which is eventually destroyed by the harsh voice of reason.
Act One, Scene Five opens with a brief speech from Capulet in which he welcomes the people of Verona to his masked ball. On stage, Capulet’s entry to the room, probably wearing bright, colourful clothes would create a dramatically effective visual contrast with his servants, dressed in drab kitchen clothes. This would help to characterise Capulet and show the audience the difference in social class.
The jolliness of the party creates a strong contrast to the tension of the previous scene. I believe that it is Capulet’s gracious and familiar air as a host that creates an atmosphere of joviality and homeliness. This is shown on the first line of the scene when he says, “Welcome, gentlemen! Ladies that have their toes unplagued with corns will walk about with you!” He uses this as a light hearted way of teasing those women at the party who refuse to dance by suggesting that they have fungal feet. In my opinion, this is Capulet’s way of creating a party mood, with all the guests frivolously dancing and joking with each other. Also, it seems that it is Shakespeare’s way of showing Capulet’s status by having him make jokes freely at the guest’s expense whilst the guests themselves have to be careful with what they say to him.Order now
Shakespeare has worded Capulet’s lines in order to give the audience the impression that he is addressing a large number of people when in fact, due to the stage’s space restrictions at the time, only very few actors were able to be on stage at once. The idea of a masked ball is, in itself, a dramatic device. In terms of the play’s plot, it provides a means for Romeo and the other Montagues to enter the party without revealing their identities to their rival Capulets. In the way of stage craft, it allows the actors of the guests to assume many roles where they may only have been able to take on one, giving an audience the impression of a crowded area despite the limitations imposed by the stage’s size.
Romeo’s first line in Act One, Scene Five sets up an entirely new atmosphere, one of romance and mystery where the focus of the audience is shifted from Capulet and his fellow revellers to Romeo’s extravagant hyperbole as he fantasises wildly over Juliet. The fifth line from Romeo’s flowery, overblown speech about Juliet is an excellent example of Shakespeare’s of rhyming couplets and contrasts within his writing his writing. “Beauty too rich for use, for Earth too dear, so shows a snowy dove trooping with crows as yonder lady o’er her fellows shows.” The image of a dove trooping (flying) with crows has different levels to it. The obvious one is the colours. The dove, a white bird, is Juliet, amongst a group of crows, black and white. Another way of interpreting this is by thinking of the ideals that these colours represent. Traditionally, the colour white represents purity and sanctity while the colour black conventionally symbolises impurity and ugliness.
A romantic audience would feel uplifted by Romeo’s lavish, slightly profligate monologue and taken aback by the quick change in atmosphere. More cynical viewers, however, would think that, since, before this moment, Romeo had been madly in love with an unseen woman named Rosalind, that he is not truly in love with Juliet and his change of heart seems somewhat impulsive.
Perhaps he is in love with love itself, he desires the sensation of love but does not want to commit himself lest he loses the opportunity to experience the experience of love.
The romantic mood does not last long. Tybalt, Capulet’s nephew, recognises Romeo’s voice and is infuriated by his audacity to come to a party held by his enemy. Tybalt is angered to such an extent that he swears to kill Romeo, “Now by the stock and honour of my kin, to strike him (Romeo) dead I hold it not a sin,” Once again, Shakespeare uses rhyming couplets, but, rather than create a romantic atmosphere, it brings out Tybalt’s anger and single mindedness. This line would immediately tell an audience about Tybalt’s nature and how full of hate and anger he is. Tybalt’s name alone gives the audience an impression of his character. Perhaps it is derived from the word, “Tyrant” suggesting that he wants to keep people under his control, or maybe “CoBalt,” a cold and unyielding metal.
Capulet notices Tybalt’s anger and confronts him, first by telling him to simply allow Romeo to remain at the party peacefully and then by exercising his authority over him: “He shall be endured. Am I the master here, or you?” He is reminding Tybalt of his place and that he should not overstep himself. Tybalt eventually submits to Capulet and leaves, but not before giving the audience a grim foreshadowing of events to come when he says, “I will withdraw, but this intrusion shall, now seeming sweet, convert to bitt’rest gall,” This line shows Tybalt’s fury at being humiliated by Capulet because of Romeo and, of course, sets the scene for the events come. This means that the audience will have created their own ideas of how the play will end and will lead to them taking different opinions of the characters.
At line ninety two, Romeo and Juliet finally meet. Shakespeare’s sonnet, once again using elaborate rhyming couplets, flows with lavish romantic allusion, “If I profane with my unworthiest hand this holy shrine, the gentle sin is this: My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.” This time, as well as the rhyming couplets, Shakespeare uses religious imagery to create an idea of purity and sanctity. This also leads the audience to believe that Romeo and Juliet’s love is meant to be, that God wills it. “Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much, which mannerly devotion shows in this; For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch, and palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.” Juliet’s response shows that she is both interested in Romeo and equal to him intellectually. She shows this through her continuing of the religious theme and by teasing Romeo by hinting at kissing and other romantic subjects. The sonnet continues, the two lovers alternate lines and hint at their feelings for each other. Finally, they kiss. Of course, the audience know the identity of the “two star crossed lovers”, while Romeo and Juliet themselves do not, Shakespeare is using dramatic irony to engage the audience’s attention.
Once again, the romantic mood is not long lived. Juliet’s Nurse enters, bringing Juliet to her senses. She informs Juliet that Lady Capulet wants to speak with her. Upon Juliet’s exit, Romeo asks the Nurse the identity of his new lover. The Nurse replies, informing him that she is from the Capulet family. Later in the scene, the Nurse finds out that Romeo is a Montague and reveals this to Juliet. In this scene, the Nurse represents practicality and realism. The two lovers want to be together, and they want to believe it is possible for them to be together, but in reality they cannot, it is impossible and the nurse is a romanceless and constant reminder of this. “If he be married, my grave is like to be my wedding bed.” This quote, prior to Romeo’s identity being revealed, shows Juliet foreshadowing the tragic events to come and the calamitous turn their love is destined to take. Foreshadowing is the dramatic device that Shakespeare has chosen to end this scene with.
This scene is a prime example of Shakespeare’s ability to create many and varied moods throughout his writing. He achieves these changes in atmosphere through his use of characters, and the lines he gives them, creating actions that can be viewed in a variety of different ways. In this scene, the atmosphere changes five times. It opens with an air of joviality and jolliness, created by Capulet’s graciousness and familiarity, which changes briefly into romance and mytery, imposed by Romeo’s hyperbolic sonnet about Juliet. This progresses into a feeling of anger and tension brought on by Tybalt’s fury at Romeo’s audacity and Tybalt’s foreshadowing closing remark. The mood then returns to one of tenderness as Romeo and Juliet finally meet. This mood is derived from the joint sonnet that the two lovers share, full of religious imagery. The romantic ambience is soon dispelled by the arrival of the nurse, the practical reminder of the harsh reality that faces the smitten couple. The audience will have taken the prophetic remarks of Juliet, Tybalt and others into account and will already be fearing how the play is likely to end.