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    How does Shakespeare make you feel increasingly sympathetic towards Juliet? Essay

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    During Act 3 scene 5 Shakespeare enables the audience to feel increasingly sympathetic towards Juliet and her current situation. To do this Shakespeare employs many dramatic devices and completely isolates her from the rest of the characters.

    At the opening of the scene Romeo must leave Juliet. However it is in the middle of the night and emotions are heightened. Romeo and Juliet cannot establish whether it is night or day. This could be symbolic of the predicament they are in. Juliet tries to persuade Romeo that it is not yet dawn, and therefore he does not have to leave yet.

    “Yond light is not daylight, I know it”.

    At first Romeo is sceptical and says that he must go, but then resolves to stay and face capture and even death.

    “I must be gone and live, or stay and die.”

    The time of their departure enables the audience to feel increasingly sympathetic towards the couple. Romeo is frightened and worried about being captured as he is banished. He faces a death penalty if he is caught. Tragically all this is happening on their wedding night, it should be the happiest time of their lives and both Romeo and Juliet want it to last forever. Sadly it is tainted by the fact that they do not know when they shall next speak again. The audience would also feel sympathy towards Juliet on her wedding day, supposedly the happiest day of her life, as she has lost her cousin, found out her newly wed husband is a murderer and then at the end of her wedding night just to add insult to injury she is, about to loose her husband as well, due to banishment. The majority of the audience will understand how heart-rending it must be for Romeo to be banished on the day of the young couples wedding. As many members of the audience would have been married, they would probably be imagining their wedding night and realising how terrible the timing is of this quandary.

    Shakespeare uses musical imagery with words like, “discords”, “unpleasing sharps”

    and “out of tune”. All these musical terms mean things are going very wrong in a piece of music. However in the case of Romeo and Juliet things are not going wrong in a piece of music, but in their lives.

    A precise indicator of the situation facing the young couple is typified by the following quote,

    “More light and light, more dark and dark our woes.”

    It is ironic how we consider light to be associated with happiness and good; however in the case of Romeo and Juliet it is used to signify loss and cruel division.

    As Romeo departs from Juliet’s bedroom, we fear the couple will never see one another alive again. Although Romeo appears to be fairly positive, and looking forward to their “sweet discourses”, Juliet adopts an attitude quite to the contrary. When Juliet asks Romeo whether he believes they “shall ever meet again”, Romeo replies, “I doubt it not”. However as Juliet says her goodbyes her words are filled with foreboding and she has a premonition of Romeo lying dead in a tomb.

    “Methinks I see thee now, thou art so low,

    As one dead in the bottom of a tomb.”

    This echoes Juliet’s previous statement as Romeo goes to leave

    “let day in, and let life out.”

    Although Romeo is still being quite positive considering the situation the couple are facing Juliet is not. She seems to be focusing on all the terrible things being cruelly separated in this way has forced upon her. An example of this is the way she centres on how slowly the time will pass whilst they are apart, saying,

    “For in a minute there are many days.”

    Juliet correctly summarises her attitude and character when she states she has an, “ill-divining soul.” This suggests that she believes she is in control of the fate of her own character. However it is a statement that must be questioned throughout the play. As an audience we are aware from the very beginning that the play is a tragedy due to the prologue,

    “A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life”.

    Juliet’s words remind us of what the final outcome of the play will be. As an audience we feel increasingly sympathetic towards Juliet as we are reminded that the play will end in the fatalities of the two lovers. We are possibly coming to the realisation that this will be their last meeting when they are alive.

    Shakespeare also uses personification to create sympathy.

    “O Fortune, Fortune, all men call thee fickle.”

    The audience can relate to experiences of their own when they have encountered bad luck and fickle people. This allows them to feel empathetic towards Juliet. Fate has brought the couple together only to cruelly separate them. Although Juliet is criticising fortune in this statement, she is hoping that her fortune will change and she will be reunited with her love, Romeo.

    When Lady Capulet enters, she is not at all sympathetic towards Juliet. Lady Capulet mistakes Juliet’s tears for Romeo’s departure, as grief for Tybalt. She begins insulting Romeo believing that getting vengeance will resolve the situation.

    “We will have vengeance for it, fear thou not”.

    Lady Capulet is promising revenge on Juliet’s husband, the only person who stands by her and the one person she claims she loves. Shakespeare is building up sympathy for Juliet, as she can’t even tell her own mother about her marriage. We watch her distress and share her feelings of hopelessness, as each person turns away from her until she is totally isolated.

    Juliet does reply to her mother but her words are filled with double meanings.

    “To bear a poison I would temper it.”

    Lady Capulet believes Juliet is going to make it deadly, however Juliet means to weaken the poison to give Romeo peaceful sleep. The double meanings create sympathy for Juliet, as the audience are aware of what Juliet is really thinking and feeling. They know how alone she is and how she is forced to hide her true feelings behind double meanings.

    Then once Juliet’s mother they has finished vowing to kill Juliet’s husband, Lady Capulet informs Juliet that Capulet has arranged for her to get married. Juliet is obviously furious and completely opposed to this. She has just lost her husband and her cousin and is now being forced into a second marriage to a man she is hardly well acquainted with. Throughout this scene sympathy builds for Juliet, as everything seems to be going wrong, and it all directly affects her. What should be the happiest time of her life is now turning into a disastrous nightmare. She cannot inform her parents of her marriage with Romeo. Not only has Juliet undermined her parents, as she was previously aware of the marriage Capulet was planning for her, but she has married a boy who belongs to the family that the Capulets consider to be their arch- enemies. As if this was not bad enough, and as good a reason as ever not to tell her parents about her love for Romeo, Lady Capulet and Capulet are aware that Romeo killed Tybalt, a member of the Capulet family. Therefore they would be outraged to learn that their daughter had completely gone against everyone in their family, to marry a murderer, and ruined the chance for her to marry a well, respected gentleman.

    As Capulet comes into the scene, he too mistakes Juliet’s tears for sorrow for Tybalt. At first he is confident and tries to offer fatherly comfort. However when he hears how she is refusing to marry, he loses his temper and becomes sarcastic and cruel. He calls her a “tallow-face” and a “mistress minion”. He tells her that she is not worthy of Paris and that she should be grateful to them for arranging such a great thing for her. He even threatens her;

    “I will drag thee on a hurdle thither”.

    He then gives her a choice, marriage or rejection from the family. As the audience are well aware, this is not much of a choice.

    Lady Capulet is also very cruel and abusive towards Juliet when she becomes aware of her refusal to marry Paris.

    “I would the fool were married to her grave.”

    As an audience we feel very sympathetic towards Juliet now the insults that she has been thrown from both her mother and her father, were terrible. She cannot tell them her secret and as an audience we feel increasingly sympathetic towards Juliet and her seemingly hopeless situation.

    When her parents have both left, Juliet looks for comfort from the Nurse. The Nurse is someone that Juliet really relies upon for support and guidance. At this particular moment in time, what Juliet really needs is a friend, someone who will help and support her. She cannot turn to her parents for this and since she was very young the Nurse has played this role. Juliet expects the nurse to help as she was all for the marriage to Romeo. She looks to her for “guidance” and “counsel”. Previously the Nurse praised Romeo and even encouraged Juliet to marry him. However now she too turns against Juliet. Juliet is furious that the Nurse is completely contradicting what she had said about Romeo in the past. Now she is comparing Romeo to Paris, and in her eyes Paris is far better than Romeo. She now advises Juliet,

    “I think it best you married with the County”,

    whilst she compares Romeo to “a dishclout”. By the time the Nurse has finished Juliet feels utterly betrayed and is beside herself with fury. As an audience our sympathy is now at it’s utmost. Juliet is now completely isolated. The person that she has always confided in and relied upon has now betrayed her at the single most important time that she was needed. As things seem to be spiralling out of control for Juliet the audience must begin to sense that things will never turn right for her or Romeo, and are probably beginning to anticipate their deaths.

    All these circumstances are compounded by the fact that she cannot marry, as she is already wed. She has lost her cousin, who she was very close to and her husband has been banished. She is also unsure of her feelings towards Romeo, as to whether he is a murderer or her lover. Her life has been turned upside down in a matter of days and she is now completely alone.

    The scene finishes with a soliloquy from Juliet. From this we can see how furious she is with the nurse and how hopeless she believes the situation to be. At the very end of this short soliloquy she puts forward the only two ideas she can come up with. The first idea, her plan A so to speak, is to seek help from the Friar. However her plan B is to take her life if all else fails.

    “If all else fail, myself have power to die.”

    This last line is when tension is at its utmost and so is our sympathy for Juliet. The extent of despair that she is feeling is explicitly exposed, when she begins to contemplate taking her own life.

    In conclusion, throughout this scene Shakespeare employs many dramatic devices as he builds up the audience’s sympathy for Juliet. He does this through his choice of language and vocabulary, the way he isolates her from the rest of the characters and the terrible timing of each situation.

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    How does Shakespeare make you feel increasingly sympathetic towards Juliet? Essay. (2017, Nov 07). Retrieved from

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