Before this play starts a prologue must be read as an introduction to the text, which briefly tells the story so that we, as the audience, know what to expect straight from the very start. The prologue tells the audience right from the beginning that there is going to be tragedy at the end, “A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life”. This is so the audience are put in suspense as to how the tragedy will occur; it makes us want to read the story.
The audience will be waiting from the beginning to pick up on any signs, which might give away the deaths of the teenagers, of the families involved in the feud. Also, by reading this prologue to the audience, Shakespeare engaged us from the start, and made us anxious to find what happens in the sorrowful story of the “star-crossed lovers”.
“The which if you with patient ears attend,Order now
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend”.
A lot of blame on both parties for the tragedy of the play added to the tension of Romeo and Juliet, and so makes the audience gain more suspense of whom they think was to blame for this tragedy. “That murdered my love’s cousin”.
From the second scene of the play we star to see that Juliet’s father, Lord Capulet controls her. He makes decisions for her, which is what parents did in Elizabethan times, and he gets cross with her when she disobeys him, “hang thee young baggage, disobedient wretch”. This makes the audience think that if the parents of these lovers had not made such decisions for them, would they have met their fate in this way? Could this have been prevented? Maybe they would have realised that they did not want each other as much as they thought they did? And maybe they just wanted each other because they knew it was forbidden?
Juliet is very young in this play, so the present day audience would not relate to a thirteen year old getting married. Her parents were too controlling and overly keen for her to marry Paris, and were threatening towards her when she tells them she doesn’t want to marry him.
“Get thee to church a Thursday,
Or never after look me in the face.”
Juliet’s parents were not willing to hear her excuse to why she did not want to marry Paris, and were not happy about their only daughter disagreeing with them, especially when this marriage was such a good match.
The audience also sees that Juliet is very close to her Nurse as she has been with her and cared for her since she was small. Juliet tells the nurse almost everything, so the nurse knows about Juliet’s love for Romeo, and so she tries to be as supportive as possible. Eventually, she helps them in their quest to marry with Juliet’s best intentions in mind.
Friar Lawrence married the teenagers as he is a good friend to Romeo, and he thought he also had their best intentions in mind. He realised how much they meant to each other and so wanted to help them, despite being reluctant at first. Friar Lawrence was unaware of what would happen if he did help them. He thought that this would maybe help the families to settle their differences and this never-ending argument.
In Elizabethan times, everybody believed in fate and to fulfil their ‘destiny’. The audience of Romeo and Juliet would have believed that the lovers were destined to be together, and all of the things that happened in this play were written in the stars and destined to happen to these two “Star-crossed lovers”.
It is ironic that the soliloquies in the play showed how much these two teenagers loved each other, and how emotional it was that they were from families with such hatred between them. “It is my lady, O it is my love”.