Roll up, Roll up, the most amazing production around, tragedy, humour, blood, death and love, all on show at the globe theatre, London.
Imagine yourself the year is 1594, it’s the Elizabethan era and Shakespeare has released his new play, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the most successful ever released. The location is south of the river Thames and crowds of people are gathered. The atmosphere is ecstatic, this was the place to be! The scene above is a description of a typical occurrence of a night within the Elizabethan era, crowds of people would flock to the theatre to enjoy plays of many themes, this was considered a social gathering and a time of fun. The play writers, including Shakespeare had great fun presenting plays to audiences, using a variety of humour, images, ideas and themes, this mixture and presentation was particularly true within, ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
The prologue was a convention of the Elizabethan tragedies, it was not present in all of Shakespeare’s plays but was within, ‘Romeo and Juliet’. The prologue wasn’t considered alien, instead it was a recognisable feature. Before the performance even begins the audience are given an insight into the forthcoming events. The prologue contains a basic and brief overview of the plot. However it doesn’t just inform, it also delivers the key themes and ideas of the play. The prologue grabs the audience’s attention, diverting them to the action on stage, it calms them down, creating the right atmosphere. Many of the themes of the play are introduced, so even at this very early stage the audience are aware of what to expect. The more able audience members would have been able to make comparisons to the plot given within the prologue to the actual happenings later in the play.
The language within the prologue is related to the main themes of the play, an example of this is the language relating to the theme of death. On almost every line, there is a death related word, for instance on line 3, “grudge”, line 4, “blood”, line 5 “fatal”, line 6, “take their life”, and so on. This combination adds real emphasis to the main themes and ideas of the plot of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. There are other word-theme associations, including love, anger, self-respect and much more.
As with Shakespeare’s other plays, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ contains a wide variety of themes. This wide variety of themes makes the plot more interesting and appealing to the audience, it also allows the appeal of the play to be open to a much wider audience. The main and underlying themes of Romeo and Juliet include, misfortune and fate, conflict, love, death, violence, hatred, passion, power and youth. Within the themes of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, some are linked together, for example love and hatred. Shakespeare wanted to show that opposites can coexist, similar to the idea of Good and evil, this combination of opposites makes interesting viewing for the audience, moving the plot of this play away from any other.
To express the many themes and ideas within the play, Shakespeare used a wide variety of techniques within the Prologue, as well as throughout the rest of the play. Most of the techniques are poetic to make the ideas more powerful and memorable. There is a rhyme scheme where, the first four lines rhyme ABAB, the next four lines rhyme CDCD, the next four lines rhyme EFEF, finishing with a rhyming couplet GG, an example of this is, “Dignity” and “Mutiny”, the language within this rhyming pair AA, links to the theme of death. Alliteration is present, “From Forth… Fatal… Foes”, this creates emphasis on a certain sound, the sound of seriousness and death. Enjamberment is common, this keeps the play flowing, precisely what Shakespeare wanted to do to ensure that the audience were entertained. The rhythm used within the prologue is known as an iambic pentameter, where 5 beats are followed by another 5 beats, this creates the atmosphere, and helps to echo the theme being described.
The prologue is written as a sonnet, Shakespeare used sonnets throughout the play, they follow the poetic style and add sound through means of rhyme, rhythm and Enjamberment. Shakespeare chose to introduce the sonnet at the very beginning of the play to introduce the poetic style of play writing. Also at about the same time that Shakespeare wrote ‘Romeo and Juliet’, he was writing his sonnets, so was probably interested to incorporate them into his play. By using a sonnet it also breaks the content down into three quatrains and a couplet, this is similar to a play, as a play is broken down into scenes and acts.
As I have already said the prologue introduces themes, events and ideas, before they have even happened, a particular introduction is the announcement of a death, the chorus says, “Fearful passage of their death-marked love”, this links to later happenings in the play, as well as to the theme of love and death, it is interesting how Shakespeare presented these almost opposites at the same time, because you can’t love if you are dead. The early warning of death gives the audience more preparation for the later events, they are not as shocked when it happens but they can also relate events earlier in the play and relate it to the idea of death looking at how it affects them.
Although the prologue only contains one character, the chorus, the audience are aware of other characters. This is important because it suggests a certain importance to the characters introduced leaving the audience interested in their later happenings. The audience are aware of two families, “Two households”, these being the Montague’s and the Capulet’s. Romeo and Juliet are introduced, “A pair of Star-crossed lovers”, an image which links to the theme of love, so in all two characters are introduced as well as the two families and the chorus creating interest in their development.
The beginning of scene 1 incorporates bawdy humour, it links to the theme of love, in many forms, it helps to keep the plot and narrative moving, ensuring that the audience are entertained. There is some friendly banter apparent which to an extent could be described as rivalry or conflict, which would link to one of the themes of the play. Gregory says, “This quarrel is between our masters, and us their men”, this shows that Shakespeare did want to immediately present to the audience that conflict is a major theme of the play, however he presented it as bawdy humour, “take it in what sense thou wilt”, a reference to raping women but the reference is presented in a humorous way. The bawdy humour between both Sampson and Gregory captures the audience’s immediate attention, it transfers their attention to the events on stage and makes them interested in the plot.
Romeo is talked about and introduced to the audience before he is actually met. This early introduction highlights the fact that he could be an important character who has great significance in regards to the plot and events within the play. The early introduction also makes the audience curious and interested in the developments of his character. The way that Romeo is introduced is through a means of suicide fear from his father Montague, he says, “Unless good counsel may the cause remove”, this therefore obviously links to the theme of death. This also relates to events near to the end of the play where both Romeo and Juliet die from suicide, so again this is the case of a prior warning to an event which will happen later in the play.
So that Shakespeare could express the many themes and ideas of the play he used a variety of poetic techniques, these include, the use of adjectives, “Fiery”, this helps to create a more detailed picture of events and feelings, helping to create a better atmosphere. Personification is used, “Alas that love, so gently in his view”, the use of personification makes love seem alive as a person. There are a mass of metaphors and similes used to help create imagery, an example being, “A sea nourished with loving tears”, by creating images the audience are allowed to use their imaginations more they can convert the images and have a better understanding of the scene that is being presented in front of them. Other techniques are used within the scene and these include, dramatic irony, repetition, rhyme, all used to create different levels of meaning, and to create a ‘voice’ that speaks trough the writing.
The Prince makes a speech within scene 1, which helps to stop the public fighting and riots. The speech gives the audience an insight into later events, as they become aware that a death will happen, the insight comes when the prince says, “Your lives shall forfeit of the peace”, the language links to the theme of death, The prince’s speech also demonstrates the anger and conflict between the two families, he says, “Purple fountains issuing from your veins”, a nice image for the audience to help imagine and picture the scene that Shakespeare wanted to create.
The characters within the play of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ play probably the biggest role, it is their job to convey the plot to the audience in an appropriate way so that both the audience are entertained, and at the same time aware of emotion etc. Within scene 1 the main characters that the audience meet are; Tybalt, Benvolio and Romeo, these characters are all important because they all contribute to the plot, they link to the themes of the play, and they are all individuals, they all have their own characteristics and behaviour, which makes interesting viewing for the audience. Tybalt’s short temper leads to a public fight, the audience learns a great deal about his character even though he only says five lines.
Before Romeo meets the love of his life, ‘Juliet’, the audience are exposed to a different emotion from his character, although he has not yet been met or introduced, the audience become aware of his love sickness and his feeling of being unwanted. Montague says, “Shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out”, the audience are aware of the typical reason for this being done, which links to the theme of love. Montague also creates images when speaking about Romeo’s love sickness, he says, “Ere he can spread his sweet leaves in the air”, he knows that there is something wrong, but he is not sharing it, this follows the degree of secrecy that is used later by Romeo, Juliet and the Nurse.
Shakespeare played with language and its usage. He played with words, and played with presentation techniques. One way that he did this was by Romeo speaking to Benvolio in riddles, he says, “Not having that, which, having, makes them short”, Romeo is saying that not having Juliet makes time go slow, this language links to the theme of love, and also adds clever trickery to the way that the audience interpret what the characters are saying before them on stage. By playing with the language he is creating something much more interesting for the audience, it makes the plot, characters and language more attractive, meaning that the audience are more likely to be interested in what is happening.
A technique used commonly throughout ‘Romeo and Juliet’, is the use of oxymorons, they are particularly common within Scene 1. Because the play is about the clash of opposites oxymorons are particularly appropriate because they do help to illustrate the opposites. Within 6 lines of scene 1, Romeo says five different oxymorons, “Love” and “Hate”, “Bright” and “Smoke”, “Cold” and “Fire”, these link to the themes of the play, showing the opposites that are put together. Shakespeare introduces the opposite’s idea here within scene 1 to highlight its importance for the rest of the play, as the opposites are a key part to the play it was important for the audience to be aware of its existence.
The purposes of Scene 1, which add significance to events within the play include, the introduction of the main characters, excluding Juliet. The scene is set and the audience understand the time and place of key events, this is important because it would have a direct effect on the actors behaviour, if for example they were presented to be in a public place the actors behaviour would be portrayed as courteous and polite, however if the actors were presented as being behind closed doors, the mood and behaviour is likely to be different. Scene 1 also introduces the key themes, love, death, romance and hatred, this is important because it means that the audience are prepared for the upcoming events.
Scene 3 explores Lady Capulet’s character highlighting her relationship with Juliet. This character seems to be distanced and detached from her daughter, this agrees with the stereotypical belief of upper class relationships with family. She says, “Nurse, where’s my daughter”, rather than saying where’s Juliet. Lady Capulet speaks through the nurse and refers to Juliet as Daughter. Shakespeare purposely did this to create interesting viewing for the audience but also to keep the plot in keeping with the traditional values around at the time of the play.
To support the entertaining style of ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the audience are introduced to the nurse. As a character she could be described as very superficial, sentimental, lively, entertaining, bawdy and humorous, allowing for the audience to be entertained. She says, “It stinted and said, ‘Ay'”, the nurse expresses previous memories of Juliet and refers to love whilst keeping the audience entertained, the nurse at this point would presumably be crying with laughter keeping the entertaining style very much alive. This joke orientated style keeps the audience interested in the plot.
The plot, the characters and the language are all important within ‘Romeo and Juliet’, they are important because they all link to the themes, “That shall she, marry”, this links to the theme of love. The characters of Romeo and Juliet against their parents represent the youth and aged, in particular the conflict between them. The plot gives the audience access to the main themes through the events on stage, an example of this is when Juliet, Lady Capulet and the nurse are talking about marriage, this can be linked to the theme of love. Because the plot, characters and language are linked to the themes the audience would have been more likely to understand what is happening on stage, because they have at the very least access to what the play is about.
The Nurse and Lady Capulet are almost opposites in terms and character. The nurse isn’t just any ordinary servant, instead she is practically a member of the Capulet family. When the nurse begins to talk about Juliet we learn not only Juliet’s age, “I’ll lay fourteen of my teeth”, but also a great deal about the character of the nurse. She remembers trivial details of Juliet’s childhood, “It stinted and said ‘Ay'”. The nurse’s speech is very repetitive and her points are not explored for very long. Lady Capulet is a complete contrast, she asks direct questions, to Juliet she says, “How stands your disposition to be married”, the language of which refers to the theme of love and marriage. Juliet being the submissive and polite girl she is answers in a way which is not offensive but instead evasive. Lady Capulet is persistent and in reflection a contrast to the character of the nurse. Having this character contrast within the play makes the plot more interesting and entertaining for the audience, highlighting the key themes and ideas.
Within scene 3 Shakespeare used a variety of poetic techniques to add a certain musicality to the play. Rhythm is apparent, the last word within a line rhymes with the last word in the next line, “Lies” and “Eyes”, or “Lover” and “Cover”, this for the audience makes the characters speeches more entertaining because they are said in a slightly different way, within the above quotes, the language is linked to the themes, ‘lover’ links to the theme of love, but it is contrasted by saying that the love is hidden under a ‘cover’, this is true as the Love between Romeo and Juliet is hidden. Adjectives are used, “Valiant Paris”, this adds more emphasis on the audiences interpretations of a character as a result of the description they are more likely to see him as brave. Lady Capulet uses imagery in speech, she compares Paris to a book, “Read o’er the volume of young Paris’ face”, the language also links to the theme of love, showing Paris as a candidate for the marriage of Juliet. Metaphors are also used, “Verona’s summer hath not such a flower”, and this adds imagery allowing the audience to imagine the scene that is being described. This variety of techniques that Shakespeare used adds real emphasis on the characters, the language and the themes of the play.
Within Scene 3 there are many contrasting things, an example being the idea of inside and outside, Lady Capulet says, “To beautify him, only lacks a cover”, this refers to a belief that beauty within is shown by beauty on the outside, the language links to theme of love as Lady Capulet wants Juliet to marry Paris. The opposites are not just isolated to Scene 3, they appear throughout the play, other opposites include the idea of Love and Hatred, black and white, Youth versus age, fast versus slow, and so on, these contrasting ideas coexisting makes the play more interesting and exciting for the audience, making them focus more on the happenings on stage.
Scene 3 is important because it leads up to feast, like scene 1 and scene 2 the plot is focused around the build up to the feast at the Capulet’s Mansion. The audience can sense a feeling of urgency amongst the characters, Lady Capulet says, “Speak briefly”, this follows the sense of urgency adding to the build up to the feast. The build up within scene 3 is important because it introduces ideas to the audience which will be of more relevance at the end of act 1, the audience are also prepared for the upcoming events, this follows the introductory events idea from the prologue and scene 1.
The end of scene 3 includes sexual references linked to the theme of love, the nurse says, “Go, girl, seek happy nights to happy days”, the language links to the theme of love as the nurse talks about Juliet finding true love to make a marriage with. Shakespeare deliberately gave this ending to the scene, not only does it finish with references to the themes of the play but it also prepares the audience making them aware that a marriage is about to happen, this prior warning becomes true later in the play when Romeo and Juliet marry together in secrecy.
The purposes of scene 3, which add significance to events within the play include, the added humour, the nurse keeps the audience entertained which means that they are more likely to be interested in the play. Scene 3 also presents a typical domesticated scene, inside the Capulet mansion, off the streets where stereotypically the upper class belonged. It also introduces Juliet as a character in more detail, the audience see her more as a submissive and obedient girl. As well as scene 3 developing the character of Juliet, those of the Nurse and Lady Capulet are developed, the nurse is seen as a very humorous and entertaining character and Lady Capulet is seen as being very detached from her daughter.
Scene 5 brings about several developments in peoples characters, the audience particularly see a development in the characters of Capulet and Tybalt. The audience see two different sides to Capulet’s character, he is seen as very welcoming, when with guests, he says, “Welcome, gentlemen”, this is portraying him as the perfect host. The audience also see him in a different light where he is very controlling, he says, “More light, you naves, and turn the tables up”, this is the other side, when he is away from guests. This two sided character portrayal shows that people can have more than one side to them, one for when on public display and another when nobody is watching. Tybalt becomes very angry within this scene, “Makes my flesh tremble in their different greeting”, this angriness is important because it will have a direct effect later in the play. These developments in character are important because it shows how they can change in such a short period of time.
As well as the poetic techniques that are used throughout the play, other techniques are used, including the clever use of punctuation and word play. At the very beginning of scene 5 there is no punctuation when the servants are speaking, “When good manners shall lie all in one or two men’s hands”, these long unpunctuated sentences create the desired feeling of urgency and help to show the audience that people are rushing about. Shakespeare relied heavily on language to portray the scenes, as well as deliver emotion. Also at the time when this play was produced scenery at the theatre would have been very limited, so it was very much down to the language and presentation of language to create the desired effects.
Within scene 5 the audience finally see Romeo and Juliet fall in love. It comes about after the big build up to it within the previous scenes. The first meeting of the lovers is written as a sonnet, which adds musicality to the content, making it more entertaining for the audience. When Romeo talks to Juliet he uses religious imagery, he says, “holy shrine”. Juliet also speaks with a religious theme, she says, “Good pilgrim”, this shows their faith, highlighting their love is a journey. The use of the religious imagery shows that their relationship is special, it isn’t just a normal relationship, instead it stands out. To help create the love feeling metaphors are used, “the cheek of night”, there is also a mixture of alliteration, “teach the torches to”, these poetic techniques help to add emphasis to the love between Romeo and Juliet.
There are many opposites within scene 5, this very much agrees with the conflicting style that runs throughout the play. The majority of the opposites within this scene are said mainly by Juliet, “Early” and “Late”, Known” and “Unknown”, “Love” and “Hate”, these contrasting ideas link to the main themes of the play, linking to the language theme association. The opposites extend to when Juliet says, “My grave is like to be my wedding bed”, already Juliet is imagining her death as her bridegroom, this links to the end of the play. Juliet says, “My only love sprung from my only hate”, this echoes examples of the many opposites which run through the play.
Juliet reflects her first experiences with the love of her life Romeo with the nurse. She confides in the nurse trying to find out his name, she says, “Go ask his name”, it is ironic that they have already fallen in love but they don’t know each others names, just like the early introduction of ideas before they actually happen. Juliet’s lovers name is found out at the very end of the act, Shakespeare deliberately did this to keep a feeling of suspicion and unclearness. The nurse gets Romeos name correct after 3 attempts, the number 3 being a magic number. The nurse is more of a mother figure to Juliet than Lady Capulet, they talk to each other like mother and daughter, unlike the relationship that Juliet and Lady Capulet have. To ensure continuity of themes, Juliet finds out that Romeo is an enemy, “The only son of your great enemy”, this creates the desired conflict making the happenings on stage more interesting.
Scene 5 is a climax of act 1, there has been a massive build up to the feast at the Capulet mansion from the beginning of the prologue to the end of scene 4. Scene 5 to an extent is the end product of a lot of preparation and build up, this is the outcome and the result. Scene 5 is a mass of action and events, Romeo and Juliet fall in love, characters are developed and the plot moves on. Scene 5 is thoroughly entertaining and humorous, with the nurse, Capulet, Romeo and Juliet. The themes are developed and explored in more detail. The dramatic power of the scene is immense, and the statements that Shakespeare was trying to make really do shine through. Scene 5 is an important scene because it has implications on later events in the play.
The purposes of scene 5, which add significance to events within the play include, the fact that the love story of Romeo and Juliet begins, a suitable ending to act 1. There are also links within the scene to later events in the play, when Tybalt says, “Now seeming sweet, convert to bitt’rest gall”, this is referring to poison and more importantly linking to the suicides at the end of the play, the language links to the theme of death, Scene 5 is particularly good in holding interest with a love scene, music, dancing and contrasts of character and costumes. Scene 5 predicts the future disasters of Romeo and Juliet, after the threats of Tybalt. The scene also develops the characters of Capulet, Tybalt, Romeo and Juliet.
In conclusion, the scenes which I have studied have all used a variety of techniques to deliver the plot and key themes to the audience. Shakespeare used a variety of things to ensure that the audience were kept entertained but more importantly interested in both the characters and the plot. To ensure that his plays were successful he used humour, poetic techniques which include metaphors, personification and sonnets. Shakespeare also used a wide variety of themes ranging from love to death and from light to dark. He incorporated lots of opposites which made the play more interesting for the audience. The main theme of the play is love and Shakespeare took away the stereotypical love story and created something much more unique, mixing it with tragedy. “Love is love is love”.