Taking into consideration the social and theatrical context of the play, what is interesting about Shakespeare’s presentation of the “Star – cross’d lovers” in Romeo and Juliet
One of William Shakespeare’s most renowned plays is the tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. The plot revolves around the complexities of love, conflict and fate amongst a 16th century society. In this essay I am aiming to explore, analyse and discuss the social and theatrical aspects of the play, alongside the various types of language used to entertain a wider audience.
Shakespeare introduced Romeo and Juliet with a prologue. This was an important part of the plays structure as it set the scene and outlined the plot. It was read out in order to help the less educated peasants in the audience to understand what was going to happen. The public enjoyed Shakespeare’s use of clever puns and linguistic devices adding excitement to the plot and transforming characters so as to give a magical air to the performance. The latter was further reinforced by the fact that superstition was an integral part of 16th century life, both amongst the upper and lower classes. Shakespeare takes advantage of his superstitious audience by including quotes such as “I am fortunes fool” and “Star-crossed lovers” to maintain interest.
The character Romeo is initially presented as unhappy and a love dazed man, “Out of her favour, where I am in love”. Romeo is down in love with Rosaline, and he changes dramatically during the play and what really sparks this off is his meeting with Juliet. Now his character has changed he is presented as a lover not a fighter, and this was very different to other men’s behaviour as other men as they would act out of anger but Romeo appears to be more affectionate and sensitive than maybe his peers, so this must show how deep his love is for Juliet. Shakespeare realises the large gap between wealth and poverty in his spectators, so he staged the audience apart so the actors could direct certain parts of the play to either the wealthy, well educated or the poorer, uneducated peasants. For example if Romeo was to use a pun or some funny language, “My naked weapon is out”, this would be directed to the poorer members but sometimes Shakespeare reflected on political and social awareness of the period, ” ” which would obviously be spoken towards the wealthy and well educated as the peasant wouldn’t really understand what is being said.
It is very interesting how rapidly and significantly Romeo’s attitude changes towards life through the power of love. You can see through how he presents language that he has changed dramatically, for example when he falls out of love with Rosaline, the way he speaks makes it feel as Romeo could even be thinking of giving up love, but within a matter of days after having been at the capulets party he meets Juliet who boosts his spirits and realises he shouldn’t give up passion after all, “I’ll go along no such site to be shown, but to rejoice in splendour of my own”. To portray this change of feelings, Shakespeare uses different types of language such as, metaphoric, romantic and creating macrocosm, “it is the East and Juliet is the sun”, and example of all these techniques. The effects of this language gives an instant impression that Romeo has never loved anyone as much as Juliet and is very glad that he didn’t decide to give up love, also this suggests how highly he holds Juliet she is clearly very important to him.
Juliet is presented in a very different way to Romeo, as at the beginning it is obvious that she will do what her parents say and is very obedient, “I’ll look to like if looking liking move”, this is explaining that if her parents choose a man for her she will try and love him, but as in the same way as Romeo she soon starts to change. It was at the same point in the play that they both started to develop and in Juliet’s case she gradually becomes less obedient and starts to ignore her parents and even is contemplating who to listen to, her parents or her true love Romeo, “my only love sprung out of my only hate”. Juliet develops tremendously at one point in the play from being, under control and selfless into someone, pro-active, pragmatic and a lot more passionate, the stage which all this happens is after her encounter with Friar Lawrence.
The main change with Juliet is her attitude and approach to her parents, she starts to disobey the Capulets and in result there is a fall out. This behaviour is very odd for a girl in the 16th century society as disrespecting parents wouldn’t even be thought of, also throughout the play her behaviour is very odd for example she gets married of her own accord and doesn’t ask parent permission. Another obvious point of her behaviour is at the very end when she commits suicide, even though nothing can be done now; this is definitely not how a girl in this era would behave. All of the latter is interesting about Juliet especially that she reacted in exactly the same way as Romeo, where both their attitudes change so fast.
In the Globe theatre I would have actors direct the clever language and funny puns towards the peasants as they are more down to earth and generally find it more amusing than the higher class as they would speak publicly about such things and may even be offended. On the other hand if there was a more romantic or poetic line to be spoken, “O Romeo, Romeo. Where for art thou Romeo?” This would, without a doubt, be directed to the wealthier audience. If Shakespeare was to use a pun, it would have been expressed in an amusing way to try and get the spectators involved, but if there was a more figurative or poetic line it would be told in a formal and passionate way as the higher class would find this more interesting than getting involved.