Using scenes from the play Romeo and Juliet, show how Shakespeare’s use of language and his knowledge of stagecraft, maintains the audience’s interest.Most of the play takes place, as the chorus explains, in ‘fair Verona’-an attractive little city in the north of Italy.
The action moves quickly to the hall of Old Capulet’s house, to the orchard below Juliet’s balcony, to Friar Lawrence’s lonely cell, and finally to the vault where the ancestors of the Capulet’s are entombed. The Elizabethan stage had no curtains, and of course the theatre sold no programmes, so the characters themselves tell us where they are; they even indicate the time of day. The play starts on a Sunday morning in the middle of July; less then five days later-just before the dawn on the following Thursday-it is all over.The theatres could hold several thousand people; most standing in the open pit before the stage, though rich nobles could watch the play from a chair set on the side of the stage itself. Theatre performances were held in the afternoon, because, of course, there was no artificial lighting.
Women attended plays, though often the prosperous woman would wear a mask to disguise her identity. Further more, no women performed in the plays. Female roles were generally performed by young boys. Shakespeare had once been an actor himself, so he knew how the audience would react and this helped him to write plays that gave the audience what they wanted.
Shakespeare was fascinated by language and its techniques. He especially favoured repetition and the way it could be used to increase tension during the play and give depth to characters.”Marry, that ‘marry’ is the very theme..
….How stand your dispositions to be married?”(Act 1 sc 3 lines 63-70)Important characters mainly spoke in blank verse, when they spoke in prose it was a mark of informality. Minor characters generally spoke in prose to distinguish them from the lead roles and lower social status.”..
.what a change is here!…didst love so dear,…love then lies.
..in their eyes.”(Act 2 sc 3 lines 65-80)The play is full of words with double meanings.
A pun is a word with the same sound but a different meaning. Mercutio’s puns often have a sexual undertone. In Act 3 scene 1, Mercutio gets fatally wounded, but he protests that it is “just a scratch”.
He is fooling around and no-one realises how serious his injury is. Eventually, when asked, he says that if they call on him the next day, they will find him a “grave man”. Shakespeare here is playing with the double meaning of the word “grave”. Mercutio will be grave (serious at last), but he will also be grave (dead).
“I am not I, if there be such an ‘ay’,Or those eyes be shut, that makes the answer ‘ay’.If he be slain, say ‘ay’, or if not, ‘no’:Brief sounds determine m y weal or woe.”(Act 3 sc 2 lines 48-51)Juliet’s speech to her mother has a double meaning. Her mother believes she is talking about her cousin’s death, but actually Juliet speaks of her loss of Romeo.”Yet let me weep for such a feeling loss.”(Act 3 sc 5 line 74)Some of the speech in the play, Friar Lawrence’s for example, is simple and direct. He is a religious man, and the simple speech shows the audience that he isn’t pretentious. This helps to keep the audience knowledgeable about the play instead of having to guess what is going on, it also helps them to enjoy it more and keeps it interesting.
“Be plain, good son, and homely in they drift,Riddling confessions finds but riddling shrift.”(Act 2 sc 3 lines 55-56)Malapropisms were used on several occasions to create humour. A malapropism is the unintentional use of a wrong word by a character. Shakespeare wrote in the misuse of a word through confusion with other words that sound similar, especially when the effect is ridiculous, as a way to lighten the mood. In act 2 scene 4 Romeo is talking about Mercutio being a goose, a foolish fellow. But Mercutio takes it to mean a goose the animal and starts talking about Romeo’s wit being like the traditional sauce for roast goose.
Romeo:”Nay, good goose, bite not.”Mercutio: “Thy wit is very bitter sweeting, it is a most sharp sauce.”(Act 2 sc 4 lines 66-79)Oxymoron describes two contradictory words being brought together to form a new meaning. Many of these were used in the play, adding interest to speech and knowing what the audience in that time would like.”O brawling love, O loving hate,O any thing of nothing first create!O heavy lightness, serious vanity,Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms,Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,Still waking sleep, that is not what it is!”(Act 1 sc 1 lines 170-174)Metaphors and similes were used throughout the play.
Mercutio uses them to describe his death after fighting with Tybalt, Romeo uses metaphors when he speaks about Juliet when he sees her at the party, and an extended metaphor is used when Capulet notices Juliet’s tears. Metaphors and similes create imagery.”…not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door…
“(Act 3 sc 1 lines 92-93)”…
a snowy dove trooping with crows,”(Act 1 sc 5 lines 43-47)”It rains downright.How now, a conduit, girl?…thy eyes, which I may call the sea,…
..”(Act 3 sc 5 lines 26-38)A soliloquy allows the audience to know what the character is thinking and build up their understanding of the plot.
This allowed the audience to know something that at least one of the characters does not, this is called dramatic irony. Such as when Juliet speaks of her love for Romeo to the night after the party, she does not know Romeo is listening.”Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,And I will no longer be a Capulet.
“(Act 2 sc 2 lines 32-50)Following a quite intimate scene between Romeo and his friends on the way to the masquerade is the Capulets’ party, a contrast between a quiet, dark and informal scene with bustling servants, music and dancing. At the beginning of the scene servants are rushing about the stage carrying empty dishes and used plates to show that the eating is over and the masquerade is about to begin. Dancing starts and the stage is full of life. Old Capulet welcomes the guests happily and reminisces about the masquerades he took part in when he was young. There is another deliberate contrast between the public party and Capulet’s private meeting, to break up the scene and allow some actors to take a breather.Romeo meets Juliet at the party, after falling instantly in love with her he discovers she is a Capulet. We must imagine they are apart from each other on the stage, but alone together in spirit, already showing the audience their connection.
Romeo and Juliet use a lot of religious imagery in their sonnet. The fourteen lines of speech between them are a sonnet, popular in the sixteenth century and was considered the proper medium for love poetry. Shakespeare used religious imagery because everyone could relate to it and it is something that everyone would do in their everyday lives.[To Juliet] “If I profane with my unworthiest handThis holy shrine, the gentle sin is this,My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready standTo smooth that rough touch with a gentle kiss.”(Act 1 sc 5 lines 92-109)Shakespeare chose to make this interaction between the characters a sonnet, as this was thought of as the proper medium for love poetry.
The form is used to isolate the characters from the society in which they live. Although, after Romeo kisses Juliet, is seems they will start another sonnet but are interrupted by the Nurse, who brings them back to the real world and they must understand what has happened to them. This particular part in the play made me feel as if they were always meant to be together, it was just a matter of finding each other. They’re caught in a trap of the way they live, their families are enemies and no one would let them be together.
Capulet is presented as a jovial host and a happy, content man. Other characters seem like they have no cares in the world and are having a good time at the masquerade. The problems between the families are forgotten, apart from Tybalt noticing Romeo is at the party, but Capulet restrains him from doing anything, and instead wants to enjoy the party. This introduces the character of Capulet as a nice man. The Nurse seems supportive of them, telling Romeo who Juliet is and vice versa, she warns them about what might happen and why they should be cautious too.
Romeo and Juliet stay in their own little world together, where they can forget the trouble between their families and not let it affect them and their plans together. They will again meet later that same night. This intense love duet scene between Romeo and Juliet is followed by the chorus, giving the actor playing Romeo a break from leading the character to a terrifying appreciation of the dangers of Romeo’s position. The fourteen lines of sonnet by the chorus allow the actor to regain his breath and move around backstage.Later on in the play, after the solemn interview between the Friar and Romeo, the mood and scene of the play change completely.
In the city square Romeo’s two friends, Benvolio and Mercutio, are fresh and full of energy. When Romeo joins them he is still in his costume, Mercutio jokes about this-“Signior Romeo, ‘bon jour’! there’s a French salutation to your French slop.”(Act 2 sc 4 line 43-44)While Romeo was away, the two young men had been discussing Capulet’s nephew Tybalt. It seems that old Capulet’s restraint hasn’t lasted long, and we learn that Tybalt has sent a letter to Romeo challenging him to a duel. Mercutio describes Tybalt and we hear excited humour and imagination.
Mercutio laughs at Tybalt and his affections-his correct fencing technique, his accent, and his fondness for using the most recent slang terms. Although, Mercutio has respect for Tybalt-“More than Prince of Cats. O, he’s the courageouscaptain of compliments: he fights as you sing pricksong,keeps time, distance, and proportion…”(Act 2 sc 4 lines 19-26)Romeo joins is friends and all three engage in witty chatter and verbal fighting in the best of friendly relationships.Mercutio: “Nay I am the very pink of courtesyRomeo: “Pink for flower.”Mercutio:”Right.
“Romeo: “Why then is my pump well flowered?”(Act 2 sc 4 lines 36-91)In the height of the humour, Juliet’s Nurse appears. Being a rather large lady and dressed in flowing clothes, Romeo pretends she is a boat.Romeo: “A sail, a sail!”(Act 2 sc 4 line 92)Mercutio delivers more sexual innuendoes in some punned word play-“‘Tis no less, I tell ye, for the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon.
“(Act 2 sc 4 lines 101-102)The Nurse, acting as though she is shocked by the bawdy jokes but really enjoying them delivers Juliet’s message in her rambling prose. Since the audience already knows what the message is we can concentrate on the humour in her speech. Action is now moving very fast and it is twelve noon on Monday.The characters seem on a natural high from the night before, everyone is joking and playing with their words. Although the Nurse tries to keep her lady-like manor, she finds it hard and succumbs to the bawdy jokes of Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio. She acts like a mother to Juliet and tells Romeo she wants the best for her and wants nothing bad to come to her.From some of the speech in this scene it makes it seem as though the younger generations of the two families in this feud don’t really know why they are fighting but they have been brought up to fight each other and they will continue whilst still having respect for on another. After the Nurse talks to Mercutio and Benvolio, Romeo tells her the jokes they were saying were nothing but jokes, Peter stands up for the Nurse and warns anyone that he will be there for her if anyone says anything out of line.
Although, Peter’s words have a slight bawdy twist, making them seem more of a friendly warning than a serious threat.Peter: “I saw no man use you at his pleaure;..
….and the law on my side.
“(Act 2 sc 4 lines 143-146)The scene takes place in a very open public place in the sunshine, after a private, dark cell of the friar. It livens the audience up and helps maintain interest in the play.In the final and most emotional scene Shakespeare shows how deep the love Romeo and Juliet share really is. When Romeo arrives at the Capulet tomb, there is a visitor-the County Paris, who had vowed to bring flowers and scented water to the grave every night. His ritual is interrupted by the arrival of Romeo, who proceeds to force open the tomb where he expects to find his dead wife’s body.Romeo is no longer the dreamy love struck teenager we met at the beginning of the play. Instead he describes himself as-“..
.a desp’rate man…
“(Act 5 sc 3 line 59)and when Paris ignores his gentle warning, he fights with a serious determination which is completely different from the rough assaults of the servants, Act 1 sc 1, and the elegant sword play of the young noblemen, Act 3 sc 1. Romeo intends to kill Paris without ceremony and delay.Romeo has no regrets after he has killed Paris, but he feels pity for the-“Good gentle youth”(Act 5 sc 3 line 59)He is preparing to lay Paris, tenderly, in the tomb, when he sees Juliet’s face.
Although he is prepared for death, he in fact sees life-“..beauty’s ensign yetIs crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,And death’s pale flag is not advanced there.
“(Act 5 sc 3 lines 94-96)The audience knows that he is not deceived, and the tension and suspense is great. Juliet might wake up in time, and they might still be together.The hope is in vain, of course. Romeo drinks his poison moments before Juliet awakens and the friar stumbles in from the graveyard. Juliet wakes, and is for a second disorientated, but as soon as she sees Romeo lying cold and still, she acts. She quickly kisses his lips for the slightest trace of poison there to kill herself and be with him.
If she can not be with her love in life, then they will be together in death. She takes Romeo’s dagger from his belt and plunges it into her chest.”O happy dagger,This is thy sheath”(Act 5 sc 3 lines 169-170)Once again the citizens of Verona are drawn to the scene, and Prince Escales appears among them.
Friar Lawrence provides the narrative and freely confesses his part in the tragedy, and offers himself up for punishment. Capulet and Montague join hands for the first time in centuries; they have paid a high price for their new friendship, and there is not much more to be said.”A glooming peace this morning with it brings,The sun for sorrow will not show his head.Go hence to have more talk of these sad things;Some shall be pardon’d, and some punished;For never was a story or more woeThan this of Juliet and her Romeo.”(Act 5 sc 3 lines 305-310)This last speech is also a sonnet, with rhyming ababcc.All of the characters come together for the death of Romeo and Juliet, and all feel somewhat responsible for their deaths.The way Shakespeare wrote that Romeo should die moments before Juliet acts as fate for the couple. If only h had held on a little longer they could have been together.
The audience would have been on the edge of their seats to see if the lovers did indeed get to spend the rest of their lives together, but sadly not.I think that Shakespeare’s use of language and some of the techniques he used enables you to feel the play and its meaning. It teaches you to forget petty problems because of the affect they might be taking on other people, maybe some relevance to how people lead their lives now and in Elizabethan times.
Some of the things the characters say might appear to be a bit obvious, for example, the County Paris exclaiming that he is slain after Romeo kills him, but this is to ensure that the audience knows what is happening in the absence of props. I personally liked this play. I liked seeing how the play can be read in a cultural context in order to find out more about traditions and every day life in Italy at that time.Throughout the play there is suspense and questions. There is tension created and contrast between scenes. This keeps the audience interested, for instance, after a close, personal and quiet scene, there would be a loud, happy humorous scene. This keeps the play moving and doesn’t allow anything to become mundane.
Everything is fast paced, rarely would so much happen in the space of a week. But it is a play, and the audience would loose interest if things happened on a natural time span.Shakespeare used stage craft and many language techniques ingeniously throughout the entire play thus creating one of his most famous works that will stand the test of time.