Free sample essay on Romeo And Juliet:
Shakespeare wrote ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in 1592 but he obtained much of his material form earlier sources. People often wonder whether the story of Romeo and Juliet is true. In thirteenth-century Italy there were two Italian families, the Montecchi and the Capelletti, but the Montecchi lived in Verona and the Capelletti lived in Cremona, sixty miles away. The story of two young lovers from opposing families was very popular in Italian and French myths and folktales. Shakespeare based ‘Romeo and Juliet’ principally on Robert Brooke’s ‘The Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Juliet’ (1562) which is a poem that found inspiration in a French translation of a story by the Italian writer Matteo Bandello.
The story of Romeo and Juliet is about two young lovers from opposing families. They are not allowed to be together and in the end their love is so strong that they would rather kill themselves than live their lives apart.
At the time when Shakespeare wrote the play, current events included plague and civil war. These are shown in the play. For example, Mercutio says, ‘a plague on both your houses’ just before he dies, and the letter from Friar Lawrence does not get to Romeo because the plague prevents the transport of it. Civil war is reflected by the hatred between the Montague and Capulet families, with other people becoming involved in the quarrel.
The play of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ has lasted so long because it has a truth in human experience. In every age lovers have been divided by such things as religion and politics. The play is still appreciated and enjoyed because human nature does not change. In the play, Shakespeare portrays the idea of arranged marriages through the actions of Capulet, who treats Juliet like a possession. Shakespeare presents Romeo as a young man who treats Juliet as an equal and, at times, as a superior to him. This shows differing attitudes towards relationships and love.
Shakespeare’s tragedy of star-crossed lovers has inspired generations of leading artists. ‘West Side Story’ was inspired by the play, as was the Minnesota Opera production of ‘The Capulets and the Montagues’. Classical ballets by Lambert, Prokofieff, Ashton and Tudor have also been inspired by the famous love story. Baz Luhrmann modernised ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in 1996 and, in 1998, the film ‘Shakespeare in Love’ was made, which grounds the origins of the play in a fictionalised romance of the young Shakespeare himself.
The section of Act 5 Scene 3 that we are using for the assignment begins with Balthasar saying that he is going to hide nearby because he doubts Romeo’s intents. The stage direction simply says ‘Aside’. This shows that Balthasar is talking to the audience. Straight away we can see an example of how Shakespeare includes us in the action. The fact that Balthasar doubts Romeo’s intentions gives us the impression that something bad is going to happen. Romeo speaks next.
‘Thus I enforce thy rotten jaws to open,
And in despite I’ll cram thee with more food.’ (5.3.47-48)
This accompanies the action given in the stage direction ‘Romeo begins to open the tomb’ and lets the audience know that Romeo is planning to kill himself inside the tomb.
When Paris sees Romeo in line 49 it is very dramatic because it is a secret that Romeo is back in Verona. Romeo is breaking the terms of banishment and is now challenged by Paris who he does not know. This idea of unknown identity is used throughout the play; the most important part being when Romeo and Juliet meet and do not know that each is the child of their enemy. Lines 49-53 show Paris speaking to the audience as he lets them know his opinion about Romeo. This is good stagecraft by Shakespeare because it builds up to the fight that begins in line 70. As all this action is happening outside the tomb we must keep in mind that it is night time. This adds to the dramatic effectiveness because there will be shadows. The fight scene between Romeo and Paris creates suspense by delaying the entry of Romeo into the tomb. The audience knows that Juliet is going to wake up very soon and if the fight goes on long enough then she may wake up before Romeo has chance to kill himself. In line 71 Paris’ Page exits to call the Watch. This creates suspense throughout this section of the scene because there is the threat that the Watch might arrive at any time.
In line 72 Romeo kills Paris, still not knowing who he is. In line 75, Romeo realises it is Paris when he sees his face. In line 81 Romeo says ‘O give me thy hand,’ showing that he feels regret for having to kill Paris. In line 87 Romeo says:
‘Death, lie thou there,…’
This accompanies the stage direction ‘Laying Paris in the tomb’. The tension of the scene outside the tomb is diffused by the death of Paris.
Inside the tomb there is great tension as Romeo almost guesses that Juliet is not dead.
‘Death hath not sucked the honey of thy breath,
Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty:’ (5.3.92-93)
‘Ah, dear Juliet,
Why art thou yet so fair?’ (5.3.101-102)
When watching the play, the audience may have wished to shout out to tell Romeo that his wife is not dead. Romeo’s long soliloquy creates suspense through delaying his suicide. There is tension as we wonder if Juliet will wake up before Romeo kills himself. The action in lines 112-115 reminds us of the love between Romeo and Juliet:
‘Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace! And, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss
A dateless bargain to engrossing Death!’
Lines 116-120 show Romeo picking up the poison and drinking it. In line 120 Romeo dies after speaking his last words ‘Thus with a kiss I die.’ The tension diffuses because there is now no chance of Juliet waking up before Romeo dies. However, there is now the question of ‘What will happen when Juliet does wake up?’
The next part of the scene shows the entrance of Friar Lawrence. He is carrying a lantern. This tells us that it is night, which adds to the drama. Friar Lawrence is delayed from going straight into the tomb by the conversation between himself and Balthasar. This is good stagecraft by Shakespeare because it delays the suicide of Juliet and distracts the audience to separate the climaxes in the scene. Friar Lawrence finally enters the tomb in line 143. In line 146 ‘Juliet rises’. In line 147 Friar Lawrence says ‘The Lady stirs.’ Again, this is good stagecraft because it gives the audience two chances to know what is happening. This would be important when the play was being acted on stage because some people in the audience may not be able to see Juliet. Shakespeare lets the audience know the important parts. In a film, the actor would not need to speak because there would probably be a close-up of Juliet, showing her reaction.
After Juliet speaks in line 150, the stage direction ‘Noise within’ creates dramatic suspense. In line 155, Friar Lawrence tries to hurry Juliet away from the tomb:
‘Come, I’ll dispose of thee’
When Juliet will not co-operate, Friar Lawrence decides to save himself (Line 158-159).
‘Stay not to question, for the Watch is coming.
Come go, good Juliet, I dare no longer stay.’
This shows a change in Friar Lawrence’s character because before he was willing to marry Romeo and Juliet but now he will not face the consequences of his actions.
In line 161 Juliet takes the cup from Romeo’s hand. This relates back to when Romeo drank the poison and suggests that he poured it into a cup. In line 164 Juliet decides to kiss Romeo, hoping that the poison left on his lips will be enough to kill her:
‘I will kiss thy lips,
Haply some poison yet doth hang on them,’
The kiss that Juliet gives to Romeo is a suicide kiss, not a lovers’ kiss. There is then suspense as the Captain of the Watch calls from within the tomb. Juliet is rushed into her decision as she takes Romeo’s dagger (line 169) and stabs herself (line 170). The stage direction ‘Falls on Romeo’s body and dies’ shows their closeness, even in death. Through this section of the scene, Shakespeare uses stagecraft with the way in which he introduces the Watch. Friar Lawrence is scared by their arrival, allowing the audience to see a different side to his character, and there is tension because the Watch do not see Juliet before she kills herself, so this poses the question of who killed who.
In Luhrmann’s film version, Friar Lawrence is not present in the tomb during the death of Juliet. I think that this was done to make the scene more romantic and touching to the viewer because there wasn’t the presence of a ‘third party’. Also in the film, Juliet wakes up just as Romeo drinks the poison. This is emotionally effective because Romeo and Juliet see each other alive one last time. Romeo dies and Juliet picks up his gun and shoots herself. This is very dramatic because Luhrmann has put the two main climaxes together.
Shakespeare not only dramatises the deaths of Romeo and Juliet through the actions of the characters, but also through the language he uses.
In lines 45-48 Romeo addresses the tomb by using the words ‘thou’, ‘thy’ and ‘thee’. Line 45 is an example of oxymoron:
‘thou womb of death,’
The Elizabethans enjoyed clever use of words such as puns, oxymoron, and poetic imagery so here Shakespeare is using his language to appeal to the audience. Shakespeare makes use of oxymoron throughout the play, especially when Romeo speaks in Act 1 Scene 1 Lines 167-173, using such images as ‘loving hate’, heavy lightness’, ‘bright smoke’, ‘cold fire’, and ‘sick health’. In this concluding scene, use of oxymoron represents the opposites that the whole play has been about. Line 46 shows echoes of earlier in the play:
‘Gorged with the dearest morsel of the earth,’ (5.3.46)
‘Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear:’ (1.5.46)
In both cases Romeo is expressing how dear Juliet is to him.
When Paris speaks in line 57 there is dramatic irony.
‘Obey and go with me, for thou must die.’
It is in fact Paris that ends up dead.
Lines 66 and 67 of Romeo’s speech are a rhyming couplet. Here, Shakespeare may have wanted to make it appear that Paris was going to leave by using the rhyme as a conclusion to the speech between Paris and Romeo. However, Paris speaks again, which gives the audience the feeling that there will be trouble.
In line 82 Romeo says:
‘One writ with me in sour misfortune’s book!’
This is a metaphor for Paris and echoes (1.3.88) when Lady Capulet speaks of Paris as a book:
‘This precious book of love, this unbound lover,’
Line 83 uses an oxymoron: ‘triumphant grave’.
In Line 84, Romeo questions his choice of word and decides that it is not a grave because Juliet is there to make it beautiful.
‘A grave? O no, a lantern, slaughtered youth;
For here lies Juliet, and her beauty makes
This vault a feasting presence full of light.’
The ideas of ‘lantern’ and the vault being ‘full of light’ echo the images that have been used throughout the play, especially when Romeo has being referring to Juliet.
‘O she doth teach the torches to burn bright!’ (1.5.43)
In Luhrmann’s version of the film, Juliet lay in a magnificent state in the cathedral, bathed in the light of thousands of burning candles. This shows the idea of ‘light in death’.
In lines 88-92 Romeo personifies death as being powerful. Line 92:
‘Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath,’
is followed by
‘Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty:’
Here, Romeo may be saying that Juliet is stronger then death. Lines 95-96 create the effect of suspense.
‘(beauty’s ensign yet)
Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks,
And Death’s pale flag is not advancd there.’
Romeo is saying that Juliet looks alive to him, but still he does not guess that she really is.
In line 97 Romeo says ‘Tybalt, liest thou there…’. This echoes Juliet’s lines ‘Where bloody Tybalt, yet but green in earth,
Lies fest’ring in his shroud…’ (4.3.42-43)
Shakespeare uses many rhetorical questions in Romeo’s soliloquy such as:
‘Why art thou yet so fair?’ (5.3.102)
These create drama as they delay Romeo’s suicide and keep the audience in suspense as they wonder whether he will figure out that Juliet is not dead.
When Romeo meditates on the fact that
‘unsubstantial Death is amorous,’ (5.3.103)
this echoes earlier lines spoken by Capulet about Juliet:
‘Hath Death lain with thy wife. There she lies,
Flower as she was, deflowered by him.
Death is my son-in-law, Death is my heir,
My daughter he hath wedded.’ (4.5.36-39)
In these lines Capulet is saying that Death has taken Juliet to be his wife. This idea is echoed in 5.3.104-105 when Romeo says
‘(Shall I believe
That unsubstantial Death is amorous,)
And that the lean abhorred monster keeps
Thee here in dark to be his paramour?’
In lines 106-108 Romeo says that he will stay with Juliet to protect her from the ‘monster’ Death. This is very romantic and shows the strong love between them. In line 109 Romeo talks about remaining ‘With worms…’. This is important because in Elizabethan times, when the play was written, people were much more open about death.
In line 110 Romeo says ‘(O here) Will I set up my everlasting rest,’. This means that he is going to make a full, final commitment and reminds us of the commitment between Romeo and Juliet when they got married. In line 111 ‘inauspicious stars’ means the prediction of bad things and it echoes the premonitions that Romeo had; Act 1 – before the party
Act 5 Scene 1 – dream about
In line 115 Romeo talks of ‘engrossing Death!’ Words before that such as ‘seal’ and ‘bargain’ create legal imagery of an everlasting contract with Death.
At the end of Romeo’s soliloquy, Shakespeare uses short, simple words. There is no rhyme to conclude the speech as there was with Balthasar. This dramatises Romeo’s final words because it does not follow the language pattern.
‘Here’s to my love!’ (5.3.119)
This creates dramatic irony because Romeo thinks he is going to be with Juliet in the after-life, but she is not yet dead. It also echoes words spoken by Juliet just before she drinks the potion that will make her appear dead.
‘Romeo, Romeo, Romeo! Here’s drink – I drink to thee.’ (4.3.58)
Shakespeare does not use dramatic language much in the section of speech between Friar Lawrence and Balthasar because it is not leading up to a climax. However, in line 122 he does use the word ‘stumbled’. This is significant because it was considered by Elizabethans to be an ill-omen (if someone ‘stumbled’, things would begin to go wrong). This would have an effect on the audience in Shakespeare’s time because they would be aware that something else bad was going to happen. Friar Lawrence mentions ‘grubs’ in line 126. This echoes Romeo’s line about the worms.
Juliet tells Friar Lawrence that she will not leave the vault.
‘Go get thee hence, for I will not away.’ (5.3.160)
Shakespeare uses simple language here but shows Juliet’s strength.
Line 166 is interesting because Shakespeare uses a paradox.
‘To make me die with a restorative.’
A restorative is something that restores health but here Shakespeare has used it to create the image of life after death and also the idea that the kiss will ‘cure’ Juliet of life and restore her to Romeo.
There is dramatic irony in line 167:
‘Thy lips are warm.’
By saying this we know that Juliet realises that Romeo has only just died. This adds to the tragedy because if Juliet had woken up just a minute sooner then she and Romeo may have lived happily together.
In line 169 Shakespeare uses an oxymoron (‘happy dagger’). Juliet says this because the dagger will take her to Romeo, where she will be happy.
The words spoken by Juliet:
‘there rust, and let me die.’ (5.3.170)
are important because both Romeo and Juliet say ‘die’ as their last word.
Juliet’s ‘death speech’ is much shorter than Romeo’s. This is dramatic because she is rushed into her decision by the arrival of the Watch. Also, it intensifies the fact that she doesn’t want to live without Romeo.
Shakespeare dramatises the deaths of Romeo and Juliet through action and language, not only in Act 5 Scene 3, but also throughout the play. He uses dramatic images and events that keep Romeo and Juliet from being together and is constantly relating ideas to the ending. We know that Shakespeare did not want the ending to be a surprise to the audience because he tells us in the prologue what is going to happen:
‘A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life;’
It is not the ending that makes the play great, but the lead up to it. It is unusual because the audience know what is going to happen, but the characters do not.
Shakespeare uses a light-hearted humour throughout the play, especially with the characters of the Nurse and Mercutio. Then he makes the ending very dramatic. This is effective because it speaks to people’s hearts.
Shakespeare uses the idea of opposites throughout the play. For example, ‘light and dark’, ‘fate and free will’ (echoed in Romeo’s dreams), ‘love and hate’, ‘death and life’. He also uses oppositions of time. For example ‘youth versus age’ (Romeo & Juliet versus parents), ‘dream time versus real time’ (Dreamers often lie).
The deaths of Romeo and Juliet are made more dramatic by the way in which Shakespeare builds up to a climax and then calms it down for a while until the lead up to the next major event. This is done more obviously at the end, when three main climaxes are put into one scene.
Shakespeare uses his language carefully to dramatise the deaths of Romeo and Juliet by having them echo each other in Act 5 Scene 3. The fact that they both drink to the other and say ‘die’ as their last word shows the intimate connection that they had.
We know that the play is effective because it is still being enjoyed by people of all ages today. Everyone knows the story, yet it still touches people’s hearts because it tells of the one thing we cannot control – love. In ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Shakespeare presents love as an antidote for the violence that plagues society. Just as there will always be violence, there will always be love. Even here, in conclusion, we have the idea of opposites.
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