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How does the opening scene of "Romeo and Juliet" grab the audience's attention? How does Shakespeare prepare us for what happens in the rest of the play?

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Introduction

Joanne Vale 10C2 How does the opening scene of "Romeo and Juliet" grab the audience's attention? How does Shakespeare prepare us for what happens in the rest of the play? "Romeo and Juliet" is one of Shakespeare's most famous romantic tragedies, which was written in 1599. This tale of romance and hatred starts with a dramatic first scene of the opposing families. These characters are shown in the first scene, focusing on the way Shakespeare captures the audience's attention and how he created this action packed, tense first scene to prepare us for the rest of the play. Shakespeare's Act 1 Scene 1 sees two angry characters enter armed with swords and bucklers which are publicly seen in their possession. In the society of that time, this would have been common and the audience would not find it strange whereas the society of today would find this threatening, as well as illegal. This gives us an impression of what the people and the society was like 400 years ago. These two fiery characters are Capulet servants called Sampson and Gregory who start the first scene off with humour: "We'll not carry coals" - Sampson. "No, for then we should be colliers" - Gregory. This would have been funny in Shakespearean times as Gregory is contradicting what Sampson has said, and is taking him literally to make light of the situation. Shakespeare's audience would have understood the reference whereas a modern audience would see the implication differently and the joke wouldn't be understood, as the Shakespearean language is not commonly known these days. ...read more.

Middle

Shakespeare has given Benvolio and Tybalt different tones of language: Tybalt's is strong, aggressive and angry whereas Benvolio's is a little less strong and is more polite when talking. These two characters, I feel, are created by Shakespeare to add tension and excitement to the play, and prepare us for more action packed scenes with the two characters later on. The contrast between these two characters would grab the audience's attention and leave us wondering what will happen between these two later on in the play. This fighting leads to several citizens (which are split between the Monatgues and the Capulets) that next enter the scene. A big fight ensues between the two families, and the citizens get involved. This would make us (and the audience 400 years ago) very edgy and would add tension in the audience. These characters are added to show us the hatred that has built between the Capulets and Montagues, and to show us that the anger and contempt between them goes as far as the citizens. Watching this on stage would add fear and tension between the characters on stage and the audience, and Shakespeare would have added swords and angry colours to show the hatred. Capulet, Lady Capulet, Montague and Lady Montague enter and when seeing the upheaval of the fights go to join in. The Ladies of the two households try to calm them down but they are defiant; "Hold me not; let me go." ...read more.

Conclusion

we first imagined. Shakespeare keeps us wondering about why Romeo is depressed, giving Romeo small dialogues of little information. We later learn that Romeo is "out of her favour where I am in love." This now tells us more of Romeo's character and instead of what our first impressions were, we now feel that he is a soppy romantic who is in love with love. Romeo later talks in riddles as he states: "O heavy lightness...O loving hate...feather of lead..." This shows us how he feels confused over his feelings of love, and that he will "feel no love like this." Again our impression is that he is very romantic and loves to be loved. This part of the scene from when Romeo enters prepares us for more romance and we feel that the romance and love will be the cause of the fighting later on in the play, which links to Prince Escalus' warning. In conclusion, I feel that this first scene is successful in helping us predict but also wonder what will happen later on in the play. It prepares us for more fighting and for a romance that may be the cause of death, betrayal and hurt. I've learnt of how inferior the women were 400 years ago, and how royalty ruled everything. Shakespeare has used the period that he lived in to create this play, and along with being an interesting love tale, it is in some ways factual as well. This play is very dramatic, tense and action-packed and I feel that this first scene starts the play off brilliantly. ...read more.

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