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How effective is the Prologue as an introduction to Romeo and Juliet?

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In my opinion, the prologue is a striking and extremely effective introduction to one of the greatest tragedies ever written. One of the most unusual things about the Prologue is its structure; the fact that it is written in the sonnet form is very significant. The sonnet form of poetry is perhaps the most demanding and challenging poetic form that exists. For hundreds of years the sonnet (of which Shakespeare wrote 154) has been recognised as a structure that is only attempted by the greatest of poets such as Shakespeare or Wordsworth. It is often associated with love poetry and the fact that Shakespeare chooses the sonnet format to open Romeo and Juliet suggests his motive to prepare the audience with the love story to come. The sonnet is made up from 3 quatrains each consisting of 4 lines, with the rhyme scheme a,b,a,b, each quatrain telling us something different about the forthcoming play. The sonnet is finished by a rhyming couplet- a pair of lines that have the rhyming scheme c,c. Some might question why Shakespeare chose such a difficult poetic structure to open the play however it is clear to me that he chose the sonnet to grab the audience's attention but also to demonstrate his showcase of literary talent. ...read more.


In Act 1 Scene 1, the Prince calls the Montagues and Capulets, 'Profaners of this neighbour-stained steel' as their swords are stained with the blood of their innocent neighbours who have no reason to become involved in the conflict. However it is clear that the two houses will not end the feud until the Lords of the households condemn the fighting (which they clearly do not do). In Act 1 Scene1 there is a public scuffle and Capulet exclaims, 'Give me my long sword' and likewise Montague shouts, 'thou villain Capulet!... let me go.' The elder generation of Montagues and Capulets constantly fuel the feud and encourage it by setting a poor example. In the second quatrain, Shakespeare tells the audience about the lovers. We are told that they are from "fatal loins"- signifying death and already indicating their tragic fate. The idea of fate is one which Shakespeare experiments on throughout the whole play. Within the Prologue, we are given an interesting glimpse of the experiment Shakespeare conducts with destiny and fate. The audience are told that the lovers are "star-crossed" which not only indicates their catastrophic fate but speaks of the fact that the lovers were destined to acquire it. The next part of the Prologue is often puzzling for Shakespeare tells the audience that the lovers are going to die - some might say he is 'letting the cat out of the bag'. ...read more.


However, also evident at the end of the play is the Christian concept of dying for ones sins - Romeo and Juliet are sacrificed to end the constantly intensifying feud between the two families. We are next presented with the third quatrain, in which Shakespeare overviews the plot of the play to come. The chorus explains to the audience that they will see how the lovers meet, love and die in the play, "The fearful passage of their death-marked love..." He again speaks of the evitable sacrifice of the lovers' lives in order to end their parents' strife, "and the continuance of their parents' rage, which but their children's end nought could remove". In this quatrain we also see the practical side of Shakespeare who tells the audience that the play is two hours long, "is now the two hours' traffic of our stage". The completion of the sonnet form is in the presence of the final rhyming couplet; which in this case tells the audience to listen to the forthcoming play if they missed any of the Prologue. It is a simple yet self-explanatory rhyming couplet, which speaks of the actors jobs as to "strive to mend" what the audience has missed - thus telling one of the most beautiful love stories of all time, Romeo and Juliet. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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This is a very good essay which supplies an analytical and detailed close reading of the prologue, while at the same time making effective textual links with the rest of the play. It offers a focused and well-structured answer to the question posed by the title.

Marked by teacher Katie Dixon 07/03/2012

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