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Romeo and JulietConsider the balance of tragedy and comedy in Act one, concluding whether it is on the whole humorous of tragic.

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Introduction

The Prologue includes phrases like 'death-marked love' and 'fatal loins'. From this we might think that Romeo and Juliet is an unrelenting tragedy. Yet the first Act has many humorous moments. Consider the balance of tragedy and comedy in Act one, concluding whether it is on the whole humorous of tragic. As defined by Aristotle, 'tragedy evokes pity and fear in the audience.' On the other hand, comedy evokes pleasure and laughter. Act One is highly comical with absurd characters, and humorous language. However from the outset, the audience is on notice that the play is a tragedy, not least because the play begins with a dark and tragic Prologue. The Prologue contains dark imagery such as 'civil blood makes civil hands unclean,' and,'from ancient grudge break to new mutiny'. It also describes a 'pair of star crossed lovers' who, 'with their death bury their parents strife'. This creates dramatic irony amongst the audience, in that however amusing the comic aspects in the rest of the play, ultimately the audience knows that tragedy will follow. ...read more.

Middle

It contains many tragic moments, and reveals that some events (such as the servant inviting Romeo to the party) contain more tragedy than once interpreted. The first act begins with a duel between the two houses. On stage, this opening scene would give a dramatic, tragic start, adding to the tragedy of the prologue and the vision of tragedy pre-empted by the title. On a deeper layer, the clown's speech hides some tragedy, as, although it is amusing, the consequences following this invitation are fatal and deadly. Not only does the first Act contain comic events, but, the language is highly comical. It includes puns, oxymorons, comical imagery, and bawdy humour. Scene 1 contains many puns and sexual references, for example, "Therefore I will be civil to the maids; I will cut off their heads." This particular quote is amusing as it is highly ironic. The use of 'civil' in the quotation creates the false impression of kindness, however the next phrase evades this, as 'I will cut off their heads,' meant to take away their virginity. ...read more.

Conclusion

This speech also makes use of the word 'canker', "Cankered with peace, to part the cankered hate." (Act One, Scene One) The word canker, meaning cancer, conjures up much diseased and corroded imagery, making the speech very tragic. Possibly one of the most tragic speeches in the play is that of Queen Mab. It uses colourful language and disturbing imagery. Told by Mercutio, it describes a dream had by him the night prior to Capulet's party. It involves language such as, "This is that very Mab ish hairs" And, "This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs That presses them and learns them first to bear," The imagery in the speech is very dark, and the imagery is that of tiny beasts and infection. The beginning of the speech begins calmly, with imagery of tiny creatures and nature; however, towards the end it becomes more tense and dramatic. This mood is mirrored in Baz Lurhmann's production of Romeo and Juliet. In it, the scene is set at night, in a pitch black surrounding. It shows the actor playing Mercutio getting more and more dramatic, and speeding up his speech. ...read more.

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