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Despite its many comic characters and situations, 'Romeo and Juliet' is known as one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies.

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Introduction

Romeo & Juliet Coursework Despite its many comic characters and situations, 'Romeo and Juliet' is known as one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies. This is mainly because the two main characters are victims of their own predetermined fate and can do nothing to prevent the inevitable end coming about. How far do you agree that 'Romeo & Juliet' is a tragedy and not a tragicomedy? Romeo & Juliet was written in 1594-5, before all Shakespeare's great tragedies. Hamlet wasn't until 1600, Othello 1604, Macbeth and King Lear 1605-6. It appears that because this was a very early tragedy that Shakespeare hadn't established a set way to write tragedies. In Shakespeare's famous tragedies usually there is one single main character and the tragedy comes about because of a flaw in their character. For instance Othello is destroyed by his jealousy and Macbeth is destroyed by his ambition. Romeo and Juliet isn't like this. This is made obvious from the beginning. The first thing the audience sees would be a chorus, a single figure dressed in black who came to the front of the stage. The Shakespearean stage (usually the Globe theatre) ...read more.

Middle

A feature of Romeo & Juliet is that there is a lot of humour, either slapstick or witty obscene remarks. Although there are a lot of comic characters in the play, there are two main ones which I want to discuss in more detail. The first is Mercutio, the second is the nurse. When we first see Mercutio in act one, scene four, he speaks in verse, but in his main scene with the Nurse and Peter (Peter was originally played by the famous Shakespearean clown called Kemp), he speaks prose. A lot of what he says is sexual and is included because Romeo & Juliet is meant to be a play about love and this provides a relevant under-current to the rather fairy-tale affair between the two main characters. For instance, Shakespeare took the story for his play from a poem by Arthur Brooke called The Tragical History of Romeo and Juliet, which in turn was based on an Italian poem by Bandello. Romeo comes across as a typical literary lovesick poet - the sort of character that would appear in Italian poetry - which is how we first hear about him in Sycamore Grove where he pines for Roseline. ...read more.

Conclusion

which doesn't really play any part at all in the plot of the play. In conclusion, I think that the real question for this essay should be "Why does Shakespeare give so much space to comedy when it's meant to be a tragedy?" I think there are two probable answers. The first is that Romeo and Juliet are such weak characters and they need 'shadows' to give them more depth and to encourage interest. The nurse and Mercutio are human beings, whereas Romeo in particular is like a literary invention, an artificial poet. The second reason is to do with the kind of tragedy it is. I've already made the point that the main tragedies Shakespeare wrote depend on character flaws: ambition, jealousy, etc. Because Romeo and Juliet is not like this, the storyline cannot rely on simple psychology. The clue lies in the phrase 'star-crossed lovers'. The tragedy in Romeo and Juliet comes from various mistakes, letters not arriving, misunderstandings, miss-timings, etc. This sort of thing relies on having lots of minor characters acting as go-betweens, and in Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare has decided to make a lot of these minor characters comic. 1. ...read more.

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