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Discuss Shakespeare's use of contrast in 'Romeo and Juliet', commenting on language, character, plot and themes.

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Introduction

12.3.02 Romeo and Juliet coursework "Discuss Shakespeare's use of contrast in 'Romeo and Juliet', commenting on language, character, plot and themes" 'Romeo and Juliet' is a play about two feuding families in ancient Verona, and the forbidden love between two people from these opposing families, which leads to their tragic deaths. I have been focusing in particular on the contrasts in the play. Contrasts play an important role in this play, and Shakespeare extends the contrasts in the plot (for example, between the two feuding families) through to the language and characters for greatest effect. I am going to look at the different ways contrasts are used, and the kind of effects that they have. The plot itself is full of contrasts. The whole play revolves around two feuding families, the Montagues and the Capulets, which Shakespeare probably based on two real life families in thirteenth century Italy, the Montecchi and the Capelletti, who were locked in a political struggle. It is the contrast between the hate the two families have for each other, and the love Romeo and Juliet feel for each other that is the most obvious, and most important, contrast in the play. This contrast between love and hate is probably best summed up by Romeo's line in act 1, scene 1, which also sums up the whole play, "Here's much to do with hate, but more with love". ...read more.

Middle

These are very striking and often dark, and have the effect of catching the audience's attention and keeping them gripped to the events of the play. Another contrast in the language is between light and dark (Romeo: "more light and light, more dark and dark our woes!" act 3, scene 5). These contrasts between light and dark are often very poetic and spoken between Romeo and Juliet about their love. They are also often tied in with contrasts between night and day. In act 2, scene 2 Romeo describes Juliet as being the sun, and says "Arise fair sun, and kill the envious moon", this is very a very strong image and personifies the sun to make it a more real rival to Juliet's beauty as well as alluding to the violence and tensions in the plot. There are also many examples of dramatic irony in the play, often to do with the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet at the end of the play. Lady Capulet says in act 3, scene 5 (about Juliet) "I wish the fool were married to her grave" also in act 1, scene 5 Juliet says "My grave is like to be my wedding bed", these are both very dramatic and dark and conjure strong images to the final scene. ...read more.

Conclusion

I think that without all it's contrasts on so many levels 'Romeo and Juliet' would probably not have been as successful as it has been, and would have been just another predictable love story. 'Romeo and Juliet' breaks the mould, as the lovers do not end up happily together, which is what makes it so powerful and poignant. I also think that it is the contrasts, between love and hate, peace and violence, and old and young that makes it such an enduring story that people can still identify with and appreciate today, over 350 years after audiences first fell in love with it. Audiences automatically empathise with Romeo and Juliet, for whom nothing is ever easy or straightforward, even when they've just met. They have to have the courage to fight, which was especially hard with the cultural contexts of the day, where Juliet was expected to follow her father's wishes, and it would have disgraced their families if they had eloped. People respect how brave Romeo and Juliet had to be, and aspire to the kind of enduring love that remains strong, no matter the sacrifices. Because of this, I see no reason why audiences won't still be on the edge of their seats, and identifying with the enduring human issue of the ever-present contrast between love and hate in another 350 years time. ...read more.

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