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How does Shakespeare create a dramatic impact in the prologue and Act 1 of 'Romeo and Juliet?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare create a dramatic impact in the prologue and Act 1 of 'Romeo and Juliet?' By Charlotte Davis William Shakespeare wrote the romantic tragedy 'Romeo and Juliet' somewhere between 1595 and 1596. Shakespeare, a professional writer and actor in the globe theatre, knew the importance of creating a dramatic impact in all his plays. He uses the themes of excitement, tension, violence and entertainment to create a dramatic impact. Not only to attract an audience, William also used this technique to ensure sponsorship, good reputation and the best actors. 'Romeo and Juliet' was based on a poem written by Arthur Brooke in 1562. Italy, the plays setting, represents all that was glamorous to the English imagination- style, charm and wealth. Act 1 begins with the servants conversing light-heartedly, but turns bitter when Abram enters and the symbolic gesture of 'biting my thumb' occurs. Act 1 is undoubtedly the most important of the three in 'Romeo and Juliet' because of the different emotions it portrays and the tension is builds for the audience's expectations of the rest of the play. The whole play represents tones of extreme emotions- intensity, romance, passion, violence, anger hatred and love. Shakespeare uses contrast throughout to create a stirring and engaging atmosphere. With the characters (eg. The nurse and Juliet, Romeo and Tybalt), with the scenes (eg. The prologue and act 1 scene 1) and with emotions (eg. Love and hate). This is a significant and effective way to bring dramatic effect into the play, making it most exciting and enjoyable for the Elizabethan audience. The prologue first introduces the idea of fate, destiny and 'death-marked love.' It gives the audience an insight into the story line and the Montague's and Capulets on going feud. The line 'from ancient grudge break to new mutiny' hints to the audience that trouble lies ahead, creating a tense and exciting impact before the play has even started. ...read more.

Middle

Nurse reminisces, talking about many life experiences like marriage and breast-feeding that the audience would surely have related to and would realise that Juliet's fate will never allow her to experience these things. Nurse speaks of Juliet's fourteenth birthday coming up in two weeks, which is ironic in the way that Juliet will never make it. Juliet's lack of conversation and minimal speech adds mystery to her character and leaves the audience inquisitive about her. To the audience, Romeo and Juliet's characters at this stage differ dramatically. Whereas Romeo comes across as love-sick, dreamy and poetic, Juliet first appears to be young, reluctant to grow up and shy. This contrast would leave the audience wondering how the pair who appear so different, end up so in love. Shakespeare's use of dramatic irony provided by the prologue ensures the audience know more than the characters themselves, which keeps the audience eager to find out how their story unfolds. Act 1 scene 4 offers the audience alternative viewpoints to evaluate the play and adds a sense of foreboding. Mercutio acts as a foil to Romeo just as the nurse does to Juliet. Mercutio's witty characteristics are personified in his use of puns and metaphors; 'you are a lover, borrow cupids wings'. He includes many mythical characters into his speech, like cupid and queen Mab, which emphasises his faraway and starry-eyed character. His optimism and positive personality contrasts with bitter, violent one of Tybalts, creating a dramatic atmosphere later on for the audience when the two come head to head. Mercutio uses lots of sexual puns, for example, when he says 'stand' the Elizabethans would have acknowledged this as a slang way of talking about a male erection. One reason Shakespeare may have used this technique is to show his sexual joking helps to highlight the true love between Romeo and Juliet, adding further contrast to the scene. ...read more.

Conclusion

Their meeting is written in a shared sonnet to, once again, point out the importance to the audience and enhance the dramatic impact. As the prologue was also written in a sonnet, the audience would have linked the two and made the connection between their love and their eventual destiny. In addition to this, the shared sonnet implies their love is mutual and requited. Juliet uses the phrases 'my grave is like to be my wedding bed' which suggests that the love between Romeo and Juliet is marked not only as exceptional but also doomed from the start, reemphasising the theme of destiny. Juliet also says 'my only love sprung from my only hate'. The word 'sprung' makes their love seem uncontrollable and inevitable, adding to the theme of fate. Shakespeare manages to add even more dramatic tension by ending the scene with Nurse telling Juliet that Romeo is a Montague, leaving the act on a cliff hanger and the audience craving more. Shakespeare succeeds in create a dramatic impact in act 1 of 'Romeo and Juliet' in many different ways. By using different emotions that the audience can all relate to, he ensures the viewers are gripped to the play and by leaving the lovers meeting until the end of the act, ensures their anticipation and expectations for the rest of the play. The act is very important to the play because it introduces the key themes and characters, which sets the tone for the rest of the performance. The themes in Romeo and Juliet are still relevant to audiences today because the idea of uncontrollable destiny will always appeal to audiences around the world. The human race will always be able to associate themselves to the emotions of love and hate, meaning the play will always be important in not only literature, but also relevant to today's culture. The fact that the play has produced many phrases and sayings proves this . I think act 1 is extremely gripping and is exceptionally well written, with the end of the act leaving the audience desperate for more. By Charlotte Davis ...read more.

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