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How does Shakespeare create tension in act 1 scene I of Romeo and Juliet?

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Introduction

"How does Shakespeare create tension in act 1 scene I?" In my essay, I will be focused on how Shakespeare attempts to build tension and why he decided to include the greatest amounts of tension in act one, scene one of the romantic tragic play of Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare was born in the year 1564 in his home town, Stratford upon Avon. Shakespeare's father worked as a Glover. Shakespeare had directed many successful historical and comedy plays before he produced his masterpiece, which he named Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet was the first of the series of tragedies which made him an important and well known play writer. Romeo and Juliet was based on a true love story which had taken place in previous times or many believe it was based upon a historical tragedy, 'Pyramid and Thisbe'. The play was based in a place called Verona, which was the Hollywood of its time because of its notorious crime, elegant fashion and hegemonic culture. Shakespeare wanted to try something in his play 'Romeo and Juliet'. He wanted to combine opposites such as; love and hate, peace and war viewed through the lewd, cynical and violent exchanges between Capulet and Montague. This is perhaps what makes this play eternal. If the combination wasn't right it would be an end to his career as a play writer, as the audience was very critical, because of the prices they paid to view the play. Romeo and Juliet is probably the most popular play ever written. To understand how the play progressed to this level, we need to look at the historical context and features that would have affected the story and the play. Romeo and Juliet was produced in 1596. The 15th century was when rich and famous families were known for their glamour and flaunt of wealth, women were expected to respect their parents and family honour was important. ...read more.

Middle

A suggestion for the stagecraft would be that the background light would be dimmed but would ensure that Sampson and Gregory can be seen. Then a main light will be focused on the 2 characters, from the house of Montague, as they enter. They'd be costumed in such a way that the audience would be able to tell the difference between them and the Capulets. A suggestion would be for them to wear orange as this is on the other side of the color scale from blue. The difference must be shown because if the audience do not recognize the new characters they might assume that the new characters are also from the house of Capulet. This would have a big impact on the tension, which Shakespeare has built, in a negative way. Now the audience know that two characters from the house of Montague have arrived, they are certain that the action mentioned in the prologue will now commence. At this particular moment the audience wouldn't take the risk of looking away even for a second. Shakespeare cleverly uses this technique as it boosts the tension greatly in the audience's minds. Once the two members from the house of Montague enter, Sampson says, - Sampson: 'Quarrel! I will back thee.' (act 1 scene 1 line 30) In this quote Sampson is telling Gregory to start the fight and that once Gregory starts, he will aid him. Sampson should look nervous at this point. This will make the audience think whether Sampson will attack or not. This will create further tension. Gregory then says, - Gregory: 'How, turn thy back, and run?' (act 1 scene 1 line 31) The audience would now be wondering whether what had been said before were just talks or if Sampson would actually do something. Even though the audience know that a conflict is going to occur according to the prologue, they will begin having doubts about it. ...read more.

Conclusion

Now that the two masters are present, the tension would be highest at this point. Both, the Capulet and the Montague begin to exchange insults. Both the masters are ready for battle while their wives prefer peace. The conflict goes on a little longer and is then stopped by the recently arrived prince. The tension all ends at this point in this scene. Overall, Shakespeare creates tension by extending the period in which everything occurs. If he desired, he could have only involved the four characters which were introduced in the beginning throughout the conflict. But instead he chose to extent the whole process by first introducing Sampson and Gregory. He then introduced Abraham and the servant. He then introduces Benvolio and Tybalt, who are both very good with their swords and also respected a lot. He then introduces the masters of both houses. He finally introduces the character who has the highest authority in Verona, and uses him to end the scene. The only reason Shakespeare does this is so that the tension can rise to its peak. One of the ways why tension rises in this scene is because Shakespeare bases many themes in this scene. The first theme which was introduced was hatred, we were shown hatred when Sampson and Gregory were expressing their hatred for the Montagues. The second theme introduced was war, when a conflict commences between the Capulets and the Montagues. Law and order was then introduced when the prince entered. The final theme and most important theme in this scene was love. This is shown near the end of the scene when Romeo expresses his love for a nun (Rosaline). The Capulets and Montagues clearly have an issue of hatred between them. The question is why is the hatred so immense and why can't they find a solution to this hatred. Another important concern is that, if the conflict is between the masters, why are the families involved including the slaves. ?? ?? ?? ?? English coursework Yameen Seedat ...read more.

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