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How does Shakespeare guide our responses to the main characters in Romeo and Juliet?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare guide our responses to the main characters in Romeo and Juliet? In a play we as the audience learn about its characters by their speech, actions, tone of voice and their stage directions. It is usually very easy to see a character's personality in a play as the playwright usually makes it easy to understand who is "Good" and who is "bad". It must be remembered that an Elizabethan audience would respond slightly differently to the characters as we do as nowadays people have more cynical views. One character that the audience take immediate dislike to is Tybalt. He is obviously an evil character and consequently one the audience dislikes straight away. In Act I he is aggressive and insulting towards Benvolio, who is trying to keep the peace between the Capulets and Montagues. He says - "What, drawn, and talk of peace? I hate the word as I hate hell, all Montagues and thee." His repetition of the word "hate" shows his aggressive nature. From this you can also conclude he is a character who loves to fight, resulting in our feelings of dislike for him. On the other hand one character who we feel sympathy for is Romeo, even before he is encountered in the play. Montague and Benvolio first mention him, discussing the way he is acting. We find out he has been troubled for some time, often sighted on his own, obviously upset. This makes the audience feel sympathetic towards him. When we finally encounter him we find out the cause- he is a victim of unrequited love with Rosaline. ...read more.

Middle

This is where the genuineness of her love for him is shown. This is obviously a parallel to what is to happen in the end. When she finds out it is not Romeo that is dead you can tell she is relieved but ashamed that her new husband has murdered her cousin, Tybalt. Juliet changes in act 3 scene 5 by lying to her mother and father. She says - "Indeed, I never shall be satisfied With Romeo till I behold him- dead - Is my poor heart, so for a kinsmen vexed." It is almost as if Juliet has matured since she got married - because she defends herself when her parents try to make her marry Paris. Lord Capulet says she must marry Paris and on hearing of her refusal he threatens to drag her to church and insults her, by saying - "Out you green-sickness carrion! Out, you baggage! You tallow-face" However despite her fathers aggression she remains polite, saying - "Good father, I beseech you on my knees, Hear me with patience but to speak a word". This is seen as mature in these times, but in Elizabethan years this would have been seen as betrayal of her father, which in such a patriarchal society would have been severely frowned upon. Later on, in Act 4, Juliet drinks a potion that makes her appear dead as part of her plan to see Romeo again. The first person to see her is the Nurse who appears very upset at the apparent death of Juliet. She says - "I must needs awake you. Lady, lady, lady! Alas, alas! Help, help! My lady's dead! O well-a-day that ever I was born! Some aqua-vitae, ho! My lord! ...read more.

Conclusion

He does it again in act 3, he says - "O deadly sin! O rude thankfulness! Thy fault our law calls death but the kind Prince, Taking thy part, hath rushed aside the law, And turned that black word 'death' to 'banishment'. This is dear mercy, and thou seest it not." This also mirrors our feelings of Romeo at the news of his banishment. An audience nowadays has a differing opinion of Friar Lawrence than an Elizabethan audience because he in the Elizabethan era would have been seen as a bad friar and one that aids rebellion. A modern audience would see him as a man who helps lover's relationships bloom. The play covers many themes, some of love, tragedy, death, family feuds, hatred and passion, the most obvious being tragedy. It is a tragedy because the main characters commit suicide at the end because they cannot live without eachother. Some good comes out of the tragedy though, as the Capulets and Montagues join in peace at the end. Romeo and Juliet are in a way to blame for the outcome of their relationship, but the Elizabethan audience would strongly believe that their fates were totally to blame. Shakespeare uses fate a lot in the play to provoke sympathy for those who have unlucky fates. In a play we as the audience learn about its characters by their speech, actions, tone of voice and their stage directions, as stated before. Shakespeare uses fate and dramatic irony intentionally to provoke sympathetic reactions to characters in the play and affect our responses and emotions about different situations. Different audiences in different times in differing societies can interpret the play many different ways, which is probably the reason why it was and still is such a popular play today. Dan Cox Page 1 ...read more.

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