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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: English
  • Essay length: 1995 words

How does Shakespeare make the opening gripping and exciting in Romeo and Juliet?

Extracts from this essay...

Introduction

How does Shakespeare make the start of the play gripping and exciting? Originally written by Arthur Brooke in the form of a long poem called "The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet", Romeo and Juliet was later rewritten by former actor and playwright William Shakespeare. Shakespeare, a magician with words, added more depth, detail and characters to the tragedy. The famous play, "The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet," more commonly referred to as "Romeo and Juliet," was believed to be written roughly between 1591 and 1595, in the Elizabethan era. In the Elizabethan era theatres were popular. Whilst watching a play the audience were not expected to be silent: people ate, talked and fidgeted through the performance. Going to the theatre was like going to a social event thus people would be loud and mingle around; you had to earn the audienceâs attention by having a riveting start to the play. In addition, there were hardly any props for the actors so the story had to be told through words. Shakespeare creates an engaging and gripping opening to Romeo and Juliet with the use of various linguistic techniques, dramatic devices, metaphoric imagery and humour. Shakespeare ingeniously starts the play with a prologue containing the whole story, start to finish, in a carefully written sonnet; this leaves the audience waiting in anticipation for the prologue to be brought to life. He uses this dramatic device to enliven and alarm the audience as well as inform them about the feud among the two families and the effect it causes.

Middle

Throughout the speech there is a lot of metaphoric imagery which interests us as we imagine the image in our heads. An example of this would be: âWith purple fountains issuing from your veins...â the word âpurpleâ is used here because in the Elizabethan era nobility were thought to have had blue blood whereas commoners had red and blue mixed with red made purple therefore both noble and common people died. On the other hand it could be interpreted as a dark or deep wound such as the deep hatred the families have for each other. The Prince threatens the families at the end. We can see this where it says: âIf you ever disturb our streets again, your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.â The sinister threat is exhilarating for the audience because they know that it would have to be put into action and peopleâs lives will be lost. However it seems less real for a contemporary audience as it is not part of the new justice system, yet the modern day adaptation does not fail to hook the audience. In Act 1 Scene 5, at a party hosted by the Capulet family, Romeo sees Juliet for the first time. As Romeo sees Juliet for the first time, all the old romantics begin to swoon and sigh over his amorous sonnet for her. At this point it is crucial that the audience believe that Romeo is truly in love with Juliet or else their deaths will not be as heart-rending.

Conclusion

Moreover this scene is thrilling because both themes run through it in complete contrast allowing the audience to sense the strong emotions better whilst they are forever sitting in the stands waiting for the moment where Romeo and Juliet die; Tybalt is fuming that Romeo intruded and so it seems like a colossal brawl will occur right there and then. In Elizabethan times it was vital the audience were gripped right from the very start. They treated the theatre as a social gathering and the racket was the equivalent to a modern day rock concert. Nowadays when people go to the theatre it is a more formal gathering where people sit quietly and watch; being noisy would be considered very discourteous and the lack of props would have made the play extremely dull as these days people tend to be more interested in the acting rather than the dialogue. Shakespeare had to capture the Elizabethan audienceâs attention right from the beginning but a modern day audience would not need as much persuading which is why the modern day adaptation by Baz Luhrmann is a big hit today. The Prologue in the Baz Luhrmannâs version is still exciting but more realistic than a person standing on the stage telling you what the story will be; it is told through a news report on a television screen. In my opinion Shakespeareâs opening of Romeo and Juliet is clearly legendary for a reason. It does more than grip the audienceâs attention; it seizes it and does not let go. In conclusion, Act 1 is jam-packed with remarkable scenes that would keep you on the edge of your seat (unless you were a stinkard) craving more.

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