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How does Shakespeare Prepare the Audience for the Tragic events of Act 5 Scene 3?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare Prepare the Audience for the Tragic events of Act 5 Scene 3? Shakespeare opens 'Romeo and Juliet' with a love sonnet; a prologue that tells the end; a portent of things to come. The prologue tells the audience about the tragic ending so instead of wanting to know what happens in the end, we want to know how it happens. It is in this sonnet that there is the first mention of fate; 'a pair of star-cross'd lovers' meaning that their love is to be directed by fate. Shakespeare follows it with the word 'fatal'; this word encapsulates fate and death; fate meaning the unstoppable force acting on the lovers and death being what their love results in. In this opening fourteen lines Shakespeare introduces the idea that love will end in death and nothing can stop it because the stars and therefore fate are in control. This theme of fate reoccurs throughout the play- it is a constant reminder of the helplessness of Romeo and Juliet's love and the lack of control they have over the events that lead up to their inevitable death. This opening speech is then followed by the first scene- a fight between the Montagues and Capulets. The crudity of the language used is a direct contrast of the following part of the scene in which Romeo is first introduced. The men in the fight use sexual innuendos to show their masculinity, 'Ay, the heads of maids or their maidenheads,' maidenhead meaning virginity. Shakespeare does this throughout 'Romeo and Juliet' he intermixes scenes of complete vulnerability and purity with ones with crudity and bawdy language. This creates an even sharper contrast between the lovers and reality; it separates them from the rest of the world making their love almost divine. When Romeo enters the play the language changes- it becomes poetical and magical as Benvolio describes when he saw Romeo: 'An hour before the worshipp'd sun Peer'd forth the golden window of the east...' ...read more.

Middle

At first Juliet thinks that she means Romeo is dead and the audience is left in suspense. When she does find out Juliet goes through a mass of different emotions from relief to anger to complete disbelief. At first the nurse conceals part of the truth yet this just antagonises Juliet even more. Throughout the scenes the nurse turns from a comic character to a tragic one very quickly. From when she teases Juliet about her knowledge of Romeo to where she does not tell Juliet whether Romeo is alive or dead. But still the nurse does not see to what extent she is hurting Juliet. Juliet's initial reaction to the news is anger at Romeo for, as she says, fooling her into loving him. This speech mirrors Romeo's paradoxical discourse on love, and its effects. 'Beautiful tyrant, fiend angelical! Dove-feather'd raven, wolvish-ravening lamb.' Juliet's speech explores the gap between appearance and reality and deception of the external. Yet when the nurse tries to agree Juliet turns on her and suddenly she is eager to defend Romeo; she is a whirlwind of emotion. 'Blister'd be they tongue For such a wish! He was not born to shame...' Juliet then bursts into a speech which is soon repeated by Romeo in the following scene. Juliet picks up the word banished and suddenly all thoughts of Tybalt have gone. ''Romeo is banished': to speak that word, Is father, mother, Tybalt, Romeo, Juliet, All slain, all dead, 'Romeo is banished!'' Juliet's moods change very rapidly with sudden outbursts of emotion and uncontrollable tempers. Juliet seems to calm a little but she ends the scene on another personification of death as a lover. 'Come, cords, come, Nurse, I'll to my wedding bed, And death, not Romeo, take my maidenhead.' The next scene is between Romeo and Friar Lawrence, the connection between the two men is similar to that of Juliet and her nurse. ...read more.

Conclusion

A dramatic panic breaks out and each person shows part of their character from their reaction to Juliet's death. Everyone seems to be more worried about their own loss rather than Juliet having lost her life. Capulet puts a disturbing edge to the mess; he repeats the characterisation of death as a seducer and a lover. But he talks as though he has stolen everything from himself and not just Juliet. 'O son, the night before they wedding day Hath Death lain with thy wife? There she lies, Flower as she was, deflowered by him. Death is my son-in-law, Death is my heir, My daughter he hath wedded. I will die, And leave him all; life, living, all is Death's.' This speech is repeated in the words of Romeo when he sees Juliet's body. Friar Lawrence interrupts their self-indulgent sorrows like a voice of reason. Throughout the play he is the control over the characters and sometimes the only sane one. He calms Romeo down and makes him see sense; he even tries to tell him to slow his love for Juliet down. Friar Lawrence's links with god make him trustworthy and a source of comfort to the lovers. The differences between the reaction of Romeo and Juliet's family to her death are vast. Whereas the nurse and Juliet's mother seemed to give up in their self-pitying, dramatic dejection; Romeo reacts completely differently. He shows great heroic composure in the face of tragedy. Romeo seems to gain a grim determination that brings him back from his optimistic thoughts and gives him strength. 'Is it e'en so? Then I defy you, stars!' Romeo's passion bursts from him and he seems to have the power to fight against the fate that has killed his lover. Yet his recklessness and lack of thought is to be his downfall. Before he leaves Romeo asks Balthasar 'hast thou no letter to me from the Friar?' but once again fate conspires against him. The final scene is set in the darkness; an equivalent to Romeo and Juliet's first meeting. ...read more.

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