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How does Shakespeare use language and stagecraft to draw attention to the sense of tragedy in 'Romeo and Juliet', paying particular attention to Romeo's final speech?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare use language and stagecraft to draw attention to the sense of tragedy in 'Romeo and Juliet', paying particular attention to Romeo's final speech? 'Romeo and Juliet' - a play written 500 years ago which still captures the hearts and minds of young and old alike. It is a play about two young lovers whose destinies are entwined in the stars - "star-cross'd" - belonging to two rival families. Their "death-mark'd love" results in the tragic and untimely deaths of both of them. The main themes of this play still occur in modern romantic films. The idea of forbidden love appeals to young people, many of whom find the story incredibly romantic. It is also attractive to older people, perhaps because the recurring themes of love, betrayal and loyalty to each other are still very relevant in modern life. Despite the age of the play, the basic storyline that Shakespeare chose, of two young people falling love, discouraged by their families and ending in tragedy, is one which reappears time and time again in more modern films, plays and books. In Elizabethan times, when the play was written and set, things were very different to how they are now. It was considered perfectly normal for a young girl, such as Juliet who is "not fourteen", to be married. Lady Capulet herself was married and giving birth to Juliet "much upon the years that you are now a maid". The parents, and especially the father, would choose the bridegroom and the young girl would not have a choice. They would also marry for very different reasons to what we, in general, do. Whilst most modern marriages are for love, in that era they were either for money or for status. In 'Romeo and Juliet', the marriage arranged to the "County Paris" is almost definitely for the connections that would be established between the Capulet household and that of the Count. ...read more.

Middle

This is done by the way they use a lot of imagery relating to the stars. Romeo says that "Juliet is the sun", whilst she compares him to the stars. This shows them as being equal to the stars of fate and fortune. It also shows that they both regard each other very highly - in calling Juliet "the sun" Romeo is saying that she is the largest and the brightest of the stars, which of course they believe control the fortunes of everyone. Therefore not only is he saying that he place Juliet with the stars that control every aspect of his life, he believe she is the brightest and most beautiful part of it - perhaps the brightest part of his destiny. In my opinion, whilst 'Romeo and Juliet' is probably the most famous love story of al time, I believe it is just that - a love story. However, others might say it is a moral tale. In acting on their 'animalistic' passions and physical desires the young lovers are doing shocking things. The couple also go against their parents to get married, which would be greatly frowned upon. Some would say that their tragic demise shows that these actions never pay and is a method of discouraging people from doing anything similar. When Romeo is giving his final soliloquy, he is inside the Capulet crypt. He is looking at the bodies of Juliet and Tybalt. He is also quite mentally unbalanced, as can be seen by some of the things he says. This is unsurprising considering what he has been through in the past few days. He has fallen in love, got married secretly, seen his best friend die and killed two men [Tybalt and Paris]. He has also been banished and has now returned to find his beloved wife apparently dead. His emotions are in turmoil, a mixture of grief, anger and jealousy. ...read more.

Conclusion

Attention is also once more drawn to the overwhelming tragedy of the situation. The powerful language used in Romeo's final speech would have had quite a major impact on the audience. Metaphors such as "lean abhorred monster" show the extent of Romeo's profound feelings. The use of exclamation marks throughout the speech would also help to highlight this, drawing attention to the lines in question. This, as well as the overall length of the speech, would have had quite an effect on the audience. They would have been shouting encouragement and advice to the characters and perhaps pointing or throwing things onto the stage. Obviously this is different to the way modern audiences behave, sitting silently in the dark. I believe that Shakespeare was very effective in emphasising the sense of tragedy in 'Romeo and Juliet', because the audience always ends up hoping that something will happen to avert the dreadful consequences of their actions and their tragic destiny. This shows that the sense of tragedy is very strongly portrayed, as the audience become very aware of it. When Romeo and Juliet commit suicide, they believe that they have defied the stars, whereas I think that they have simply fulfilled their destiny. This is tragic as it shows that there is nothing they could have done to save themselves. In my opinion, 'Romeo and Juliet' is tragic for this very reason. Every effort they made just took them one step closer to their eventual, and inescapable, deaths. The way that they could not have done anything to stop it happening emphasises, in my opinion, the sense of tragedy, However, I do not believe that the repeated use of foreshadowing makes it any more tragic. Whilst it highlights the dramatic irony, the only other purpose, in my view, is to remind the audience that what they were told in the prologue - that both Romeo and Juliet will die - is going to come true. ?? ?? ?? ?? Claire Watkins Shakespeare Coursework September 2007 ...read more.

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