Romeo and Juliet
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'Romeo and Juliet' was written by William Shakespeare in 1596. Like many of Shakespeare's plays, it was not an original idea. His inspiration came from a well-known poem of the times called, 'The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet' which was written in 1562 by Arthur Brooke. In the poem, the events took place over four years, whilst Shakespeare shortened the events within the poem so they took place within three to four days. This gave the play greater impact as there is no time for Romeo and Juliet to consider the consequences of what they are doing and make the eventual death of the main characters at the end all the more shocking, as a few days before they didn't even know each other. The character of Mercutio did not exist in the poem; some believe Shakespeare added him to give the play more 'fun' as he is quite a wacky character and to make it different from the poem. It is more likely however, that as believed by critics of those times that part was written for a popular actor who's inclusion in the play would fill more theatre seats as he was believed to be a very popular 'A-lister' actor. Although 'Romeo and Juliet' is a tragedy it contains many more ingredients to fill more theatre seats, Love, comedy, violence and hate are also featured. Throughout the play the atmospheres change, we go from hate to love, love to hate and love to sadness, this changing is a rollercoaster ride for the audience who enjoy the sudden twists and changes in the play. The play contains dramatic irony, Romeo saying he thinks he may die and dreaming that Juliet found him dead adds to the appeal, due to the prologue, the audience know the outcome, yet they don't know why or how such a tragedy happened. Sexual innuendo is used to great effect to thrill, audiences of those times tended to have a fascination for sex like pre-sixteen teenagers today.
Saying she is 'expensive' is also very ironic, as in the end, she 'costs' him his life. Again this line convinces the audience that Juliet is supposed to be beautiful, even if the actor is not. Romeo then says she is too good to use: 'Beauty too rich for use.' Almost like she is 'too good to be true,' and he can't believe he is seeing someone so beautiful. This also links back to the idea that their love costs them their lives, something that the audience is well aware of. Romeo then uses contrasts once again: 'a snowy dove trooping with crows.' This line is interesting as it links back to Benvolio's 'prediction' in Act One Scene Two that Romeo would see Rosaline as a 'crow' and find another 'beatuie.' Romeo is again singling Juliet out, she is better than anyone else in that room. A dove is a symbol of peace, which is again ironic, as their deaths bring peace between their two warring families. The use of contrasts seems to be a big 'theme' in this play, there are two 'opposing' families, Benvolio and Tybalt are opposites, etc. Romeo closes this 'part' of the scene with: 'For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.' This again shows how fickle Romeo is, he said earlier how he will never see anyone more beautiful than Rosaline yet now he has. After this rather sweet declaration of love, the atmosphere changes to the opposite. Tybalt has been seen before in the play as a bold and violent man, here he isn't much different. The first line he utters is: 'This by his voice should be a Montague.' This shows Tybalt is looking for trouble, usually at parties you relax and 'let your hair down' yet Tybalt is almost acting like a 'bouncer' on the lookout for a fight. He then gives an order: 'Fetch me my rapier, boy.'
'Forbidden' love still happens today, Muslim women falling in love with Christian men is a common example. Honour killings still occur today, murder committed to preserve the honour of a family, usually in religious families. Interestingly women can be murdered for refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, Juliet of course, argues with her father regarding her marriage to Paris. In 'Romeo and Juliet' the characters of the same name fall in love at 'first sight.' Many people argue that you cannot fall in love with a person when you just see them for a few seconds, yet others believe in 'soul mates' people 'destined' to be together, Romeo and Juliet's shared sonnet seems to imply that they are 'soul mates.' In Elizabethan times, children were supposed to obey their parents, nowadays of course, it is often the parents obeying the children. Suicide still happens today, yet not usually in such a 'complex' way. Overall I believe 'Romeo and Juliet' is most certainly relevant to today's audience, after all, if it wasn't such a 'captivating' story, then it wouldn't be replicated on such a grand scale and after all, most people, when asked to name a Shakespeare play, the most named one would surely be 'Romeo and Juliet.' I personally enjoyed 'Romeo and Juliet.' I enjoyed watching it rather than reading it, and out of the two films we watched, I preferred the Baz Luhrman version by far. Probably because it was so 'over the top' and cheesy and I thought it was very skilful of Baz Luhrman to modernise it so well. I found the Zefferlli version a bit dull and 'tame' whether that be because of my age I don't know. I seemed to be able to understand the words Shakespeare used easier than the last year I did Shakespeare; however I think watching the Luhrman version before reading the play did help. Overall I found 'Romeo and Juliet' an enjoyable experience, despite my doubts at the start of the course that it would be 'boring' and not as gory as 'Macbeth.'
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