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"Romeo and Juliet" is a play full of contradictions. How does Shakespeare show these to his audience? Why?

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Introduction

"Romeo and Juliet" is a play full of contradictions. How does Shakespeare show these to his audience? Why? In the play "Romeo and Juliet", Shakespeare uses contradictions both to involve his audience in the action and to highlight the important themes and events. The play was written on several different levels of understanding. It could be viewed as a simple, tragic love story but the conflicts within and between the characters give us a fascinating study of human nature. The contradictions within the text in the form of oxymorons and puns counter this simplicity and lead us to examine each line for its true purpose. The variety and interest capture and entrance the audience. The twists and turns of the play change it from just a conventional love story to one that deals with the major opposing forces of life; light and dark, day and night, love and hate, good and evil, life and death. From the very beginning Shakespeare uses contradictions in the form of antonyms. In the first quatrain of the prologue, Shakespeare prepares the audience to see the longstanding hostility between the two equally noble families, the Montagues and the Capulets, breaking out again. "From ancient grudge break to new mutiny." The antonyms of ancient and new stress the grudge and the forth coming tragedy. The second quatrain foretells the healing of this feud through the deaths of a pair of ill-fated lovers, children of these families, Romeo and Juliet. ...read more.

Middle

"Palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss." Shakespeare connects Romeo and Juliet's love with religion to make it stand out to the audience as something divine, in contrast to Romeo's early love for Rosaline, which made him feel "ill". Romeo and Juliet were flouting the moral conventions of the day, as they were not dutifully following their parents' wishes. As they were from opposing houses, they should have hated each other, not loved each other. Shakespeare makes this clear to the audience through Juliet, "My only love sprung from my only hate." Again the strength of this statement is reinforced by the use of antonyms. Shakespeare used their wrongful love to involve the audience in the play. They would experience a conflict of feelings between their sympathy for the untouchable love between Romeo and Juliet and the fact that they were disobeying their parents' wishes. Shakespeare created a generation gap between the younger generation and the older generation, showing the older generation to contradict themselves and to act in a contradictory manner. Shakespeare created this gap to make the play more complex and unpredictable. In the Shakespearean times, it was common for wealthy parents to have a distant relationship to their children, as a nanny would bring them up. As the Capulet's were wealthy, Juliet was not close to her parents, perhaps if she had been, none of the later tragedies would have happened. ...read more.

Conclusion

Shakespeare also uses oxymorons to highlight the main themes, lines and events of the play. The verbal conflict in these words of opposite meanings reflects on the characters emotional conflict. After Romeo has left Juliet, Lady Capulet comes to talk to her. She believes that her daughter grieves for the death of Tybalt, which contradicts the real reason for Juliet's grief. She is actually grieving for Romeo's departure. The two understandings are kept in the play throughout the dialogue, Juliet meaning one thing and Lady Capulet taking a different meaning. It could be thought that Shakespeare filled "Romeo and Juliet" with contradictions to make it unique, to make it stand out from all other love stories. It is a tragedy about love! It does not follow the pattern of any other love story. It contradicts the audience's expectations. The contradictions of the plot do not allow the audience to predict what will happen next. Each sentence apparently contradicting itself, a play on words much appreciated and expected by the audience of the day. The audience would experience a conflict of feelings between their sympathy for the irreproachable love between Romeo and Juliet and the fact that the lovers were flouting the moral conventions of the day and not dutifully following their parent's wishes. Perhaps the biggest contradiction within the play is the way in which it ends. It is not the love between Romeo and Juliet which binds the feuding families together in marriage, but their deaths which bring the families together in grief. 1 1 ...read more.

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