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What elements or ingredients make Romeo and Juliet a classic tragedy?

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Introduction

What elements or ingredients make Romeo and Juliet a classic tragedy? Shakespeare wrote 37 plays in all. Of these, 10 were tragedies including Romeo and Juliet. His other famous tragedies include Othello, Hamlet and Macbeth. Even now tragedy is still around an important genre in modern novels, films, plays, etc. The most common difference between modern and past tragedies is that the hero/heroine in past tragedies had a high status in society, like an emperor, king, prince, so they can loose their status in a tragic fall, whereas in modern tragedies, the hero/heroine can be just an 'ordinary' person rather then someone with high status. The dictionary definition of a tragedy is; a serious drama, film, opera, etc in which the main character or characters are eventually destroyed through a combination of events, circumstances, and personality problems. Tragedies have been dated all the way back to ancient Greece. In the 5th Century BC the play write Sophocles was the greatest of his time and the first to write tragedies. His greatest works were Antigone and Oedipus Rex. Also during this time, Aristotle wrote an analysis of what made up a tragedy. His points still apply today and some included were: o The death or downfall of an important character(s) with a sudden turning point or reversal of fortune. o The important part played by fate (inevitability). o A 'tragic flaw' which the main character(s) has, bringing their downfall. o An emotional release for the audience. These are the points on which this essay will be based, looking into how far these elements/ingredients are contained in Romeo and Juliet. A classic tragedy features the death or downfall of a hero/heroine of noble status and in this play Romeo and Juliet are these characters. Both are from two of the biggest households in Verona and they both have youth, beauty, wealth and power which makes them perfect main parts as they have so much to lose. ...read more.

Middle

Even though Romeo and Juliet are 'of age', in 16th Century terms, their lives are still run by their parents and other elders. Juliet's parents are the more controlling of the two rival households and this is shown in Act 3, Scene 5. In this scene Juliet is told that she has an arranged marriage to Paris. Her parents think this is what she wants and this is what will make her happy because they think she is mourning her cousin's death but she is really mourning for Romeo. She is then threatened by her father: "...get thee to church on Thursday, Or never after look me in the face. My fingers itch." This traps her because she cannot tell her parents about her secret marriage to Romeo and if she does marry Paris she will be committing bigamy, a sin she would be punished for. "My fingers itch" means that he wants to hit Juliet but doesn't and "never after look me in the face" means he would disown her and would never want to see her again for betraying his word. This pushes her to go to the Friar, one of the controlling elders, whereas before she went to her Nurse, the other advisor and mentor. This also shows how much power the Church had at the time. The Friar is the person that Romeo confides in and Juliet confides in her Nurse but they both let down the lovers at crucial points. The Friar does this when he fails to get the message of his and Juliet's plan to Romeo but it wasn't his entire fault and fate may have played its part again. At the start especially, Shakespeare emphasises the role of fate. The Prologue says they are "star-crossed lovers" and that they are destined to die. Several premonitions and one curse occur in the story. The first premonition is from Romeo in Act 1, Scene 4, just before they go to the Capulet ball: "I fear too early, for ...read more.

Conclusion

The ending is like most tragedies where many people die and a lesson is learnt by those who survive and the people around them. Examples of this would be in the rest of Shakespeare's tragedies and more recent tragedies like the sinking of the Titanic and 9/11. The movie 'Titanic' ends with many deaths and a lesson to avoid complacency and in the recent tragedy 9/11, it ended with hundreds of people dying and the lessons not to under estimate terrorists, and not to take for granted what you have. As I said earlier, the audience feel a connection with the characters in the play and this shows that the play is still relevant today. Love, impetuosity, sadness, grief and happiness are feelings we still have today and the play has these in them. This also shows how much the human mind hasn't changed much in 400 years. Scientists have always been intrigued by how the stars work and whether they affect your life your life or not. Whether it is sun signs or Chinese zodiac signs someone believes in them and I myself believe slightly in both. I was born the year of the Dragon and I think this affects who I am and what I act like and the sun signs, me being a Sagittarius, affects what my daily outcome will be and how I will feel and act on certain days. But contradicting that I believe that I can change to be a better person and change what my day will be like. In conclusion, our fate is initially controlled by the stars but we have the power to change who we are and what will become of us. Romeo and Juliet were no different but they believed that they were controlled by the stars too much, which made them fatalistic. In truth they controlled themselves but by believing in their premonitions they made them come true. James Spicer, 10W2. English coursework, Mr Sumner. 1 ...read more.

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