Examine the role of authority in Romeo and Juliet and discuss its relevance to an Elizabethan audience

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Title: Examine the role of authority in Romeo and Juliet and discuss its relevance to an Elizabethan audience

This play was written by William Shakespeare in the late 16th century. It was intended to be performed to a live audience in the Elizabethan period. It was not proposed for a modern day audience. It the period it was written views such as religion, life, authority and much more so their views are much different to ours.

        There are three main types of authority. The state was one of those key figures.

Prince Escalus of Verona was the head of state. This means he had the power to make new laws, arrest people, imprison them, execute and banish people. He was probably in charge of an army or a police force. At this point of time Italy was split into ‘city states’ Verona was one of these. So Prince Escalus was in charge of Verona. An Elizabethan audience would understand because Queen Elizabeth I had free rule of England and could do as she pleased imprisoning people, executing and much more. But in this the prince is a fair ruler and does not intend to use his power to be a ghastly ruler. This is proved when he banished Romeo instead of executing him, after giving them an ultimatum ‘If ever you disturb our streets again, your lives shall pay the forfeit of peace’.

        That basically explains if ever there is fighting between the Capulet’s and Montague’s they will be executed. The Capulet’s and Montague’s would not have reacted at the time but would feel hard done by that if there were fighting again they would be executed. The language that the prince uses is very noble but in this he refers that if they disturb our peace in Verona again. The word our shows him as he does what the people want. His language is also very calm but angry considering the situation and the consequences from what he has just said. Someone like the nurse uses simple language more like the language we use today, for example ‘An honour, were not so I thine only nurse, I would say thou hadst suck’d wisdom from thy teat’  

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The language used here by the nurse is very simple and has a lot of sarcasm in it. The sarcasm comes from the word ‘teat’ because this phrase would indicate that the wisdom in Juliet comes from her. The audience would find this amusing; the nurse is one of Shakespeare’s comedy characters. The sarcasm in this text in Shakespeare’s time noble people didn’t use sarcasm; this shows the nurses background of being from quite a poor background.

        Another main authority was the church. In Verona the church is represented by Friar Lawrence. He is a calm character and very reasonable ...

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