How does Shakespeare make Romeo and Juliet dramatically interesting for the audience? Refer to the first act in detail.

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Habib Saeed      11:26      Ms. Stott       English GCSE Coursework       17/10/06

How does Shakespeare make Romeo and Juliet dramatically interesting for the audience? Refer to the first act in detail.

Romeo and Juliet is a play which can be described and perceived in many ways but the plot and the core of the story has the ingredients of a tragedy. A tragedy in the sense that even though the play revolves around ‘love’, in the end, ‘hate’ prevails.             Shakespeare manages to create drama throughout the play with many other factors such as, anger, romance, excitement, comedy and tension. Of course, I am only analysing the scenes in Act 1, but even so, there is drama in abundance for the audience to be enthralled. The prologue sets the story up perfectly summarising what the play is about and even how long it is, whilst the scenes which follow, all have different focal points such as the drama of scene one, the comedy of scene three and the love and romance of scene five. All of these scenes are dramatically interesting for the audience, through use of language, emphasis on the ‘ancient grudge’ and many other aspects.

The prologue is at the beginning of the play and gives the audience the details of the plot, and reveals that there is going to be a tragic ending.  The prologue is a sonnet. A sonnet is used for various reasons. It may set the scene for a film as it can usually help people to understand the storyline better. It also rhymes which gives a poetic aspect. The prologue lets us know that not only will the play be a story of love but it will also feature an essence of hate.

At the beginning of the prologue, it sets the scene, it tells us 'In fair Verona where we lay our scene.' It then briefly describes the two families - the Capulet's and the Montague's. It lets us know that the families are enemies by saying 'Two households both alike in dignity …….. From ancient grudge break to new mutiny'. This is telling the audience that both of the families are similar in a way, in the sense that they are well respected with high standards, but yet, an old grudge between them causes bad feelings. An old disagreement between the families will soon turn to a new conflict.

The prologue then goes on to say 'Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean, from forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life.' By saying this, it is telling the audience that from two civil families, who are enemies to one another; two children were born. These two children were lovers that were destined to be together but were led to take their lives. So already, the audience knows that there is going to be a death in the play. The death of these lovers forces the families to end the feud. It informs the audience of the general outline of the play foreshadowing future events and tells of a ‘fearful passage’, which shows the dangerous journey Romeo and Juliet travel on throughout the play. Summarising the entire play is useful as many members of the audience may be poorly educated and this would enable them to understand the storyline better. There are also many oxymoron’s used such as ‘death-marked love’, ‘fatal loins’, and ‘star-crossed lovers’, which intertwine the contrasting themes. This intertwining helps to build up tension and express how the pivotal themes contrast. The oxymoron also helps to tell the audience that the storyline will not be predictable.

Conclusively, the prologue helps in getting the audience to understand the background story of the play and prepares them for the tragedy to come.

Act 1 Scene 1 begins with two servents of the Capulet household, Sampson and Gregory. The two men are discussing work. Shakespeare adds comedy to the conversation by using ‘puns’. By doing so, the topics of discussion quickly change and soon they are talking about the feuding between the Capulet and the Montague households. Even though the two men are talking about violence they are still joking and playing with words. This shows that they do not take the fighting seriously as it has become a part of their everyday lives. Of course, when Tybalt, a figure of violence and hatred appears, the other characters become fearful and fail to find the situation humorous.

In the conversation between the two men, Shakespeare makes referances to rape and murder. Again, this shows it is a common feature of everyday life.

“Tis all one, I will show myself a tyrant: when I have fought with the men I will be civil with the maids; I will cut off their heads’

‘The heads of the maids?’

‘Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads, take it in what sense thou wilt.’ Here Sampson is telling Gregory that the fighting is not just between their masters - it involves the whole of the Capulet household, including them. He says that he will kill all the Montague men and cut off the heads of their women. He then plays with the words and implies that he will sexually abuse them. There is an oxymoron (love versus hate) at the beginning of the first scene when Benvolio and Tybalt are together and a fight is about to break out. Benvolio who symbolises peace and love, is trying to convince Tybalt, who symbolises hate and anger, that the fighting is wrong and it should be left to be dealt with by the two Lords, Old Capulet and Old Montague.

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“I do but keep the peace. Put up thy sword or manage it to part these men with me.” Benvolio is asking Tybalt to help him stop their men from fighting - to which Tybalt replies, “What, drawn and talk of peace? I hate the word, as I hate Hell, all Montagues and thee.” Tybalt is comparing Benvolio and his family to Hell – this, an implication that they are all equally as bad. Lords Montague and Capulet then enter the scene and they are just as bad as each other. As soon as Old Capulet sees the fighting he ...

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