How does Shakespeare use language and other dramatic devices to create sympathy for Juliet in Act Three Scene Five?

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Harriet Blair                11R

How does Shakespeare use language and other dramatic devices to create sympathy for Juliet in Act Three Scene Five?

Act 3 Scene 5 is an important turning point in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ as it is at that moment that we see the reason why Juliet is pushed to such extremes to convince her family that she has died which leads to the tragic ending. To make us feel sympathy with Juliet at this point, Shakespeare uses language and different dramatic devices such as soliloquy, equivocation and unintentional forecasting of the future for the lovers which the audience will pick up on but the characters do not.

Shakespeare makes us feel sympathy for Juliet right from the beginning of the scene by displaying the perfect love between her and Romeo before breaking it apart. The contrast which we see between the elevated and flowing style of the lovers’ discussion and the more discordant, broken lines from the Nurse and Lady Capulet conveys to us the reality of how beautiful their love was compared to life as it would be apart from each other. This is shown if you compare a line from Romeo when he talks about the “envious streaks [which] lace the severing clouds in yonder east” to when Lady Capulet enters and uses the straightforward phrase “Why how now Juliet?” There is a clear difference in tone as Romeo’s language is very beautiful and flowing using words such as ‘lace’ which suggests delicacy and referring to the sky which could be a reference to one of the themes of the play which sets the couple’s love up in the sky like stars and is literally ‘too good for this world’. This is further backed up by his use of the words ‘night’s candles’ to represent the stars which is a beautiful image and allows the audience to see their love in a glowing, star-like manner which puts them even further up on a pedestal. Lady Capulet’s words, however, are to the point and monosyllabic which pulls Juliet back to the earth where she is not fated to belong and therefore make us feel sympathy for her as she seems too good for that. We can also see the difference in harmony here as when Romeo and Juliet are together their lines have a steady rhythm and each of them speaks for the whole line of ten counts before the next takes a turn, whereas as soon as the Nurse and Lady Capulet arrive there are lines which fall short of the correct number of beats for iambic pentameter. An example of this is when the Nurse first enters and says “Madam” and Juliet replies with “Nurse” on the next line. This marks a certain form of tension which may be signified with a pause and awkward silence when the play is performed which would give the audience a feel for how much more comfortable Juliet is when talking with Romeo than she is with the Nurse. This again increases our sympathy with her as we know that he is about to leave and she will lose that more comfortable aspect of her life.

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Once her parents have then arrived, equivocation is used strongly on Juliet’s part throughout the entire scene in which she tells her them something which they see to mean one idea but in actual fact she and the audience know that it means something else. This is shown when Juliet claims that Paris “shall not make me there [St. Peter’s Church] a joyful bride”. Her mother assumes that Juliet says this because she is still unhappy after Tybalt’s death and would therefore find it difficult to be ‘joyful’ but the audience know that she says this because she is ...

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