English coursework: Romeo and Juliet theatre
For this piece of coursework I will explore and explain five tense and dramatic scenes from the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Using these scenes I will explain how a production at the Globe Theatre could have been presented to the audience of the time, to maximise the drama and the characterisations.
In addition, I will consider how audience reaction and participation have changed over the centuries with varying approaches to the presentation of the story.
Before proceeding with this essay I will now briefly explain some of the factors which coincide with the requirements of this essay question. For example, I will give a brief summarization of the story of Romeo and Juliet, an outline of some details about the Globe theatre, and a brief review of the rest of the essay question, for example, some of the factors which would influence how a production at the Globe Theatre could have been presented to the audience of the time, to maximise the drama and the characterisations.
The famous story of Romeo and Juliet, based on the narrative poem, The Tragicall History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke is a story of two lovers, as the prologue famously refers to as “A pair of star-cross’d lovers”, who were secretly married and suddenly separated throughout their “fearful passage of their death-mark’d love”.
The Globe Theatre was, like many others such as the Rose, the Swan and the Fortune a permanent playhouse built in London in the Elizabethan times. In 1596 James Burbage, a carpenter by trade, who owned the Theatre and the Curtain Theatre ran into difficulties when he tried to renew the ground lease of the Theatre. Negotiations yielded no viable solution, and James died, leaving his son Cuthbert to resolve the problem. The latter acted with daring and imagination. With the lease due to expire at the end of that year, on 28 December 1598 he had the building dismantled by a carpenter called Peter Street and twelve workmen. It was removed to a piece of land on the other side of the Thames I Southwark, not far from the Rose.
In less than Eight months they built the Globe, the splendid “wooden O” mentioned by the chorus at the beginning of Henry V. Shakespeare, one of the five players in the Chamberlain’s company became a “householder” in the Globe, in other words owner of a share in the property. The Fortune, the Globe and the Theatre were able to accommodate audiences of between two and three thousand.
Elizabethan audiences were in some ways more sophisticated than the audiences of the twentieth century. For example, when we go to see a new play or (more likely) a new film, we expect to find the novelty in the action. Some of the situations may be familiar; we may be able to anticipate the ending; and the characters (who should not be too different from the people we meet every day) may speak lines that we have heard before in other plays and films. But we do demand a new story.
Shakespeare’s audiences had different expectations. They were happy to be given stories that they recognized, so long as the dramatist’s treatment was new and individual. It is possible to trace a source, or sources, for every one of Shakespeare’s plays. Some of Shakespeare’s plays present very well known stories-Antony and Cleopatra, for instance, or the range of plays dealing with the span of English history from the time of Richard II to the reign of Henry VI. Shakespeare’s researches were thorough: usually there is more than one source for a play. However, this is not the case in Romeo and Juliet as in this play Shakespeare relies almost entirely on a narrative poem, The Tragicall History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke .
The blend of interests and traditions In which Elizabethan drama took on board, such as elements from the Roman theatre as well as from Renaissance Italian and the popular Commendia dell’ arte, with its stock characters and half improvised plots, which were well known to English dramatists, as were the stately and declamatory tragedies of Seneca, combined to create a blend of interests and traditions which gave the Elizabethan drama one advantage that no modern theatre has. It made drama for the entire nation. The uninstructed groundlings flocked to it as eagerly as the lettered patrons in the covered seats. The fashionable gallant was there but so was the eager young scholar already dreaming of fame and genius.
Therefore, from the beginning the Shakespearean drama has one great freedom; it does not have to channel itself to one stratum of public taste. I can be lowbrow or highbrow according to the needs of its subject matter. But this is not its only advantage. It has, in addition, the freedom conferred by the unfettered imagination. It is not a consumer-art but an art of participation.
In Shakespeare’s day the theatre was an art full of participation. Not only did it make use of poetry, which draws the hearer into a close union with the speaker. It also employed the Ruth Draper technique of making the audience supply the visual background by imagination alone. The result was a freedom never again approached until the beginning of radio drama in the 1920s. Without waiting for tardy (late) changes of unconvincing scenery, the action can whisk from one country to another, from the deck of a ship to the streets of a city or from Mantua to Verona for example.
However, audience participation was not the only way in which the spectator was drawn closer in unison with the speaker and conveyed a clearer picture of the drama being performed, there were many other factors that influenced this. For example, the characterizations and the language used by the characters would play as much of an important role in doing this. Also, in some cases the setting, scenery and atmosphere and props were included to add colour and excitement, for instance swirling swords in a battle scene would do this. Furthermore, In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Considering the time difference between now and then, to some extent just as in the theatre today sound effects and music, created by an orchestra or machinery would have been used at certain points to futher emphasize certain qualities of the speaker and of the drama being performed.
I will now explain, how these features and others could have been used when presenting the play Romeo and Juliet to an audience of the time at the Globe Theatre to answer the essay question.
- Scene One:
For my first example of a tense and dramatic scene in the play, I have chosen, and will refer to the prologue. This is the first of the scenes in the play and is therefore important in terms of the play itself, as it sets the scene for what proceeds in the rest of the performance. The scene is presented to the audience by the chorus – a single figure who is not a character and has no personality, his function is simply to explain the situation clearly to the audience.
The scene, which is relatively short, as its purpose is simply to explain the situation, uses many dramatic words and phrases in order to silence a restless audience and settle the spectators into an appropriate mood for the first scene to commence. In the scene many dramatic words and phrases are used such as: “Two households, both alike in dignity (noble, honorable), “mutiny” (violence), “star-cross’d lovers” (ill-fated lovers) and “but their children’s end, nought could remove” (But no-one could stop the deaths of their children). These dramatic words and phrases would not only grab the audiences attention and settle them down ready for the main start of the play to proceed but also enhance the speech made by the chorus and the characterizations of the chorus which could further be re-enforced by strong, passionate body language and expressive facial expressions, which would enrich the characterisations of the chorus and show emotion for the spectators to receive and interpret for themselves as part of audience participation in which, using the information given by the Chorus the spectators would, using their imagination supply the visual background and in turn, clarify for themselves what had been said. I will go into futher detail about audience participation as this coursework progresses.
In addition, music and scenery were introduced in Elizabethan and Jacobean times and, as in other Shakespearean plays such as Twelfth Night which was filled with songs and particularly Anthony and Cleopatra in which unusual sounds were created, such as “the noise of a sea-fight”, dramatic sound effects may have been used at a certain point in the scene, either to add texture or to enhance certain qualities being performed.
In this case dramatic sound effects may have been used in order to signal the end of a prologue and the commencement of the first scene. Moreover, this may have been more of a necessity than a luxury as the theatre had no curtains or blackout to indicate the end of a scene or act. Also, Shakespeare wouldn’t necessarily have indicated the ends of scenes either. Therefore, these sound effects would not only create audience anticipation and add excitement, as the spectators await the opening of the play, but also more importantly inform the audience that the start of the play was commencing, additionally this way the spectators would not get lost between the scenes.
Intervals between acts were introduced in the newer indoor theatres, whereas, as just mentioned the open-air theatres, such as the Globe tended to play without a break. The indoor theatres had an advantage in that they were covered over, so performances could be staged in bad weather and they were also lighted by candles so performances could be staged in the evening.
However, the older, amphitheatre-style theatres such as the Globe would probably have created a more superior atmosphere than the newer indoor theatres as the audience at theatres such as the Globe were probably far more varied, including the richest and the poorest, while the audiences at the Blackfriars theatre for instance, generally consisted more of those of rather higher social status; this was inevitable because the indoor theatres were more expensive. Therefore, the crowd at theatres such as the Globe, which would include those of a lower social status and wealth were probably likely to have been more inclined to show their true emotions to make their presence felt than of the crowd at the indoor theatres, dominated mainly by the possibly more reserved upper-class.
Finally, this scene, the prologue provides me with my first insight into audience participation in the Elizabethan theatre as due to it being such a short scene and one in which is to simply explain the situation, the audience would have only the choruses speech, including the dramatic words and phrases to go on. Therefore, for this scene as the chorus is explaining the situation in which the story is based upon it is important that the spectators would have to envision the situation in their mind in order to recreate the scene for themselves in order to gain a better and clearer understanding due to there being only the speech made by the Chorus to go upon.
Consequently, audience participation would be important here because the words of the Chorus alone would provide the audience only with an insight into the situation and it may also have been difficult for the audience to hear what was being said by the actors if a gallant was sitting on-stage talking as the audiences commonly talked throughout the performances, despite pleas from playwrights for silence. Therefore, as a result of their participation, the audience would understand the situation better and this in turn would also help convey the information read by the Chorus clearly into their minds.
I know from the pricing system that a social spectrum of people visited the theatre in Shakespeare’s time. In the open air theatres such as the Globe the prices varied from one penny to stand round the stage, to sixpence for a box. In the private theatres the standard entrance fee was sixpence and a stool on the stage itself cost another sixpence. Therefore, from this it is clear that the audience attending theatres such as the Globe would probably be very diverse in the sense of wealth and social status.
Audiences would include such people as landed gentry, doctors, layers, gentlemen, servants and working people of all kinds. In other words, there was a much more varied audience than for most of our theatres today.
The audience at the Globe was probably far more varied, including the richest and the poorest, while the audiences at the Blackfriars theatre generally consisted more of those of rather higher social status; this was inevitable because the indoor theatres were more expensive.
This is a preview of the whole essay
Moreover, lots of people, especially Puritans, complained about the immoral people in playhouses, but the evidence suggests that in fact little crime was committed there.
However, gallants were conspicuous at Blackfriars, where on one occasion there was a row because a gallant sat on the stage and obscured the view of a Captain escorting an Earl’s wife.
I have chosen the prologue as one of my scenes because it is one of my favourite as it is brief, dramatic and informative as the scene informs me of the situation in which the story is based upon and uses many powerful words and phrases in the process which enhance the choruses speech making it more dramatic, in the theatre this would grab the attention of the audience.
Also, I have chosen the proceeding because it is a scene of significance and importance as it opens the whole play and informs the audience of the situation with the two feuding families in Verona. It also settles the spectators into a mood in which is appropriate for the play to commence.
In addition, I have chosen this scene because it would be impressive, majestic and quite a spectacle when performed at the Globe Theatre as the dramatic speech made by the single figure-the Chorus, alone on stage would be a quite a climatic event and opens what is one of Shakespeare’s most popular and well loved plays. I think the audience reaction would be of interest and expectation because I think the dramatic words of the Chorus would silence what would probably be a restless crowd into an appropriate mood ready for the play to commence, especially those “groundlings” who frequented the pit-which meant standing throughout “the two hours” traffic” of a performance. Moreover, as the prologue to Romeo and Juliet calls it the spectators were eager for sensation and overwhelming emotion It was impossible to mumble words to jostling and undisciplined spectators: their attention had to be captured, this dramatic solo speech made by the Chorus may have in effect done this.
- Scene Two:
For my second example of a tense and dramatic scene in the play I have chosen and will refer to Act2 scene6. This scene would not be part of the play because the secrecy of it not being included would add a sense of danger to the performance. However, in the book Romeo and Juliet it is the scene where the marriage between Romeo and Juliet takes place and is undertaken by Friar Lawrence. The message conveyed by this scene to the audience is one of undying love- presented to the audience by the marriage between Romeo and Juliet, which took place without their parents consent, whose families, the Capulets and the Montagues strongly oppose each other and there is great rivalry between the two.
Unlike most modern dramas, Elizabethan plays did not depend on scenery to indicate the setting (place) of the action. Generally, the setting was unknown to the audience until the characters identified it with a few lines of dialogue. Also, this was not helped by the fact there was no curtain on the main stage so one scene could follow another in quick succession.
In addition, Elizabethan audiences behaved slightly differently compared to modern audiences today and what they are required to do.
For instance, modern audiences are required to: keep silent during the performance, clap at the interval and conclusion, not eat or drink during performances and keep their attention on what is happening on-stage. Of course, all members of all audiences don’t necessarily fulfill these conditions, but most people do, most of the time.
However, Elizabethan audiences behaved slightly differently. For example, the audiences commonly talked throughout the performances, despite pleas from playwrights for silence. Moreover, if a gallant was sitting on-stage talking it would be very difficult for the audience to hear what was being said by the actors. Furthermore, the audience might well applaud, but they booed and hissed as well if they felt like it and hurled things at the actors when they disapproved of them. Food and drink were also served during the performance as yet another distraction. One of the things the actors complained about most was the cracking of nuts, which caused quite a lot of noise and disturbance. Finally, because conversations were going on and food and drink were being consumed, the audience were obviously not always attending to what was happening on-stage. The power of an actor would be shown by his ability to command the attention of the audience. It has been estimated that about 20 to 25 percent of the population attended the playhouses, which again is a far higher percentage than today.
Therefore, it is possible that there are many factors which could be added to the drama and combined together to maximise the drama of the scene and the characterisations of the characters being played.
Firstly, throughout this scene the atmosphere would have to be contained in order to convey the scene across to the audience, who were likely to be engaged in conversation with each other as clearly and inspiringly as possible, without boring the expectant audience by being too informative, plain, drab and serious. For example, as it is such a short scene the speeches made by the three characters: Romeo, Juliet and Friar Lawrence could be emphasized in a way which would offer the spectators more, grab their attention and keep it throughout the scene while retaining an essence of suspense which would retain audience anticipation and add excitement to the drama being performed before them.
One way this could be achieved is by the use of costumes and sound effects. The absence or lack of scenery did not result in dull or drab productions as acting companies spent much money on colourful costumes, largely to produce visual splendor. Actors appeared in the most flamboyant and up-to-date fashions of their day, adding certain exotic or historical touches according to the character they were playing and the play being performed. The lavish clothes in which the actors were dressed in were often second-hand clothes bestowed by rich patrons. Therefore, this could have been applied, in context of the scene to create visual splendor and also to liven up the atmosphere and the impression the spectators receive, to create more interest from the spectators.
Additionally, sound effects had an important part in Elizabethan drama. Therefore, in this case soothing, melodic music could have been played by the accompanying orchestra in the background in unison with the acting to add romance to the scene and also to maximise the characterizations being performed before the audience.
This could further be enhanced by certain props being used, although very few props wee used during performances. For example, a canopy or a book may have been used by the actor portraying Friar Lawrence and also some musicians could have appeared on stools on stage, playing melodic music to further set the romantic scene and impression for the audience. Although the stage lacked scenery various props were used during performances such as, thrones, swords, banners, rocks, trees, tables and beds. In the play of the same name Richard III calls for two tents, one at each end of the stage.
Finally, in terms of the language used by the actors playing Romeo and Juliet the language could be over-emphasized at times for instance, in order to express their love for each other for the spectators to receive. Additionally, the repetition of certain words and phrases would add to this and consequently maximise characterisations of the two. For example, line three of this scene, act2 scene6 opens with Romeo expressing his happiness proclaiming: “Amen, amen”!
The additional exclamation of some sections of dialogue, such as this and other sections would furthermore enhance the language of the two characters as the actors could command the attention of the audience by grabbing their attention by the exclamation of some of their speech, at times of high emotion and happiness. In doing this, with the audiences attention the actors could then proceed with the rest of the scene, varying their styles of speech as they would have the full attention of most of the on-looking spectators. In doing this the actors would be commanding the attention of the audience and by virtue of this could create and retain audience anticipation by combining the previous devices and moreover varying their style of speech. For example, with the other features in mind the actors could give their speech in a slow or fast delivery for instance, giving a fast delivery when expressing feelings of happiness and emotion. The audience would enjoy this style of language as they loved overwhelming emotion and impassioned grandiloquence, metaphor and extremes. Moreover, It was impossible to mumble words to jostling and undisciplined spectators: their attention had to be captured. Therefore, this style of language would have particularly suited this passionate scene.
Consequently, all of these qualities mentioned combined together would add character and depth to the scene and therefore more interest for the audience.
Audience participation may not necessarily have come into this scene because for the spectators who were paying attention, the few lines of dialogue spoken by Friar Lawrence at the start of the scene should have identified what was going on:
So smile heaven, upon this holy act,
That after-hours with sorrow child us not!
(may heaven look favourably upon this act, so that the future (“after-hours”) does not reproach (“chide”) us by bringing sorrow). Additionally, if the factors previously mentioned, such as the props, music and style of language were included in this scene, the spectators would have had quite a clear understanding of what was going on as these additions would have set the scene for what the performance was.
I have chosen this scene where the marriage takes place between Romeo and Juliet because it is one of the centerpieces of the whole play and is a scene of high importance and significance in terms of the play itself as it sets the scene for what will proceed and contributes to what will be a chain reaction of events. Therefore, all qualities and factors of the scene will be of high quality when performed at the Globe theatre, most importantly the acting in order to convey the scene across to the audience as convincingly and impressively as possible. This and the fact that it is one of my favourite scenes as it is Climactic and emotional, combine to give a satisfying and fulfilling experience when reading or watching at the Globe theatre or any theatre today. Even though the scene was not included in the actual performance of the play it would have been interesting to know how it would have been undertaken if it was performed at the Globe Theatre.
- Scene Three:
For my third example of a tense and dramatic scene in the play, presented at the Globe Theatre I have chosen and will refer to act3 scene1. This scene opens with Tybalt, a member of the Capulet family in search of Romeo, a Montague, determined to fight him. Outraged when Romeo receives Tybalt’s abuse, Mercutio, a fellow Montague draws his own sword and attacks the Capulet. However, Romeo tries to stop the fighting but his interference seems to confuse Mercutio, and he fails to evade Tybalt’s sword. Here the audience is shown the accuracy of Tybalt’s fencing as Mercutio lies on the floor, though even at the point of death Mercutio is witty. His wit, as much as his curse on the houses of Montague and Capulet alike, awakens Romeo’s own sense of honor. Then comes the main point in which the scene evolves around as for a moment Romeo forgets his new bride and takes his sword to attack her cousin in an act of vengeance for the death of Mercutio. Consequently, as a result of his actions Prince Escalus promises strict justice: his first ruling is to banish Romeo from Verona:
Let Romeo hence in haste,
Else, when he is found, that hour is his last
Firstly of all, audience reaction and participation would be an essential element in the scene when performed at the Globe Theatre as the scene consists mainly of swordfights and, as there would be continuous movement around the stage, there would be very little or no scenery on stage as scenery would make the stage congested. Therefore, by virtue of this the Ruth Draper technique of making the audience supply the visual background by imagination alone would have to be employed by the spectators due to this lack of scenery.
Also, is one of the most dramatic, climactic, enthralling and exciting scenes in the whole play, the atmosphere in the Globe Theatre, provided by the audience would be an essential element as it would determine how the drama is conveyed across to the spectators from the actors. For example, if their was a buoyant and exhilarating atmosphere during the swordfights for instance, the spectators would continue to/or get more involved with the drama as they would be more interested and they would find the drama more exciting.
Therefore, to encourage this audience participation the drama performed by the actors would have to be of a high standard both verbally and physically in order to gain interest from the audience who, in the times of the Elizabethan Theatre may probably have been busy having a conversation with fellow spectators, despite pleas from playwrights for silence.
For example at the beginning of Henry V, the chorus says the theatre relies more on the “imaginary forces” of the audience than on the realistic effects. This would apply to this scene, as the audience were in direct contact with the actors and would consequently have been dragged into the scene and would have got involved in their mind, participating with the acting, and therefore anticipating what would happen next. However, in this case the audience participation may also have been of the verbal kind as the spectators would cheer on or boo the fighting scenes. Here the trained actors would show their skilled swordsmanship as they fight each other, jumping around on the stage, which was projected into the pit. This arrangement allowed the audiences to watch from the front and sides. Consequently, the performers, nearly surrounded by spectators, thus had close contact with most of their audience.
Secondly, no or little scenery would be used in this scene as it requires lots of movement and action from the performers as they jump and run around during fighting scenes. Therefore, the props which would be used in the scene would add to the acting and make it more realistic. For example, flashing swords and swirling banners would add colour and excitement, especially for the spectators in close contact with the stage, as mentioned before particularly those on stage as there were even stools on stage for the accommodation of the better sort of spectator.
As a result the audience reaction, from the spectators paying attention! would be rapturous as they applaud the exciting drama being performed before them, which would consist of an explosion of colour and energy, supplied by the props and actors. This audience participation of verbally getting involved with the scene would be important as it would add to create an electric atmosphere and by virtue of this enhance the fight scenes being performed.
The older theatres, such as the Globe tended to show more physical action, such as fencing, slapstick and swordfights, in contrast the indoor theatres concentrated more on wit and subtlety of wording. However, Shakespeare’s productions used a combination of the two. For example, the Globe was an outdoor theatre as it had no roof, however, as illustrated by Romeo and Juliet not only does Shakespeare include physical action, such as these swordfights in act3 scene1 but he also uses wit and subtle, intelligent wording such as the irony in this story of Romeo and Juliet. His intelligent and ingenious approach to his stories may be one reason to why Shakespeare’s plays are so popular as he supplied a wide range of drama in which catered for peoples different tastes and expectations and provided them with productions which they would enjoy.
However, the audience might well applaud but if the audience reaction was bad as they did not like what they saw and consequently refused to participate things might have gotten ugly as the spectators would boo and hiss at the actors and would hurl things at them when they disapproved of the actors and even throw fruit, sometimes rotten! This was not helped by the fact that spectators not only ate during performances, but also drank too and this gave free rein to their emotions, roaring with laughter or dissolving into tears.
In that case, additional elements could have been added to the scene to futher heighten its appeal to the audience and to intensify the atmosphere at the time.
For example, noisy effects such as drumming and fireworks were scaled down in the indoor theatres. However, the Globe was an open-air theatre and an orchestra accompanied the unfolding of a play with a varied range of sound effects and instruments: drum rolls and trumpet blasts for example, served to heighten the excitement of battle scenes. Moreover, unusual sounds were also created, such as “the noise of a sea-fight” called for in Antony and Cleopatra in which mysterious sounding chords were included to set the mood before the fatal battle.
By comparison with this, the same could be applied to this scene. For example, the supplemental thumping of drums and blasts of trumpets would intensify the atmosphere and the impression the spectators receive, just like at the Opera for instance when an operatic singer is engaged in recitative when he or she steps forward to sing some great aria to the audience. This would also blend together with the acting as the combination of swishing swords, loud, boisterous accompanying music, verbal participation from the audience and continuous motion around the stage with swirling and swishing swords would combine together to result in a explosive, energetic and vibrant atmosphere and proceeding. In turn, this would maximise and enhance the characterisations to a much greater extent and create more audience participation as the spectators watching on would, in return more easily supply the additional visual background and otherwise with their imagination, as they would have more matter to go upon and would in return enjoy and understand what the performance is about and/or cheer along in unison with the accompanying music and acting.
Noisy effects such as drumming, fireworks and trumpet blasts were scaled down in the indoor theatres however, song and music were much more features of the newer theatres, as they were of plays staged in private halls.
All the spectators were seated, nevertheless members of the audience would probably rise from their seats in times of high excitement on the stage, such as swordfights or more conceivably in times of disgust if they disapproved of the actors and would rise from their seats to hurl things at the actors or boo and hiss. Only seven hundred spectators could be accommodated in the Blackfriars theatre compared to what was between two and three thousand spectators being able to be accommodated in the Globe. This large audience could have created a very vibrant and exciting atmosphere when required for at a specific point in the play, such as these swordfights in this scene, act3 scene1.
Finally, the body language, facial expressions and speed and pace of speech would be essential in this scene. For example, as it is a fighting scene the body language and facial expressions of the characters would emphasize the characters feelings towards each other for the audience to receive and react too and also more importantly, in times of no dialogue inform the audience who is fighting who and even create audience anticipation as they judge the characters body language and facial expressions and in turn anticipate what they will do next.
Moreover, the speed and pace in which the speech is delivered to the audience would be important as it would coincide with the other factors previously mentioned such as the sound effects and the audience participation. For example, as the characters begin to swordfight the tone and pace of the music and the accompaniment of the audience could increase. Therefore, as a result the speed and pace in which the speech is delivered by the characters would have to increase simultaneously to retain and furthermore add to the feeling emphasized by the drama, and also to retain the spectators interest, anticipation and participation.
Therefore, it is possible that if the actors worked together with the spectators, orchestra and sound effects, they could retain the audiences interest and consequently participation and enhance their reaction. They could have done this by speeding up their actions, speed, pace and exclamation of the speech as they begin swordfighting, at this point the speed and pace of the music will be faster and this will encourage the audience to imitate the characters and orchestra by cheering louder and getting more active. The same could be done vice-versa. For example, if the actors slow down their actions, speed, pace and exclamation of speech and the orchestra does the equivalent as the characters pause or stop swordfighting, the audience would respond by imitating the two by quieting down. This would method of audience participation would be great as it would heighten the drama and create a vibrant, exhilarating, intoxicating and thrilling atmosphere inside the Globe Theatre as the spectators would be aware of what was going on and could therefore participate with the drama and would in turn enjoy the scene more.
I have chosen this scene which evolves around Mercutio and Tybalt being killed in swordfights and Romeo being banished from Verona because it is my second favourite scene as it is very dramatic, action packed and exciting. The swordfights in the streets of Verona make the scene exciting as they provide lots of action and the scene is dramatic as Romeo is banished from Verona and is consequently separated from his love, Juliet. This sets up the story for a dramatic finale. In addition, I have chosen the scene because like a couple of other scenes in the play it is a scene of significance as it influences what proceeds in the rest of the performance and is also one of the most dramatic scenes in the play.
Finally, I have chosen the scene because it is the most action packed and exciting scene in the whole play and therefore, would be very impressive, inspiring and vibrant when performed at the Globe Theatre.
- Fourth Scene
For my fourth example of a tense and dramatic scene in the play Romeo and Juliet, presented at the Globe Theatre I have chosen and will refer to Act5 scene1.
Bad news travels fast, and on that same day when Juliet is discovered “dead” at dawn (Wednesday) Friar Lawrence’s message, in which would inform Romeo that Juliet has taken a sleeping potion, fails to reach Romeo in time before the message stating that Juliet has died, and consequently Romeo is instead informed of the catastrophe that has befallen his bride and her family. He is safe in Mantua, but his life has no meaning for him now. He describes an apothecary’s shop, whose owner is so poor that he can be bribed to sell poison. The sale is completed, and Romeo leaves for Verona.
Generally, as mentioned before Elizabethan plays did not depend on scenery to indicate the setting (place) of the action. The setting was usually unknown to the audience until the characters identified it with a few lines of dialogue.
Therefore, in this scene, as the chorus pronounces at the beginning of Henry V, the theatre would rely more on the “imaginary forces” of the audience than on realistic effects. The text sufficed to bring the play to life. This means that due to the lack of scenery, the audience would have to visualize some of the play themselves. Thus, in king Lear (Act IV.vi.), for example, Edgar convinces his blind father Gloucester that he is on the edge of a cliff, from which the latter intends to jump, by describing what is supposedly visible below - crows no bigger than insects, men the size of mice: “How fearful/ And dizzy `tis to cast one’s eyes so low!/ The crows and choughs that wing the midway air/ Show scarce so gross as beetles…./ The fishermen that walk upon the beach / Appear like mice….’ In the empty space, the symbolic void of the stage, the only note of warmth was provided by the magnificence of the costumes.
Therefore, as indicated by the previous text, unlike modern theaters, the Elizabethan theatre relied more on the “imaginary forces” of the audience than on realistic effects due to the lack of scenery on the stage.
In this scene then, audience participation would be essential so that the spectators could determine what was happening on stage as the action flowed freely from place to place (Mantua to Verona) as there was no scenery on stage. Therefore, in this scene the spectators would again have had to employ the Ruth Draper technique of supplying the visual background and otherwise by imagination alone. Audience participation would be essential because due to the lack of scenery the spectators would not be able to determine what was going on by just looking on stage. However, additions could be made to the drama in order to encourage and assist audience participation in which I will, after the next paragraph go into.
Nevertheless, the lack of scenery would benefit this scene as it would allow the action to flow freely from place to place, as in modern films. The action of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, for example, shifts smoothly and easily back and forth between ancient Egypt and Rome. Therefore, in the case of this scene the lack of scenery would allow the action to move smoothly back and forth between Verona and Mantua. Moreover, this method would have been the only option in the Globe Theatre as there was only one small stage and consequently lots of scenery would make the stage congested and also make it difficult for the audience to determine what was happening. Therefore, for the scene to be acted out freely the stage would require as little scenery as possible.
On top of the roof in the Globe theatre, above the tarrass (the upper gallery-which was an acting area), there was a hut (musicians gallery) that contained machinery to produce sound effects and various special effects, such as the lowering of an actor playing a god.
In the case of this scene various different sound effects could be used at definitive points in the scene to emphasize the qualities of the drama at the time. For example, sorrowful music could be played as Romeo is informed of the tragedy that has befallen his bride and her family as his emotions are transformed from expectancy, as he awaits news from the messenger, to sorrow as he becomes aware of the tragedy concerning his bride. Additionally, dramatic music could be played as Romeo speeds away on horseback in the direction of Verona, to Juliet’s grave. All of this would aid audience participation.
Finally, in terms of characterizations and language (concerning Romeo) various points could be added to enhance these details in this scene.
For example, as he is informed of the tragedy his facial expressions could change from expectancy, as he awaits news about his bride and father, to despair as he is informed of the tragic news regarding Juliet.
In addition, his speed and pace of speech and movement could change through the course of the scene. For example, his speech and movement could transform from happiness and eagerness as he greets the messenger, enthusiastically awaiting news from Verona, to impetuousness and foolhardiness as he is informed of the bad news and recklessly speeds away on horseback, frantic to see Juliet.
All of these details combined together in unison with the drama would enable the audience to participate more as they would have a clearer picture and understanding of what was happening before them and would also have a better understanding of the emotions felt by the characters. Therefore the spectators would be able to visualize the drama more clearer in their mind and, having a better understanding of the scene and feeling like they were a part of it as they would be sucked in through their participation, they would be able to enjoy it more.
I have chosen this scene where Romeo is informed of the tragedy regarding his love Juliet and her family because it is definitely one of the most dramatic scenes in the whole play as it is emotional and moving as Romeo is abruptly informed of the terrible news and climatically speeds away on horseback towards Verona, regardless of the reality that he is forbidden from the city and faces death if he is caught. This shows the audience his love for Juliet.
Additionally, it is a scene of high significance as it sets up what will be the climax of the whole play as Romeo returns to Verona to discover, what he thinks is the death of Juliet.
Finally, it would have been very interesting to witness the scene being performed at the Globe Theatre as not many props or scenery were used in the play and therefore I would be interested in seeing how they would carry out certain sections of the scene, such as when Romeo emotionally speeds away on horseback in the direction of Verona in search of Juliet. It would interest me in seeing how they would carry out this section to see the features in which the actors emphasized, such as their facial expressions and body language and how they would retain the excitement of the scene throughout without losing the audience and how they would end the scene, maybe by just walking off stage as they could not use a horse as not many props were used, and certainly not to that scale!
- Fifth Scene:
For my fifth and final example of a tense and dramatic scene in the play I have chosen and will refer to Act5,Scene1.
In this scene, the conclusion of the tragedy, Romeo visits Juliet’s tomb where he expects to find his wife’s body. Romeo is no longer the dreamy youth that the audience met at the beginning of the play. He describes himself as a “desperate man” and, when Paris, who was laying flowers and placing scented water on the grave of Juliet, ignores his gentle warning, he fights with a serious determination which is totally different from the rough assaults of the servants (Act1,Scene1) and from the elegant sword-play of the young nobleman (Act3,Scene1). Romeo intends to kill Paris without ceremony and without delay and succeeds in doing so, however, he feels pity for the “good gentle youth”. He is preparing to lay Paris, tenderly, in the tomb when he looks on Juliet’s face. Although he is prepared for death, he in fact sees life: “beauty’s ensign yet is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks”. Here the audience would know that he is not deceived, and the tension would be great as Juliet might wake in time and all might yet be well.
Here the characterizations of Romeo, such as the body language, speech and especially his facial expressions would have to be strong, powerful and emotional in order to convey the emotions felt by Romeo and the tension of the scene across to the audience in the foremost way possible and also to create a high-strung atmosphere which would in return, retain the audiences interest and anticipation, as they eagerly await the tense drama unfolding before their very eyes.
The hope of Juliet waking in time would be vain, of course. Romeo drinks his poison, whose action is swift: he dies kissing Juliet, a second before Friar Laurence, stumbling in the graveyard, enters the tomb to comfort Juliet in her waking moments. As soon as she understands the situation, she acts-first kissing the poison on Romeo’s lips, then making sure of her death with Romeo’s dagger, which she plunges into her own breast: “O happy dagger! This is thy sheath!”
Once again the citizens of Verona are drawn to the scene and Friar Laurence provides the narrative this time, freely confessing his own part in the events and offering himself for punishment. Capulet and Montague join hands but they have paid a high price for their new friendship. There was not much to be said:
A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun for sorrow will not show his head.
As mentioned previously, in this scene the characterisations of the particular characters in prominent roles such as Romeo, Juliet, Friar Laurence and indeed, the rest of the actors involved in the scene would have to be strong and full of emotion in order to convey the emotions felt by the characters and the sadness and woe of the climatic conclusion to the story which is the final scene, across to the audience.
Indeed, in many ways the means in which this scene proceeded and was undertaken, when performed at the Globe Theatre would probably have taken a more basic and “acoustic” approach, when concerned in actually delivering the scene to the audience. However, this would not bring a dull or drab ending to what would conclude the whole play.
For example, all actors required a combination of talent and dedication to their craft, for the theatres were commercial enterprises dependent on the success of the plays they performed. Therefore, the skills and qualities of the actors were paramount when performing on stage. Additionally, those who frequented the theatre, and in particular the pit-which meant standing throughout “the two hours” traffic” of a performance, as the prologue to Romeo and Juliet calls it-were eager for sensation and overwhelming emotion-such as that in this final scene in Romeo and Juliet. Moreover, the spectators loved impassioned grandiloquence (characterized by a pompous or boastful manner and language),metaphor and extremes. It was impossible to mumble words to jostling and undisciplined spectators: their attention had to be captured.
Moreover, a taste for thrills and horror was deeply embedded in popular audiences. Hence the success of revenge tragedies, rich in macabre scenes and spectacular effects. The strength of national feeling, stirred by the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, and the craze for English history, revealed by the success of a play such as Marlowe’s Edward II, is futher evidenced by the popularity of the highly coloured scenes represented in chronicles in history plays. The din of battle, the clash of weapons, evoked strong emotion, while heroic deeds were an occasion to show actors in hand-to-hand combat.
On that account, considering the contex of this scene, it is fair to say that, as mentioned before the emphasis would be put more on the characterisations and language of the actors than on visual effects, created by props and accompanying music and sound effects. However, these would have been used in order to accompany and express into more detail and to add character to the drama, as previously mentioned to gain more interest from the audience. As a result of this, audience participation would be made easier, as the spectators would have a better understanding of the drama because they would have more information to put into perspective and consequently, they would know what was happening and would therefore enjoy the scene more as they would be “dragged into the drama” and would find themselves anticipating what was going to happen next. Indeed if performed well this tense and dramatic scene above any others would probably have created the most audience participation and consequently anticipation as the spectators who were following the story by participating with the drama would eagerly be anticipating what would happen next.
In terms of the characterisations and language of the actors, the factors which would fall into these categories that would play an important role in this scene would be details such as: the body language, facial expressions, movement, speed and pace of speech and, concerning the language of the characters details such as: the exclamation, repetition, slow or fast delivery of speech and the over-emphasis of words or phrases.
Firstly, the basic features concerning the characterizations of the characters such as the body language, facial expressions, movement, and the speed and pace of speech of the characters would probably be the most important factors when concerned in acting out this scene as they would be the predominant form of communication between the actors and the spectators. Therefore, simple details could be added to the way the actors act out their role to enhance the characterizations of the of the characters in which they are playing.
For example, with regards to this scene especially the body language and facial expressions of the characters, especially Romeo, Juliet and Friar Laurence would have to be strong , powerful, influential and resolute in order to convey the powerful meaning of the drama across to the audience and also to enhance, emphasize and distinguish the characterisations of the characters, especially their emotions which will in return help the spectators receive a better understanding of the emotions the characters were going through. Also, a result of this the spectators would enjoy the drama more as it would be more exciting, climatic and enthralling.
In addition, the language of the characters such as the exclamation, repetition, slow or fast delivery of speech and the over-emphasis of words or phrases would be equally as important in this scene as any other factors and would in fact play a predominant role in this scene and also the whole play itself. For example, as mentioned before the exuberant audiences of the time were eager for sensation and overwhelming emotion, they shared a passion for language and loved impassioned grandiloquence, metaphor and extremes. Therefore, the diverse language in which Shakespeare used would provide much entertainment and enjoyment for the audience as in this scene the language is full of emotion and that combined with the sensation provided by the plot for this scene would retain the audiences interest and satisfy their expectations.
By virtue of this the performers would be able to vary their style of speech, depending on the context of the scene. For example, in the scene the actor playing Romeo could go from using lots of repetition and over-emphasizing words in fast delivery in time of anger and anguish, to using passionate exclamation and saddened images in a slow delivery in points of sorrow, woe and grief.
Moreover, in this scene and throughout most of the play, Shakespeare uses a wash of rich and vivid language. For instance, Shakespeare includes a lot of figurative language (use images-similes, metaphors), personification (describe something as a person), images such as olfactory images (use words to describe a smell) and rhythm in this scene and throughout Romeo and Juliet. As an example, rhyming couplets are sometimes used in dialogue which would in this case emphasize to the audience what is being said by the character. By a way of illustration, this is a section of dialogue taken from one of Romeo’s speeches in this scene, act5 scene3:
Stay not, be gone: live, and hereafter say
A madman’s mercy bade thee run away.
In turn this colourful, exciting, emotional and vibrant language would not only give the spectators more enjoyment, as they loved exciting language but also encourage and sustain audience participation as the spectators would have a clearer understanding of things due to this use of images based in Shakespeare’s language.
This could futher be enhanced by the articulate (well spoken) language of the actors. This would over all create depth to the characterizations of the characters the actors were portraying and furthermore add to the exciting and powerful range of language used in the scene which the actors could use in their favour to command the audience by creating a varied display of emotions which would influence and retain the audiences interest, anticipation and participation because, as mentioned before, the spectators were eager for sensation and overwhelming emotion, they shared a passion for language and loved impassioned grandiloquence, metaphor and extremes.
This scene may well have taken a more basic and “acoustic” approach when it was performed at the Globe Theatre in terms of delivering the scene to the audience. However, In many ways I know that the content of the scene, is a step up in level in terms of the language and characterisations than the previous scenes.
However, this scene could still benefit from the use of some scenery, sound effects and music.
For example, in terms of scenery various props could have been used to indicate the setting of the action and by virtue of this help the audience put things into context or perspective so they would have a better understanding of what was going on. For example, tombs could have been placed on the stage, with Juliet lay on one of them to indicate to the audience that it was the inside of the crypt where Juliet lays on her tomb. In doing this the audiences thoughts would be drawn to the stage as they would have something to focus on and would therefore find it easier to follow what was happening on stage, this would retain their interest.
Finally, to conclude this scene it is possible that sounds could have been created and incorporated into various points in this scene In order to maximise the drama and characterizations.
For instance, as in the film Romeo and Juliet familiar and distinctive sounding, melodic music was played over the acting at various points in the film in order to emphasize what was usually parts of sorrow and woe. In addition, this would have been the case in modern theatre and they would futher of enhanced the drama by dimming the lights for example.
In this case, using the orchestra which accompanied the unfolding of a play with a varied range of sound effects and instruments, the same melodic sounding music, supplied by a combination of a harp, a flute, violins and a 12-string acoustic guitar could be played over the most dramatic parts of the scene in times of anguish, sadness and sorrow in order to maximise these emotions in order to convey them across to the audience so that the spectators feel the emotions the characters were feeling and also to futher add depth to the drama and characterisations.
As a example, a particular point in which these sound effects could have been used would be at the end of the play in the last line of act5 scene3 where Prince Escalus reads the eternal line:
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo
I have chosen act3 scene5 in which both Romeo and Juliet take their lives together and the two feuding families are united in grief because it is one of my favourite and I think is the most dramatic scene in the story.
The performance is one of my favourite scenes because it is very dramatic and touching as Romeo is under the impression Juliet had died and consequently he takes his life when he discovers her in her tomb and Juliet does the same when she wakes up, this shows their love for each other.
Also, as it is a tragedy the ending is very sad, however, in this case I think it is probably the best ending the story could have had because, to me it is satisfactory as it is a ending in which rounds off what is a very good story. If it was an ending in which the two lovers survived, they would still be separated and the tale of the two feuding families would persist or remain. In my opinion this would not be a satisfactory ending because from what had been a very dramatic story, set up for a dramatic climax, the story would just fizzle out and there would not really be any meaning to it and more importantly, the story would not be a tragedy.
Over all I like and have chosen the scene because it is a very dramatic and touching scene and is one in which I believe is the most satisfying and convincing in the whole story. I think it would definitely come across as one of the finest and most dramatic scenes out of the whole play when performed at not only the Globe Theatre but other theatres past and present.
- The five tense and dramatic scenes in which I have chosen from Romeo and Juliet and have explained how a production at the Globe Theatre could have been presented to the audiences of the time, to maximise the drama and the characterisations, are more or less my five most favourite scenes from the story.
However, my overall favourite scene is act3 scene1 in which there are many swordfights in the streets of Verona between the two feuding families, the Capulets and the Montagues, and as a result, in the main point in which the scene evolves around, following Tybalt’s killing of Mercutio, Romeo forgets his new bride and takes his sword to attack her cousin in an act of vengeance for the death of Mercutio, a fellow Montague. Consequently, as a result of his actions Prince Escalus banishes Romeo from Verona. Consequently, because of this I believe it is definitely one of the most significant and enthralling scenes in the whole story as it strongly influences what proceeds in the rest of the performance.
Act3 scene1 is my favourite scene because it is very dramatic, action packed and exciting, and is one of only a handful of scenes in the whole story in which grabs my attention and keeps me reading on, eagerly awaiting what will happen next. Therefore, for this reason I found this scene the most exciting and exhilarating in the whole story. In addition to that, for me the scene created a build up of interest which made me start anticipating what would happen next as the story proceeded and I was intrigued into how the story would pan-out because of this dramatic twist in the tale in which Romeo is banished from Verona and is consequently separated from his love, Juliet. I anticipated that this would lead to a dramatic and exciting finale in which I would have to read on to find out what happened, as a result this is the scene which grabbed my attention and I became more attracted and enticed in the story.
Finally, act3 scene1 is my favourite scene because it is the most action packed and exciting scene in the whole play and therefore, by virtue of this would be very impressive, inspiring and vibrant when performed at the Globe Theatre, in front of a buoyant and high spirited audience.
- To a certain extent all of the scenes in Romeo and Juliet are dramatic in their own way, ranging from scenes of intense rivalry and passion, to scenes of great irony an woe. This is why the celebrated and famous story of Romeo and Juliet has captivated such a large audience both past and present.
However, in my opinion the most dramatic scene in the story Romeo and Juliet is the final scene and the conclusion of the tragedy in which due to a tragic misunderstanding both Romeo and Juliet take their lives instead of the option of being apart from each other and as a result the two feuding families are united in grief.
I strongly believe the performance is the most dramatic scene because it is the most emotional, sensational and touching in the whole story as Romeo is under the impression Juliet had died and consequently he takes his life when he discovers her in her tomb and Juliet does the same when she wakes up. To me this shows their undying love for each other and in turn fits the two famous and climatic descriptions the pair are given in the prologue – a pair of “star-cross’d lovers” who have “death-mark’d love”.
For me the power and emotion that makes up this scene is far more dramatic than act3 scene1-the fighting scene, for instance because the sensational and moving way in which this scene and therefore the story is concluded is more touching than any other scene as it is a dramatic and poignant outcome in which the two main characters end their lives because they cannot stand being the apart. This is a far more dramatic outcome than act3 scene1 for instance as the characters killed in that scene are killed mostly out of violence and conceit, on the other hand in this final scene the characters end their lives together motivated by love and emotion. I believe this is far more dramatic than the characters being killed in battle as there is far more meaning, love and emotion behind this outcome and I believe most of the spectators in the Globe theatre, who, as I have mentioned before, were eager for sensation and overwhelming emotion would feel this highly dramatic passion too, in this scene especially more than any other scene.
Finally, as I have mentioned before about this highly dramatic scene, as it is a tragedy the ending is very sad, however, in this case I think the scene is probably the best ending the story could have had because, to me it is satisfactory as it is a ending in which rounds off what is a great story. To illustrate, If it was an ending in which the two lovers survived, they would still be separated and the story of the two feuding families would continue. For me this would not be a satisfactory ending because from what had been a very dramatic story, set up for a dramatic climax, the story would just fizzle out and there would not really be any meaning to it and more importantly, the story would not be a tragedy. Therefore, I believe this climatic, emotional and moving scene in which rounds off the story of Romeo and Juliet is the best way of concluding the story because it is a fitting and convincing ending to what the impassioned and ironic story of Romeo and Juliet builds up to.
Over all I believe act5 scene3 is the most dramatic and touching scene in the story of Romeo and Juliet and I think it would definitely come across as one of the finest and most dramatic scenes out of the whole play when performed at not only the Globe Theatre but other theatres past and present. The scene is one in which I believe is in a sense the most satisfying, convincing and most definitely the most touching and in turn dramatic scene in the whole story and is perfectly rounded off with the fitting, emotional and eternal line spoken by Prince Escalus:
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo
The Globe Theatre was a 17th-century English theater in Southwark, London, notable for the initial and contemporaneous productions of the dramatic works of English writers William Shakespeare, Ben Johnson, Beaumont and Fletcher, and others. The Globe was constructed in 1599 by English actor Richard Burbage in partnership with Shakespeare and others. The octagonal shaped outer wall of the theater enclosed a roofless inner pit into which the stage projected. Around the pit were three galleries (balconies) one above the other, the topmost of which was roofed with thatch. In 1613 a cannon, discharged during a performance of Shakespeare's Henry VIII, set fire to the thatched roof and destroyed the building. The theater was rebuilt in 1614 but 30 years later was destroyed by the Puritans. In 1970 American actor and director Sam Wanamaker began raising funds to rebuild the Globe, and in 1996 the new theater, based on the design of the original structure, was opened.