Romeo & Juliet - An exploration of the ways Shakespeare sustains our interest in the play particularly with the use of the theme of fate, (despite revealing the ending in the plays prologue).

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Romeo & Juliet by Rosie Wild L6.7

An exploration of the ways Shakespeare sustains our interest in the play particularly with the use of the theme of fate, (despite revealing the ending in the plays prologue).

Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet' is set in Verona in the1500's and unlike most plays of the period as well as most modern plays, it reveals the ending in the prologue. The prologue is situated in the play before the opening scene in act 1, and contains some vital and interesting facts about the play. We learn about the feud between the two families and also the most crucial aspect we learn is that the 'star-crossed' lovers are doomed from the start, and that their love ultimately ends in the death of both teenagers. Shakespeare himself was very cautious of death. Shakespeare wrote his own epitaph because during his time, when the graveyard was full, people would dig up someone's corpse and burn it so that another could be buried in that person's place. This disgusted Shakespeare, and he didn't want this type of disrespect after his death. To this day no one has disturbed Shakespeare's grave. Ironically, tombs and burials are very significant in Romeo and Juliet, as Juliet fakes death and then Romeo dies in her family's tomb which is frequently opened when a member of the family dies. There was not as much privacy around the subject of death as Shakespeare felt there should be, hence his fears about his own grave ever being tampered with.

The concept of fate functions as a central theme in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In the opening prologue of the play, the Chorus informs the audience that Romeo and Juliet are "Star cross'd Lovers". In other words, the Chorus states that Romeo and Juliet are governed by fate, a force often linked to the movements of the stars. Fate manifests itself in all the events surrounding the young lovers: the ancient and inexplicable feud between their families, the catastrophic series of mishaps which ruin Friar Lawrence's plans, and the tragic timing of Romeo's suicide and Juliet's awakening. The structure of the play itself rests upon the fate from which the two lovers cannot escape.

Although Shakespeare reveals the ending, we must realise that he does this for a purpose as Shakespeare would never deliberately write a play in which he risked the audience losing interest due to the premature knowledge of the ending. He skillfully compares Romeo's love for Rosaline to that of his purer love of Juliet to highlight his immaturity at his true belief that there was no one more beautiful than Rosaline. We are drawn into believing that this love for Juliet is true as soon as he declares it, but we keep interest to find out if in fact it is true love. Shakespeare leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions at the end of the prologue, and these initiate our interest in the play. Some of them are answered early in the play, yet the final questions are left unanswered until the last pages. We become so engrossed in their whirlwind romance with the aid of the theme of time as our questions are being answered all the time, as well as new ones being proposed. Why do they die for each other, how do they fall in love, and how do the families bury the hatchet? As soon as death is mentioned, the reader becomes instantly fascinated as we want know exactly how and why it happens. I immediately wanted to know whether they died in each other's arms, if they were married, if they knew they were going to die for each other, if it was natural or invoked death and whether or not the families were ever aware of their passionate love for one another.

Contrary to the themes introduced in the prologue, Shakespeare opens the acting side of the play with two servants from the Capulet family. Their conversation is bawdy and rude, and full of sexual connotations which are purposeful as a sharp contrast to the true love which is to follow. Elizabethan plays nearly always have a sharp scene at the beginning to engage the audience as quickly as possible and to put a stop to their chatter and get them involved in the play. The Capulet servants openly play with the Montague servants in the streets, leading them on as to propose a fight. The anger of the families has spread to the servants and everyone in the town knows of it. Our interest is sustained as we wish to find out how and why the two families bury the hatchet.

We are first introduced to the theme of time when Romeo complains 'sad hours seem long'. Romeo then explains that his hours are long because he odes 'not having that, which, having makes them short'. This suggests that time passes quickly when one is in love, and this is highly ironic as his love shortens his life considerably. Romeo seems to play at being in love, as if he is not taking it seriously. 'O brawling love! O brawling hate!' and his fashionable use of the oxymoron make us question the validity of his love. There is a pun on line 119 as it is ironic that he is sat under a sycamore tree sick-amour, love sick literally. We have wondered since the beginning how Romeo could fall for a Capulet, presumably knowing of the 'ancient feud' but we learn early now that the woman he 'loves' is a Capulet and here is does not stand in the way.
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The play is also full of contrasts which help to keep the audience's interest. In Act 1, Scene 2 the contrast- and conflict between youth and age is clear. Capulet says 'men so old as we' should be able to keep the peace. Yet he is in conversation with the youthful Paris. He stresses the extreme youth of his daughter Juliet who is not quite fourteen. It is highly ironic that Capulet says 'she is the hopeful lady of my earth'; this suggests he has invested everything into her: his hope, future, and his life as she is ...

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