ROMEO AND JULIET
ROMEO AND JULIET – WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
ACT 1; SCENE 5
“Romeo and Juliet” is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare, an English playwright and poet who lived from 1564 to 1616. It isn’t certain the exact date in which he wrote this masterpiece, but it’s estimated that most of his work was written between 1589 and 1613. The play basically tells the story about two “star crossed lovers” who, as the Prologue predicts, are destined to commit suicide due to their inability to secure their love.
The extract of Act 1: Scene 5, occurs after the first encounter between Romeo and Juliet in the Capulet’s ball. Romeo isn’t supposed to be there as both their families are in constant dispute. Therefore, as Tybalt notices his presence, he protests to his uncle, who does not respond to his wishes. Romeo and Juliet’s eyes meet and they fall in love at first sight.
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This dialogue between the two lovers introduces the problem that will always haunt their relationship, as their families keep interrupting them during the scene, “Madam, your mother craves a word with you”. With this line, the Nurse brings the protagonists back to reality, as well as when Romeo realizes that Juliet is a Capulet. In that moment, he becomes conscious that his worst fear had become true and he cries out: “my life is my foe’s debt!”. This means that Romeo is now aware that reality won’t allow them to accomplish their love. Therefore, it’s possible to determine two main themes from this extract: Love and Identity. On one hand, there’s the romance that begins to glow from the first encounter of the young protagonists. On the other hand, each lover belongs to different families, which are enemies of one another. This foreshadows the problem of identity that both Romeo and Juliet will suffer, as they must decide whether to stick to their family or to consolidate their love without caring about the rest of their beloved ones.
Shakespeare builds during this scene tension, by means of dramatic irony. This means that the audience knows more than what is actually shown in scene. This creates a paradox, as the love between Romeo and Juliet intensifies, they are each time closer to death: as love grows, death draws nearer. This juxtaposition is exemplified when Benvolio claims “Away, begone; the sport is at the best”. In here, characters only think that the party has reached its pick and its time to go home, however the audience is craving for them to leave soon, to ran away from the fatal destiny.
The language and imagery used by Shakespeare clearly settles a semantic field where religion is predominant. They use words such as; “holy shrine”, “pilgrims”, “devotion”, “saints”, “palm to palm” and “prayer”, while they’re flirting with each other. In this way, religion and love are combined, and therefore this implies that their love is above the common type, they’re spiritually bonded by a very strong metaphysical connection. Shakespeare’s rhetorical skills are able to produce a amusing wordplay, for example when Romeo says “Give me my sin again”, as he plays with the idea of religion and lust. The constant flirting between the two lovers connotes the theme of love.
One of the most important elements of structure in this extract is the sonnet which appears in its first 14 lines. It also reinforces the romance between both characters, as Romeo and Juliet echo each others rhymes. Therefore, it’s a shared sonnet which emphasizes the intensity of their love, and acts as an extended metaphor as Romeo starts an idea and Juliet continues it. Regarding the rhyme of the sonnet, it’s ABABCBCB and uses the iambic pentameter, the most commonly used by Shakespeare, which suggests a particular rhythm in the speech similar to their everyday way of speaking. This is used to engage the audience in the play and submerge them into the dramatic tension of the tragedy.
In conclusion, this extract establishes from the beginning of the play the themes that will be crucial along the story of this star crossed lovers. Love and identity will continuously be submitted to a struggle in which Shakespeare will emphasize its drama by means of dramatic irony, a refined language, metaphors and other literary techniques. However, this extract which only presents the beginning of the dilemma between Romeo and Juliet, is expressed in a light, humorous and romantic tone, as the flirting and hope coexist. But this only ensures a greater tension, because we as readers know that they growing love can only end up in a hopeless suicide.