Romeo and Juliet, two lovers whose destinies are carved by the stars to meet and inevitably, fall in love, however, paired with that love also comes great misfortune. A story known by many worldwide and one of the biggest and most popular love stories known throughout the world; Romeo and Juliet is a tragic love story brought by none another than the poetic genius, William Shakespeare. When you hear ‘Romeo’, you can’t help but think ‘Juliet’. These two have been ingrained as the two lovers who were destined to be and die together and it all started from a play written by Shakespeare.
Throughout all of Romeo and Juliet, Act 1; Scene 5 plays a huge role in the play, later on defining the play as a whole and everything that happens. It shows off the extravagant personality of the characters and the poetic language that Williams Shakespeare uses to represent his characters that not only were used by Romeo to catch Juliet’s heart, but also to catch the reader’s heart.
This scene not only does that but it also initiates the start of one of the most popular relationships in literary history between Romeo and Juliet and thus, we see why this scene is so important to the play. The techniques used in this play were all linked together to create a wonderfully formed pace that drags the reader in and blend them into the fantastical feel of the love Romeo and Juliet had for each other, especially with the poetic language used between them that show us Shakespeare’s skill to manipulate words to create such language that makes us immediately be charmed by the characters.
These techniques and dramatic actions are what will be the key point of analysis in this essay.
The actual play is set in a city called Verona, a well-populated city existing in Italy. Its artistic heritage, urban structure and architecture give it a huge tourist attraction, being a suitable place for the love between Romeo and Juliet. But I don’t mean to digress. The play starts with a brawl between the two houses of Capulet and Montague, sworn enemies of each. The Capulet family houses Juliet whereas the Montague family for Romeo. And hence we see the clear foreboding of danger right at the start the book. After the brawl is essentially stopped by the Prince of Verona, a declaration is said, stating that any more breaches of peach will be punished by death. And here we have another premonition of danger as with such hate between both families and such love between the two youngest children of each; ‘breaches of peace’ are bound to happen. The scene then changes unto the peaceful Capulet house where Count Paris, a friend of the Capulet’s, asks for Juliet’s hand in marriage. The trouble never ceases to stop.
Meanwhile, Benvolio, a member of the Montagues, talks with his cousin Romeo, son of the head Montague and beloved in all the Montague family. The current topic of conversation is on Romeo’s depression and we learn of his unrequited ‘love’ (which can be seen more as an infatuation) for a girl called Rosaline, one of Lord Capulet’s nieces. Soon after a chat with Benvolio and Mercutio, a loyal and trusted friend of Romeo’s and the Capulet’s, young Romeo is persuaded to gatecrash at the ball in hopes of seeing Rosaline. Whereas, Benvolio and Mercutio have different ideas with Romeo and instead want to show him other vast amount of other beauties to make Romeo realise that Rosaline isn’t the only girl out there. But maybe they regret that now, as it soon lead to the inane clash between the two families and the deaths of two of the dearest and beloved children of the Capulet and Montague’s, albeit also making the houses both settle their differences aside. But, unfortunately for him, Mercutio could not have the chance to regret as he was killed throughout the whole clash.
Act 1; Scene 5 is where the previously mentioned Ball takes place and where the love between Romeo and Juliet begins and the aforementioned events were leading up to this point. But halt, as we must still see and acknowledge the themes surrounding Romeo and Juliet.
Although love may primarily be the dominant theme, several other small themes are intertwined together to give the love a suitable ground to balance on and give the whole story coherence. We have fate and destiny brought to give their love meaning beyond ‘that girl looks cute; I think I’m in love’. Instead, we have love beyond the Earth with the stars showing the destiny set out for Romeo and Juliet to fall in love and be together, giving their love a lot more beyond a typical romance. Other themes vary from themes of nature; relaying the beauty of the natural landscape, themes of time; with time being vital in certain parts of the play, theme of disorder; with the chaos between the Montagues and Capulets being a key part of the play, and many other small themes. And the uses of religion within Romeo’s poetic flirtations also make for an active theme. But those themes just hide behind the one theme most active in Act 1, Scene 5. The theme of fate that brought together our two young lovers and the theme of love that binds their hearts together.
Coming back to Act 1, Scene 5, this setting is in which Romeo and Juliet first set eyes on each other for the first time and our young hero, Romeo is captivated, mesmerised and caught in the eyes of Juliet. The stars have acted and Romeo has been captured by love at first sight. The scene captures Romeo attempting to relay his feelings towards Juliet, turning into a poetic manner of speech, Shakespeare’s olden times of flirting. This is where we see glimpses of Juliet also falling for Romeo, but who wouldn’t after such captivating words? But the first meeting, the first connection and the first event of falling in love is what creates this scene as one of the most important.
But with Romeo and Juliet, there is no love free without danger. And we see events of premonition in this scene that point to the inevitability of danger coming upon the couple with quotes such as ‘Is she a Capulet? O dear account! My life is my foe’s debt.’ This quote itself signifies Romeo’s realisation that he has given away his life to his own enemy. His own love. And now, he is vulnerable to his one enemy.
Going back to the scene, we see various different methods set to create a feeling of the pace, the atmosphere and the mood. The start of the scene is the best example to analyse the way Shakespeare controls pace. The pace during the start contrasts vibrantly with the pace later on. The scene starts at a fast ‘comic’ pace with the pots, the pans, and the servants rushing here and there. The visual aspect provides something similar to, as an example, ‘slapstick comedy’ with movements being seen as slightly exaggerated and all over the place. The description of the servants rushing around and the hectic and excited mood set for the ball, all this is what creates such a fast pace.
The atmosphere is also seen as much more informal in contrast to something such as, let’s say, the romance between Romeo and Juliet’s first meeting. “Where’s Potpan, that he helps not to take away? He shift a trencher? He scrape a trencher!” This colloquial tone in which the servants speak in is what creates such a bright contrast. Here, they talk about cleaning plates (trencher). When we think of cleaning plates, we don’t think of a tense highly formal atmosphere. The mood was set to be informal the moment that the clearly undignified name ‘Potpan’ was mentioned, as well as the cleaning of plates. And then we have our noble Romeo. Romeo, whose speech is dignified and poetic. We can clearly see a change in atmosphere, pace and tone when Romeo begins to woo his sweetheart, Juliet. This whole scene is begun with the purpose to set up a hectic mood and build anticipation to the later parts of the scene by setting a fast pace leading into the later scenes. But what we also see in this scene is a position of different social standards and the way they behave, with servants being lively and fast paced, nobles such as Romeo are graceful and rhythmical.
Not only does Romeo’s speech when he sees Juliet contrast with the speech of other people, it also contrasts with his usual speech. The speech between his own family members and friends severely differs from the poetic form he carries when his heart is captured by Juliet. With pickup lines (albeit, shakespearian style) such as “If I profane with my unworthiest hand, this holy shrine, the gentle fine is this, my lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss” we can immediately see the comparison not only with the huge difference with the common talk of the peasants and Romeo’s tender tone but with his usual non romantic talk. He immediately sets a romantic mood with his strong, powerful and flowing words. His infatuation with Rosaline is instantly forgotten about or overshadowed by what we can see as love at first sight between our Romeo and Juliet, shown by Romeo’s intense poetic form in his words for Juliet. With the vivid descriptions, we form an image of how Romeo sees Juliet and the beauty of her relayed into words.
We immediately note down his view of Juliet with words such as ‘snowy dove’ or comparing her to be brighter than the sun itself. However, this is also a hint of tragedy as it refers to the stars which set a reminder of the ill fate of destiny. Romeo describes Juliet with words brought and compared to religion, alluding her to being able to provide a blessing to his unholy self. What we also see in this scene are the rhyming couplets in Romeo’s poetic language, giving more depth to his character and the way he speaks so poetically, so desperately in love. We see his love in a more intense light.
However, Tybalt brings a totally different atmosphere. He brings rage and anger and aggressiveness into the atmosphere. He ruins the cheerful atmosphere with his hate-filled speech and here, we also have another hint of danger. Tybalt, surely one with as much hatred as him to the Montagues would cause problems between Romeo and Juliet! His anger contrasts with the cheerful atmosphere set by the servants and the Capulet, and differs greatly and threatens the romantic atmosphere between Romeo and Juliet with the potential violence rising from him. The atmosphere of hatred and detest is immediately set with words such as ‘scorn’, ‘spite’, ‘villain’ and we go back to the foreboding of danger that is hinted deeply by his violent threats in the quote: “Patience perforce with wilful choler meeting, Makes my flesh tremble in their different greeting. I will withdraw: but this intrusion shall, Now seeming sweet convert to bitter Gall.” The implication is set that, although he’ll have to withdraw at this time, Romeo’s intrusion to this party will soon be avenged by him from the quote ‘Now seeming sweet convert to bitter Gall.” Not only is an oxymoron (a set of words which contradict each other put in the same phrase) used, emphasising on Tybalt’s words, but he is also saying that he’ll turn this ‘sweet’ innocent intrusion into something much worse. In basic terms, a threat of vengeance. And the play on ‘sweet’ turning into ‘bitter’ just makes that threat more vibrant.
From the Lord Capulet’s speech, we can see the power and importance shown with his high position in society and status, but we also see the sociable mood he is put in and how he wants the party to go fluently, without any trouble, increasing his position and status with his family members. We see how this compares with Tybalt, who does not care about what others think of him but of the humiliation and pride of the Capulet family as a whole. His younger more prideful spirit cares more about how the enemy of his family is here, even allowing to disrupt the party just to settle rivalries and protect his and the family’s pride. He wants the Capulet status to be more about pride than about success and power. He attempts to uphold this pride by disrupting the party and ruining this social event whereas Lord Capulet is the exact opposite. He wants to uphold the peace in the party by allowing old rivalries to pass by to keep the social status unkempt. This shows not only the difference in maturity between the two but also the attempt by Tybalt to rebel to Lord Capulet. However, Lord Capulet’s power in the family is shown when Tybalt is forced to listen to him. We also notice Lord Capulet’s age is also shown to be quite old with the mention of him being ‘past dancing days’.
Another technique Shakespeare uses to affect the minds of the audience is ‘dramatic irony’. He gives us huge implications as to what is going to happen which gives us more knowledge than the characters. The intro to the story literally tells us how Romeo and Juliet’s path is set out, while also ending in tragedy. But even while knowing this, we as the audience are forced to watch them go straight down that path of tragedy with the characters being clueless of what we know is going to happen. This sets an atmosphere of fear and suspense as, although we know tragedy shall soon befall them, we don’t know how it’s going to appear. We don’t know when it’s going to appear. The audience is set constantly on the edge of their seat awaiting the inevitable danger. This engages the reader more as we want to, despite how sadistic it seems, watch the tragedy befall them. We want to see how this tragedy befalls them. We already know something’s going to happen so we have an insatiable wanting to know what that something is. We’re given knowledge that isn’t complete and thus, Shakespeare has caught us by making us want to know what happens.
Going into more specifics in terms of Romeo and Juliet, we are told the following in the prologue: “two star cross’d lovers take their lives.” Now, this is an example of dramatic irony. We have knowledge on what’s going to happen to the characters while they, obviously, have no clue on what’s about to befall them. But this may seem like it’s just spoiling the book, but instead it makes us want to read it more. Why would a pair such as Romeo and Juliet, whose love for each other show no bounds, want to kill themselves? What kind of misunderstanding could cause this? And we’re kept in suspense right up to the moment where it happens. Dramatic irony, poor Romeo didn’t know what he was getting into.
During the first meeting between Romeo and Juliet, we can see a lot of chemistry between the two via the graceful and poetic form of speech they exchange words in. We can clearly see the romance blossoming between the two as the whole atmosphere and tone changes with every word they say. Romeo describes Juliet in religious terms, defining her to be blessed and holy. For example, the quote, ‘If I profane with my unworthiest hand, This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this’ shows Romeo’s description of her being more than holy. Part of her, herself, is being used as a metaphor to call her hand a holy shrine in which he, the unblessed, wants to touch in order to become blessed. The whole description causes religious imagery as we imagine Juliet to be that of holyness and Romeo to be that of one being blessed to be in her presence. That is the effect Romeo’s words show. And with the whole meeting being in an ABAB rhyming scheme, it just mystifies and enchants their relationship between each other. It shows how alike they are. How well suited they are for each other. And the religious terms give us a sense of purity and holiness between the two, thus giving us a better, purer image.
But throughout all this romance and love and anger, a touch of comedy is added; although comedy is too strong of a word. A comic atmosphere is added. And this comes from one character: the nurse. Or Juliet’s nurse, to be specific. She may not be outright comedic, but with the way she speaks, the words she uses and the clear bluntness of what she says, these factors all contribute to the fast paced atmosphere she provides, a vast change from the romance between Romeo and Juliet to the nurse’s arrival. For example, the moment Romeo finds out that Juliet is a Capulet seems like a tense moment in the scene. However, the way the nurse portrays this information changes the atmosphere with the way she talks too much and her crude remarks. The quote “By Mary, young man, Her mother is the lady of the house, And a good lady, and a wise and virtuous lady, I nursed her daughter that you talking to; I tell you, the man that can get her Shall have loads of ready cash” is a clear example of the nurse’s personality. Despite being only asked about Juliet’s mother, instead, she goes on about irrelevant things. This is part of what adds a comic pace. The way she tells us things that are completely pointless and unnecessary turns the pace into something comic-like.
As we examined this scene, we notice a variety of techniques and descriptions used that send certain types of imagery into our minds. However, the one type of imagery we think of most is ‘religious imagery’. Imagery formed by all the religious metaphors and descriptions. This religious imagery is strong as it was the main focus on Romeo’s description on Juliet, implying that she was the blessed and holy, while he dares to tread his unholy self unto her path and be blessed himself. This gives us the first impression of Juliet, someone pure and innocent. The purity is shown by the holiness, which is shown by quotes such as: “This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this” or “O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do”. These quotes show comparisons to that of holy beings to our Juliet, thus regarding herself as a holy being. The first quote, a metaphor, describes or states her hand as being a shrine, creating religious imagery of her very self. Our second quote, calling Juliet a saint, tells her to let their lips do what hands do with Juliet previously stating that for a saint, a handshake was like a kiss whereas lips were only used for praying. This shows Juliet going along with the persona of a saint and creating a stronger form of imagery.
After more examination, we can see a vibrant theme of the stars. These stars are said to be what write the fates of us and in this case, it shows a doomed destiny between Romeo and Juliet. As well as this, we also note that Romeo and Juliet have both realised that they’ve fallen madly in love with their greatest enemy. The stars, the love and the enemies; all these point to tragedy. But other than fate, destiny, stars and tragedy, we also have the theme of young love. Young love and first love and love at first sight. All these are part of the love between Romeo and Juliet and with all these deepening the feelings Romeo and Juliet have, it is also what creates such a strong relationship and poetic form between the two. Without their love being so pure and strong, there wouldn’t be such poetry between the two.
As we conclude, we’ve noted a large variety of dramatic action/techniques used to create an atmosphere, an effect and a pace, varying from strong imagery, personalities of characters affecting pace, oxymorons and poetic speech. These all affect the previously 3 mentioned. The atmosphere needs to be changed to relate the state of minds of the audience to the feelings going on in the play. The effect needs to occur to affect the minds of people and instil the cause. And finally, the pace needs to be changed to engage and create suspense for the audience.
By the end of this scene, the audience is left to ponder about the forthcoming events. With all the premonitions with the stars, with the anger from Tybalt, with the threatening words, with the love being between two of the biggest enemies, we just know and sense the danger approaching.
And in the end, we see that this scene was extremely well written. From the beautiful flowing words coming out of Romeo’s mouth to Juliet’s replies being just as graceful, we can easily see the poetic skills of Shakespeare. But we also note a lot of other things such as the comic pace created by the Nurse to Tybalt’s anger portrayed through his hard words. The scene was excellent and the poetic form was amazing.