William Shakespeare began writing ‘The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet’ in 1589. The soon-to-be epic play took the great playwright six years to complete, and in 1595 the play was first acted out on stage. The play was written especially for the Queen Elizabeth 1st, who was the reigning monarch at the time. The reason for writing the play had been simple; romantic dramas were of growing popularity in that day and age. Shakespeare’s previous works ‘Anthony and Cleopatra’, had too been a very successful romantic tragedy and had gone down very well with the many countrymen who saw it acted out.
’The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet’ is set in Verona, a city in Italy.
Verona was a very fashionable city, and was also at the time considered to be the religious capital of the world.The play is based around a young man named Romeo and an even younger girl, named Juliet. Romeo belongs to the family of Montagues. They are a large, well established and wealthy family.
They are also proud. Juliet is of the Capulet family. This family is very similar to the Montagues in stature. However the two families are and have been feuding with one-another. The audience never learned the cause of the two family’s feud. Nevertheless it is a bitter one that plays a very large part in the happenings of the play. Romeo’s character is a strong one. He is also quite different it seems from the rest of his family. He is a romantic, and this is shown when we first are introduced to him in act.
Here, he is found after spending time alone, reflecting; “Ay me, sad hours seem long”.He gives a long passage about love and hate, referring I think to the fight between the Montagues and the Capulets that had just taken place. There are many oxymorons used in this passage; ” brawling love, loving hate, any thing of nothing first create!” These contradictory words interest the audience and catch their attention. Romeo is a soft and gentle character throughout the beginning of the play. He is calm and dislikes fighting and quarrelling. However if threatened he is assertive and will not stand down from what he believes in. he will not be stopped from doing what matters to him, this often being seeing Juliet.Juliet, when we are first introduced to her, is a quiet girl. She is young and unaware of some things.
She had until yet not thought of marriage, even though she was at the age where betroval was a common thing, “It is an honour that I dream not of”. She is extremely obedient, and probably would not dream of disobeying either of her parents, or her nurse for that matter. When her mother suggests the idea of marrying a young man named Paris to her, Juliet answers “I’ll look to like, if looking liking move;/ But no more deep will I endart mine eye/ Than your consent gives strength to make it fly.” This means that she will do no more than look at Paris without her parent’s consent. It is quite ironic that she does exactly the opposite later on in the play. But certainly for now Juliet seems not to have a very strong will, but simply does as she is told. However she is a polite, friendly and nice character.
She is a minor character at this point in the play.The catalyst for the character change in Juliet has to be her meeting with Romeo in act 1 scene 5. As soon as they speak, a new personality trait is awakened in Juliet. She speaks playfully to Romeo, flirting “Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much.” She seems daring almost. She knows this man is not Paris, and so already she is beginning to defy her obedience to her parents, by becoming interested in someone else. Shakespeare has written this speech between Romeo and Juliet with a theme. Their whole conversation is based around religion. They both liken their own actions to that of “saints” and “pilgrims”, and “prayer”. It is quite a clever passage as the pair speak together in a way I would imagine to be quite rude in those times.
The passage has repetitions of certain words (eg. saints, prayer) and they have spoken this little story, while really describing their own actions.The whole idea is really to enable the audience to keep up and understand what is going on. Because Shakespeare didn’t write his plays to be read, but to be acted out, he knew that the speeches would need to be easy to follow. To do this he wrote in patterns using repetitions of words or phrases, and sometimes using ways of describing a scene, by describing something else. This helped the audience to keep track of things, and make sense of what they were hearing. Shakespeare also used imaginery in this particular speech.He described the situation of the two young lovers, by comparing it to a different idea of saints and pilgrims, and how they pray, he created a picture of the comparison in an audience’s mind and so let them interpretate that picture into what was actually happening.
The interesting thing is that Romeo and Juliet speak together of the same idea and create the same picture, like two people having the same dream. This displays that already they are in love, as they think as one and speak as one. They are already together in mind. By the end of the scene both Romeo and Juliet feel much love for one another, and both wish to know who they have just fallen for.I am now going to look at the scenario in act 2 scene 2. In many interpretations of this scene, Juliet is on a balcony and Romeo is below in the shadows, looking up to her. There are two lines spoken at the start of the scene that may portray this idea. Both are spoke by Romeo, “See how she leans her cheek upon her hand!” This says that when Juliet appears, she is leaning on something, and her head is leaning on her hand.
A balcony rail would allow this, or a low wall, but I doubt if you would see low walls in an orchard. The other line is “As glorious to this night, being o’er my head,/ As is a winged messenger of heaven.” This line suggests that Romeo sees her as being as beautiful as an angel, being over his head.This suggests she is above him. Again a balcony would enable this. I think that the idea of Juliet being above or higher that Romeo displays Juliet’s growing importance as a character. She is more important than him, because she is disobeying her family, and going against everything she’s ever done. She is loving her sworn enemy and is taking far more risks. If Romeo is caught, he will be killed. If Juliet is found out, she will be exiled from the Capulet family, maybe banished from Verona.
This is to her, a fate worse than death. She could even be killed for betraying her family, and women’s lives were always seen as more valuable than men’s in those days.Romeo overhears Juliet confess her new found feelings. She wishes he could deny being a Montague “Deny thy father and refuse thy name” or that he would swear his love to her, and she’ll “no longer be a Capulet”. She admits she would be prepared to leave her family for him and his love. She asks “What’s a Montague?” then explains to the night how silly it is that something that is not even a physical object or an important part of a man’s anatomy, “It is not land nor fort,” can be such a barrier to her love. She shows reluctance to go against her family here. This shows she is still obedient. However her desire for him eventually overcomes this, displaying how strongly she feels for Romeo.
Juliet’s reaction to Romeo being there with her is at first worry as to who he is “What man art thou that thus bescreened in night.” This soon grows to concern when she realises how much danger he is in “If they do see thee, they will murder thee.” This soon turns to delight of seeing her love again, and hearing he loves her.Juliet explains to Romeo why she does not seem coy with him “In truth, fair Montague, I am too fond,” here she tells him she is foolish and goes on to say that he may find her light in behaviour. But she asks him to trust her, and she’ll be more true a lover to him “Than those that have more coying to be strange.” She basically promises him that she will be more loyal and true than those who may have the cunning to act coy and distant. Most girls were coy in this period of time, the word meaning sexually shy, as they were innocent and were expected to be that way.
Juliet suggests to Romeo that “If that thy bent of love be honourable,/ Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow,”. If he loves her, prove it to her by sending her word tomorrow that he wishes to wed her. She goes on to say she will then meet him and be married to him on that day. This shows us how strongly she feels about him. It shows us her strength of character, how she is so determined to be with her love, that she will marry her family’s enemy without her parent’s consent. It is a complete change for her and signifies that desperation will eventually lead to tragedy, because I think, from this point, it becomes obvious to the audience that this simply cannot go on without any problems. She is prepared to take an unforgivable risk for him.At the beginning of act 2 scene 5, Juliet is impatient. She is waiting on the return of the nurse with news from Romeo. “The clock struck nine when I did send the nurse;/ In half an hour she promised to return.
” The nurse is evidently late “It’s three long hours, yet she is not come.” Juliet grows so impatient and excited that she becomes almost rude and disrespectful to the absent nurse, “But old folks, many feign as they were dead,/ Unwieldy, slow, heavy, and pale as lead.” However rather than being impatient and rude, she may be saying that in resignation. A sort of sigh of admittance and general acception of how people naturally become as they grow old. An innocent observation and acknowledgement of the nurse’s now hard life.Juliet speaks in verse here as well, this signifying the importance of it. As verse was often used by noblemen, or in important parts of Shakespeare’s play, the use of verse here, and especially as it is a woman speaking it, makes it stand out a bit. It is really seen as unconventional.
The verse ends with one pair of rhyming couplets, to highlight that this was the end of her speech. The idea of it I think, was first to display how imperative it is to Juliet that she hears her news, and how big an effect it could have. Also though I think that it is used strategically by Shakespeare to re-interest the audience. Just in case by now some of the more restless viewers were finding it uneventful, say, this new shocking occurrence for a woman to speak in verse, would re-awaken their interest and intrigue.Upon the nurses return, Juliet’s excitement and anticipation of the oncoming news from Romeo reaches breaking point and Juliet is now desperate to know what he has said. The nurse, however, has other plans, and acts tired and exhausted, dismissing Juliet with an air of ‘I’ll speak when I’m good and ready!’; “I am a-weary, give me leave a while.”
She pretends to forget the importance of her mission, choosing instead to comment on her journey home; “Fie, how my bones ache! What a jaunce have I!” The nurse speaks in a ‘don’t fuss and rush me’ sort of manner, whereas Juliet is demanding and intent on getting her answers.The nurse is like to a grandmother, and Juliet a toddler wanting her favourite toy. The nurse’s speech changes when Juliet calms down and apologises for the nurse’s weariness. But as soon as Juliet’s excitement appears again, so the nurse becomes fussy and dismissive again. Finally Juliet says “Here’s such a coil! Come, what says Romeo?” and the nurse gives in. Again verse is spoken, this time by the nurse, showing her happiness of the situation. There are two pairs of rhyming couplets at the end, and the second pair is shared with Juliet. This shows they are both pleased, because they rhyme together and both convey happiness.
Act 3 scene 5 is an extremely eventful scene in the play. A lot of revelations occur and the truth of some matters dawn on other characters. It begins with Romeo leaving Juliet’s bedroom at dawn. Juliet Is reluctant to let him go, but knows she must do so. I think she feels a mixture of upset at him leaving her, worry for his safety, anger at him having to go and for what the fates have placed upon her, and concern for what lies ahead of them. “Let me be tane,… Let’s talk, it is not day.” In the passage spoken by Romeo it sounds as if he is being sarcastic towards Juliet, for her being so selfish as to try to convince him not to go yet, despite the sun beginning to rise. This would upset Juliet when she realises her own foolishness. When Romeo leaves and Lady Capulet enters the room, Juliet is upset because of Romeo’s departure.Lady Capulet thinks that Juliet is upset because of her cousin’s death (Romeo killed Tybalt previously in a fight after Tybalt had slain Mercutio); “Evermore weeping for your cousin’s death?”
In an attempt to try and cheer Juliet up (believing that Juliet hates Romeo- Juliet plays along as well), she confides to Juliet that she is going to have a hitman sent to Mantua where Romeo now lives, to kill Romeo in revenge for Tybalt’s death; “Then weep no more. I’ll send to one in Mantua,… And then I hope thou wilt be satisfied.” This is ironic because Juliet has convinced her mother that she despises Romeo for the killing, hiding her true feelings for him, and now her cover-up has caused Lady Capulet to plan to have Romeo killed to satisfy Juliet.Lady Capulet now brings more ‘good’ news for Juliet; “But now I’ll tell thee joyful tidings, girl.” She announces to Juliet that her father had arranged for Juliet to get married to Paris next Thursday. Juliet’s response to this is far from expected by Lady Capulet. She says “He shall not make me there a joyful bride”, and asks her to tell Lord Capulet that she does not wish to wed yet, and that when she does.
“It shall be Romeo, whom you know I hate,/ Rather than Paris.” Lady Capulet sounds shocked, but recovers quickly and anger can be sensed here; “Here comes your father, tell him so yourself,/ And see how he will take it at your hands.”Lord Capulet now enters the scene, and he seems jolly, for he speaks in a sympathetic parental tone to Juliet when he sees her still upset; “How now, a conduit, girl? What, still in tears?” “Have you delivered to her our decree?” he asks Lady Capulet, meaning has she told Juliet about the wedding. When he is told of Juliet’s refusal to wed, his mood changes suddenly. At first it is outright shock that Juliet had just openly disobeyed her parents over something so honourable and important; “How, will she none? Doth she not give us thanks?/ Is she not proud?” After Juliet’s tearful and dangerous reply, Lord Capulet becomes enraged.
He shouts abuse at Juliet, “Mistress minion you?” He threatens her. He orders Juliet to go to the wedding, or he will drag her there on “a hurdle thither.” He shouts at her to get out. Lady Capulet questions his declaration, and Juliet begs him to listen to her “Good father, I beseech you on my knees”, but he carries on, “Disobedient wretch!” He tells her that if she does not go to the church on Thursday, he will disown her and she will not be a Capulet any longer. He calls her “A curse”.Juliet is now in a very bad position. The law in that time was that a girl had no choice over who she may marry, unless with her parent’s consent. If she disobeyed her father she would be disowned from the Capulet family.
However she is already married to Romeo, so she cannot marry again. If she tells her parents this she could be disowned, or even killed maybe. She has offended both her parents. Lady Capulet refuses to help Juliet “Talk not to me, for I’ll not speak a word./ Do as thou wilt, for I have done with thee.” She too, is probably very angry and upset with Juliet. The only person Juliet feels she has left to turn to is the nurse, who gives her advice; “Oh Nurse, how shall this be prevented?”At the end of the scene Juliet finally decides to go to church to make a confession and “to be absolved””. She says to the nurse “Go in, and tell my Lady I am gone.” She seeks Friar Laurence’s aid. She knows that because of her religion, she has morals against wedding two people. As well as this she will be banished from the Capulet household.
These implications have made her feel completely at an end of it all. She has decided that the Friar is the only person (being religious) who can possibly help her. As a character Juliet has changed dramatically. She has gone from being a quiet, obedient minor character in the play with no real feelings or ideas of the real world and life, to a strong minded and brave major character.She has disobeyed her parents, got married without their consent to her family’s enemy, lied to her parents, and has lost her love through exile. She now feels very alone. Yet she is determined to make it through and end up with the one thing that she lives for… Romeo. She is an inspiring character and her stolid determination is admirable. She would never have discovered her true self is she hadn’t of met Romeo. He is the cause of her pleasure and her pain.