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‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a tragic love story written by William Shakespeare about a young couple, who’s forbidden love leads to them to kill themselves, but their deaths bring their families together. The play follows two lovers, Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, heirs to two feuding families from Verona who meet at a party and immediately fall in love.
They marry the next day in ‘secret’, but then Romeo kills Juliet’s cousin in revenge for his friend’s murder and is banished from the city. Juliet, in order to avoid a marriage arranged by her parents to a rich young man named Paris, fakes her own death using forty-two hour knockout drops.
Romeo, not knowing that Juliet’s death is faked, returns to Verona and commits suicide at her grave. Juliet then wakes up and finding Romeo dead, stabs herself with his knife thus concluding the play.
Romeo is one of the main characters. Shakespeare portrays Romeo very differently throughout the play, as he wants the audience to see the development and changes in Romeo’s personality. Shakespeare uses different techniques such as imagery, metaphors and oxymoron, alliteration and the sonnet form, which makes Romeo a unique character in the play.
Romeo is shown at first few scenes of the play to be an impulsive, confused lovesick fool in the play in order to satirise courtly love.
Moreover, as the play progresses, Shakespeare uses Romeo to introduce the audience to a true love who falls in love with young Juliet and whose love tragically ends. Shakespeare presents Romeo to us as being a lovesick fool in the play in order to satirise courtly love.
In Act 1, we first meet Romeo as he is sobbing about his love for a young lady, who we later find out to be Rosaline. The first line he speaks, “Is the day so young? , suggests that he is bored and waiting for something to happen as he is so shocked about how early it is in the day. To emphasise this, he goes on to say, “Ay me, sad hours seem so long”. Benvolio asks Romeo why he is sad and he explains that he is sad because he has no love and his line, “Out of here favour where I am in loves” shows that the person he loves does not love him. This is how the audience first learns of Romeo’s love. To show even more how love struck and sad Romeo is, he admits it to himself when he says, “This is not Romeo, he is some other where.
Benvolio asks him to “examine other beauties” to cure his love sickness. But Romeo says that if his eyes see anything more beautiful than Rosaline, then “turn tears to fires”. This shows that Romeo is very single-minded on Rosaline and believes that no one could be more beautiful than her. Shakespeare presents Romeo as confused through his mixture of feelings and the words that he uses. He uses many oxymorons such as, “oh heavy lightness, oh serious vanity… feather of lead….. ” This shows that Romeo is extremely confused as the oxymoron show that he isn’t thinking straight and maybe his feelings are perplexing him further.
In a way, this presents Romeo as a hopeless case as he has no idea what he is saying as he is so deeply thrown into a spiral of depression and love. Shakespeare presents Romeo as constantly being upset and at times being a spoil sport. In Act 1 Scene 5, on the way to the Capulet’s party, he explains that he has a “soul of lead” which “stakes [him] to the ground [he] cannot move”. This shows that he is very serious about his love for Rosaline and feels his sadness is not allowing him to have fun, but to grieve and moan. Reluctantly, Romeo agrees to go to the party in the hope that he will find Rosaline.
At the Capulet’s party, Romeo finds another girl, Juliet, and is entranced by her beauty. He asks himself, “Did my heart love till now? ” This line suggests that he is fickle-minded and he begins to wonder whether he did really love Rosaline. His passionate feelings are shown when he says, “she doth teach the torches to burn bright”. This means that in Romeo’s opinion, Juliet’s beauty outshined the torches lighting the hallway. She inspired the fire and the torches to burn brighter. She has the power to illuminate all things around her with her burning beauty.
Also the alliteration of the harsh ‘b’ in ‘burning bright’ and the soft ‘t’ in ‘teach the torches’ gives a sense of random emotion from Romeo who is trying to work out his feelings for Juliet. Shakespeare presents Romeo as a more realistic character with his description of feelings seeming more honest. An example would be “the measure of thy joy be heap’d like mine. ” In Act 1 Scene 5, Romeo’s language becomes more sincere and more positive. Romeo and Juliet’s first conversation is in sonnet form to show how well the couple understand each other.
This is the use of iambic pentameter – a traditional meter for love poetry sounds like a heartbeat. This is clear as their language slots perfectly together and they immediately match each other’s rhymes and rhythms, thus creating a connection, isolating the love around them. Up till now, Romeo’s poetry has been cliched and poor so this sonnet provides a real contrast and changes the audience’s thoughts on Romeo, showing that Romeo has genuinely developed and matured as a character over the course of the play.
This also shows that Romeo had an immature attitude towards his relationship with Rosaline, thus making his relationship with Juliet seem more powerful in comparison. Also, it could be said that Romeo never properly loved Rosaline and he is simply a “young waverer” who falls in love too easily. Shakespeare also presents Romeo as being a true love by using religious imagery in Act 1 Scene 5 and in Act 2 Scene 2 as Romeo and Juliet’s conversations are constantly mentioning angels, saints and gods. These images show that their love is pure and innocent and possibly even approved by God.
An example would be “my lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand. On the other hand, this can also suggest that their love is out of control and that they don’t just love each other but they in fact worship each other. This use of imagery at the time was very controversial because it was seen as dangerous and sinful to worship anyone except God. Romeo finally is presented as an adventurous and daring character by Shakespeare. He attended the Capulet fancy dress ball, despite being a Montague thus creating suspense. The tension also increases when Romeo says that he ‘had a dream’ that made him afraid to go to the party.
Romeo throughout Act 1 and Act 2 creates tension for the audience and goes out late at night to see Juliet on the balcony in Act 2 Scene 2, unfazed, undeterred and never losing his curiosity. To conclude, Shakespeare presents Romeo in a unique way to the rest of the characters. He gives Romeo different personalities so at times; Romeo is romantic, caring and passionate whereas at other times, he can be funny and intelligent as well as having a dark and violent side. Shakespeare does this using a range on techniques and devices and though impulsive and immature, his idealism and passion make him an extremely likable character.