Romeo and Juliet, the play in which the ‘star crossed lovers’ are willing to give their lives to be together. In my essay I will concentrate on and analyse the way that Shakespeare puts conflict across with the techniques and the language he has used.
The play is opened by a prologue which is written in prose the prologue is very hard-hitting and informative, ‘two households’ lets the audience know that the play is based on two different families or clans.
‘In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, from ancient grudge break to new mutiny.’ This is telling us that the play is set in Verona and that there has been a grudge between these families for years on end. ‘A Pair of star-crossed lovers take their life’ lets us know that there will be a death (suicide) in the play most probably to do with the conflict and friction between the families. The prologue lets the audience know what is in store and notifies of the awful consequences in the play.
In the opening scenes minor characters from the Capulet household, Gregory and Sampson, are walking through the street of ‘fair Verona’ armed with swords and bucklers. Their conversation is clearly agitated and aimed towards the Montague family. Sampson says, ‘A dog of the house of Montague moves me’ and Gregory replies ‘to move is to stir; and to be valiant is to stand: therefore, if thou art moved, thou runn’st away.’ When minor characters from the Montague family, Abraham and Balthasar, cross their path Gregory says ‘I will frown as I pass by’ by saying this he is provoking an argument or fight.
Sampson adds ‘I will bite my thumb at them’; a very rude gesture and guaranteed to start a fight.
The characters quarrel and after a short while begin to fight. As they do so Benvolio enters. He is inquiring about the fight and Tybalt enters. Straight away Tybalt finds this as a great opportunity to fight with Benvolio. Several members of each family enter as they fight and citizens follow carrying clubs. There is a great fight involving the citizens and the two households. The prince interrupts the civil war and very sternly while speaking in poetry, commonly used for characters with higher status, warns the houses that if they ‘ever disturb the streets again’ their lives will ‘forfeit the peace’. In the effort to calm the houses’ constant arguing and scare them with the threat of killing them if they cause another civil war.
Act three, scene one opens with Benvolio trying to persuade Mercutio to stay outside; he is aware that a fight may start. There is very strong hatred and conflict between the Montague and Capulet families: ‘Lets retire…we meet we shall not scape a brawl’ this shows that Benvolio is again a peacemaker and is acknowledging the prince’s earlier words, By this you can tell that Benvolio is a peacemaker. Shakespeare presents a contrast to the character of the peacemaker in the characters Mercutio and Tybalt. These are shown to be people that do not respect authority and are keen to fight. They antagonise and provoke each other. ‘…A word with one of you’ Tybalt says and Mercutio replies, ‘…make it a word and a blow’ this extract alone highlights that they provoke each other totally disregarding the Princes warning and are willing to die for the single chance to fight with each other.
The audience would be reminded of a previous fight scene by this extract. This would create tension and excitement throughout the audience. Today’s audience wouldn’t think too much of these fight scenes as they are without special effects. In Shakespeare’s time the actors would be skilled swordsmen and the audience would appreciate the choreography of the swordsmen and would have been in awe of the skill and art of the people on stage. The other characters would have been on either side building up tension by cheering on the fights and getting themselves aggressive.
The words and the form in which they are spoken that Shakespeare has chosen for the characters to speak can show their social class. Tybalt calls Romeo a villain and in the time of Shakespeare this was a terrible insult to a person born into a family of noble status as it means you are referring to them as a peasant/common man. Romeo replies to this ‘villain I am none.’ He is obviously offended by this and is trying to set Tybalt right. The way they are talking to each other is again provoking fights and annoying one and other Tybalt also calls Romeo ‘my man’ and saying this he is implying Romeo is a servant and that is when Mercutio says he wont wear Tybalt’s livery, livery being the clothes of a servant. There for reacting with the comments made earlier.