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    The Tragic History of Romeo and Juliet

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    Шt is not absolutely certain when Shakespeare wrote his play, “Romeo and Juliet,” but it is believed to be between 1591 and 1596. This may well be one of Shakespeare’s most famous romantic tragedies. It is renowned all over the world for the “pair of star crossed lovers” that unfortunately met an unfortunate and tragic death. Shakespeare got his inspiration for this play from two earlier writings that followed the same theme. These were “The tragical history of Romeus and Juliet” which was written around 1562 in the form of a long poem, by the writer Arthur Brooke.

    This “long poem” lasted a staggering 3 hours and was read to the audience, not performed. The second writer he could have got his inspiration from is William Painter who wrote “the goodly history of Rhomeo and Julietta” in 1567 in the form of a short story. It must be noted that Shakespeare didn’t merle copy these two writers and pass the piece on as his own work. Shakespeare had to put a lot of work into Romeo and Juliet, as these works were no masterpiece even though they did inspire Shakespeare to write this marvellous play.

    We know from previous scenes that Juliet is a 14 year old girl (at the normal age to be wed in Elizabethan times) and we get the impression she has a better choice to whom she is going to be married to, than other women of that time. She has been offered a hand in marriage to the noble man Paris but Juliet’s father (Old Capulet) does not make it certain at least at first that Juliet will marry Paris even though he is very suitable (he gives us the impression that he is leaving Juliet to make her own decision). First he says to Paris “My child is yet a stranger in the world, she hath not seen the change of fourteen years; let two more summers wither in their pride ere may think her ripe to be a bride.” He also says that it is not only his decision it is also Juliet’s and he must woo her to get her consent! “…woo her, gentle Paris, get her heart, My will to her consent is but a part; And she agreed, within her scope of choice lies my consent and fair according voice”

    Juliet is not interested in Paris though, and at the party, that Old Capulet holds that night she has her eyes on someone else, the fair Romeo! She acts most unlike a lady at the party, flirting and fraternising on her own and unsupervised. She also kisses him and not only once, but twice. The second time she herself asks for the kiss by saying “give me the sin again”.

    Old Capulet is Juliet’s father, Juliet unfortunately is now his only child, he had more children but they died “earth hath swallowed all my hopes but she”. Because she is his only child he is reluctant to lose her to marriage, but if she finds Paris suitable he will consent to marriage, so it is also Juliet’s choice, which is strange at that time.

    He is a kind man giving thought to the princess talks of peace with the Montague family. In act 1 scene 5 Old Capulet stops Tylbalt in engaging in a fight with Romeo at the banquet. This is most likely because he didn’t want fighting to spoil his banquet, but it could be argued that he was doing out of wisdom and that he took the princes words to heart that morning and wanted to stop the fighting between the two families.

    Lady Capulet however uses very extravagant language showing her upper class status in society, yet she does not really have a very good relationship with Juliet and needs the nurse at many important stages throughout the play. This is shown when she is talking to her about marriage to Paris in act1 scene 3. She first asks the nurse to leave them alone “Nurse give us leave awhile. We must talk in secret” and then realises she needs the nurse there because she doesn’t know how to speak to her daughter. She immediately re-calls the nurse for help “Nurse, come back again, I have remembered me, thou’s hear our counsel.”

    We also know that Lady Capulet seems to over-react to situations either that people disagree with her about or that she does not control. This maybe due to the death of Tybalt but other examples in the play can be found.

    From what we know of Old Capulet we expect him to be more understanding in act 3 scene5 and let Juliet make her own choice about whom she is going to marry. He would be upset about it because he gave his word to Paris that morning that Juliet would marry him, so he would lose face in front of Paris if he turns round and tells him no. An Audience of Elizabethan times would find this strange though (the father/ master of the household letting his child make her own decision about who she is going to be wed to), and they would probably expect him to get angry like he does in act scene 5 because Juliet is defying him. But they wouldn’t expect him to go as throwing her out on the street like he does.

    We expect from previous scenes Lady Capulet to get very upset and not understand why her daughter is defying her. We may even expect that she will blame the nurse for this behaviour because she was meant to be looking after her, and generally to over react about the whole situation.

    Juliet will be very upset about Romeo leaving her and will want to go with him, but she can not. She will also be very upset and maybe angry when the marriage to Paris is proposed because she has just lost her husband that she has only been married to for a day and will also be in morning for her cousin Tybalt.

    In act 3 scene 5 Capulet uses very strong language to threaten and insult Juliet; he made such comments as, “Hang thee, young baggage, disobedient wretch!” Capulets strong language in this scene shows the Audience superiority over Juliet. From lines 126-137 (when he enters talking about his brother) his speech would make the audience feel sad for his brothers loss of his son and sad for Old Capulet for the loss of his nephew. In lines 149-168 the audience would feel angry and shocked towards Juliet for defying her father and the master of the house. They may also feel shock at the strong language Capulet is using against her “Hang thee, young baggage, disbedient wretch!” and they might feel shocked from the comment that he is going to hit Juliet; “My fingers itch”. From lines 160-till the end the audience would feel scared about what is going to happen to Juliet, if she is really going to be chucked out on the street. But they would still sympathise with Old Capulet for her defiance will bring shame to him and the family.

    Juliet’s whole speech with Romeo at the beginning of the play would make the audience feel sad for her loosing her newly found love and husband; “I must hear from thee everyday in the hour, for in a minute there are many days” and “O, by this count I shall be much in years Ere I again behold my Romeo.” Juliet’s double entendre speech would amuse and intrigue the audience, while also making them feel weary that she will be found out. This double meaning adds a bit more dramatic irony and excitement to this part of the play as the audience know Juliet is talking of her love for Romeo, whereas her mother thinks that she is speaking of Romeo in a disapproving manner. This is the main part of Juliet’s and Lady Capulet�s speeches in those lines which shows the double meanings clearly, Lady Capulet says “That is because the traitor murderer lives.”

    Juliet replies with, “Ay, madam, from the reach of these my hands”.

    From lines 116-204 the audience would shocked about her defying her mother and father like that and talking back to them. Near the end to those lines they would also be scared of what is going to happen to her, she talks of killing herself. At the end of the scene the audience would be even more shocked that Juliet is still defying her parents after they threatened to banish her. She is still trying to find out a way to stop the marriage and asks the nurse for help, but she will have none of it.

    Lady Capulet does not say much during this scene, but when she talks of getting revenge and killing Romeo, I think the audience will not agree with her feelings because her nephew killed first and Romeo was only acting in revenge. When Lady Capulet talks about marriage to Paris though the audience will have mixed feelings and will be asking themselves questions like; how could Juliet re-marry? Will she keep quiet about Romeo? Will she comply with her mother’s wishes? And they will have feelings of happiness for a suitor.

    Although the nurse had looked after Juliet for so many years, and the relationship they shared after years of being together, drama is created in the play when the nurse has a change of heart towards Juliet, and with her plain ‘black and white� look on life. Through this scene, the nurse rapidly changes her mind of Juliet’s marriage with Romeo, and urges her to marry count Paris, as this would please her parents and stop any trouble from brewing. This is shown when the nurse says, “I think it best you married with the county. O, he’s a lovely gentleman! Romeo’s a dishclout to him. An eagle, madam, Hath not so green, so quick, so fair an eye as Paris hath.”

    Dramatic irony is also used in this scene when Old Capulet tells Juliet she has to comply to marry Paris and go willingly or else she will be dragged on a hurdle to the church. “But fettle your fine joints ‘gainst Thursday next, To go with Paris to saint Peter’s Church or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither.” This is ironic because the audience knows that Juliet is already married and the marriage had been consummated not long ago that morning. So there is no possible way that Juliet could marry the count Paris because she is already married, and divorces aren’t permitted in those days.

    A director may intensify the Audience’s feelings in this scene by having a soft orchestra playing in the back round with single not symphonies and suspending notes.

    If it was being done in a modern film version you could have close up views of Old Capulet’s face and the anger in it, you could also do the same with Juliet showing the fear in her face. There could also be heavy rainfall outside while they are shouting, but that is not likely to happen in Italy at that time of year. There could also be point of view shots, through the eyes of the characters, such as the nurse, Juliet or even Old Capulet while grabbing Juliet and cursing her to try and persuade her to marry Paris.

    An Elizabethan audience would have shocked at Juliet defying her father and talking back to him, those things wouldn’t happen in those days. They may well fell scared at what she is going to do if she if chucked out of the house, and they might feel anger towards her for defying her father.

    A modern audience on the other hand would take a totally different view to the situation. They would feel anger towards Old Capulet for cursing Juliet and not being with the person she loved, they would also think very dimly of an arranged marriage that involves no love in it. The audience might feel that Juliet’s father has betrayed her by going back on his word that she also has consent to whom she is going to marry it is not just up to him.

    My conclusion is that this scene is full of mixed feelings and emotions and an audience of the Elizabethan time would be left feeling shocked at Juliet’s behaviour and feeling her parent did right to threaten her into marrying Paris. While a modern day audience would feel that Juliet did hardly anything wrong and that her parents are to blame for over reacting and treating her apaulingly.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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