Romeo and Juliet is widely regarded as William Shakespeare’s greatest piece of writing; one of the greatest tragedies ever written. It is a tragic love story, a story of love and hate. While there is a blooming love between the main protagonists of the play, Romeo and Juliet respectively, there is hate between the families of the two, the Capulet and Montague. One of the key ways that Romeo and Juliet became a classic is because it is dramatically effective.
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One of the key scenes of the play, Act 1 Scene 5 is a strong example of a scene that is dramatically effective. Also, coming into the scene there are expectations – Juliet will judge Paris; Romeo will try to cheer up and find Rosaline. To better look at the intricacies of the scene, a deeper analysis is done below.
At the start of Act 1 Scene 5 Capulet gives a rousing welcome to those who come to his party. He states with enthusiasm, “Welcome, gentlemen! Ladies that have their toes unplagued with corns will walk a bout with you.
Ah, my mistresses, which of you all will now deny to dance? She that makes dainty, she I’ll swear hath corns. Am I come near ye now? Welcome, gentlemen! I have seen the day that I have worn a visor and could tell a whispering tale in a fair lady’s ear, such as would please; ‘tis gone, ‘tis gone; ‘tis gone. You are welcome, gentlemen. Come, musicians, play.” The fact that Capulet welcomes the gentlemen three times in all shows Shakespeare’s use of repetition to emphasise the feeling of welcoming, and the associated feelings of being jovial and happy. This is particularly effective as it is in stark contrast to the start of the play which was marred by fighting. Rather, Shakespeare uses this dialogue to create a mood which differs from following scenes, and use strong literary techniques to create a dramatically effective scene.
Following Capulet’s rousing welcoming is Romeo’s speech upon seeing Juliet. In this speech Shakespeare uses a series of grand, romantic statements to clearly build an image of Romeo’s love for Juliet in the audience’s mind. With lines like “As a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear – beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear: So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows…” there is a marked difference in tone to other characters words, like the words of Capulet’s former speech. By distinguishing speeches by tone Shakespeare manages to effectively convey a different mood in each speech. This helps build the atmosphere, which is key in creating a dramatically effective scene. Furthermore, this scene is in parallel to the following lines, which creates tension to add to the drama, further helping the scene be dramatically effective.
Continuing on from Romeo’s grand, romantic speech about Juliet is Tybalt’s sharp words about Romeo, and Capulet’s reaction to Tybalt’s anger. This tense, dramatic scene is in stark contrast to the previous lines by Capulet and Romeo, which serves to increase the importance of the lines as they have different qualities as opposed to the other lines. When Tybalt states “This, by his voice, should be a Montague. Fetch me my rapier, boy…” he intends to use force to remove Romeo without regard for the disruption he could cause.
Furthermore, his vicious tendencies continue when he states “What dares the slavecome hither, covered with an antic face, to fear and scorn at our solemnity? Now by the stock and honour of my kin, to strike him dead I hold it not a sin.” This has a dramatic effective as the audience is confronted with Tybalt’s lack of regard for Romeo’s life, which dampens the mood and contrasts with the other parts of the scene. Also, the way that Shakespeare uses a commoner’s rough language is in direct opposition with his elevated form of speaking in the dialogue between Romeo and Juliet. This contrast effectively conveys the mood of the scene and builds the atmosphere subtly, yet strongly. When Capulet strongly rebukes Tybalt with the words “I would not for the wealth of this town here in my house do him disparagement; therefore be patient, take no note of him…”, the audience see the beginning of a strongly worded conversation, which helps to add an edge to what had been a merry scene up to that point. This edge helps make the scene dramatic.
Next is the meeting between Romeo and Juliet where they speak to each other for the first time. This event is the culmination of Romeo’s speeches and actions in the scene, and so makes the audience feel as if something dramatic is happening. Also, Shakespeare uses a sonnet in this dialogue with rhyming, specifically iambic pentameter, to strongly contrast with the prose of the previous scene involving Tybalt. This gives the audience a subtle hint that the nature of the scene is different, fuelling their expectations and building the atmosphere effectively.
An example of the powerful, romantic language used is found in Romeo’s statement – “ If I profane with my unworthiest hand this holy shrine, the gentle sin is this, my lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.” Apart from being a powerful statement of Romeo’s love, key to the statement is the level upon which Juliet is placed. Religious references are used to compare Juliet to the pleasantries of religion, seemingly elevating Juliet almost out of the mortal world in Romeo’s eyes. Furthermore, his deference to Juliet in describing his own unworthiness serves to highlight what can be seen as Romeo’s insecurity in his own person. This serves to build the tension for Juliet’s reply by elevating Juliet and lowering Romeo’s status so that there is a divide between them.
With the suspense built for Juliet’s response, Shakespeare delivers a response that serves to quench the audience’s wish to resolve the tension. When Juliet states “Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much, which mannerly devotion shows in this, for saints have hands that pilgrims hands do touch, and palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss” she shows her kind feelings toward Romeo. Firstly, she reassures Romeo that he is not so unworthy as he might have believed. She then continues praising Romeo, complimenting his ‘mannerly devotion’. This sequence ends climatically, the way many dramatically moments do, with Juliet and Romeo being seen in love. This is shown in the dialogue between Romeo and Juliet:
“Thus from my lips, by thine, my sin is purged…” states Romeo emphatically before they kiss. “Then have my lips the sin that they have took,” replies Juliet. “Sin from my lips? O trespass sweetly urged! Give me my sin again!” says Romeo before they kiss again. “You kiss by th’book.”
This dialogue sends the message to the audience that Romeo and Juliet are in love, which serves to add to the cliff-hanger that Shakespeare presents later in the scene’s end. Furthermore, this dialogue serves as a subtle hint that the love Romeo expressed for Rosaline earlier was not as genuine as his love for Juliet. This aids in the drama presented.
Following the crucial declaration of love between Romeo and Juliet, the duo is separated due to Juliet having to be with her mother. Both wish to know the identity of the other, and so strive to find out. The reason this is dramatic is because of the reactions of the duo and also the way the tension is built up gradually through the scene to add to the atmosphere. Romeo is seen in sorrow when he states “Is she a Capulet? O dear account! My life is my foe’s debt.” This statement shows the audience Romeo’s regret over the families hatred of one another, which nicely coincides with the theme of love expressed only lines ago. To back this up is Juliet’s statement of “My only love sprung from my only hate! Too early seen unknown, and known too late! Prodigious birth of love it is to me, that I must love a loathed enemy.” This statement uses strong language like ‘a loathed enemy’ to contrast with profound statements like ‘My only love’. The way the words ‘My only love’ is said shows the audience that Juliet has no eye for Paris and is sad that her lover is a Montague. Finally, this ending, while resolving of some issues, acts as a cliff-hanger to draw the audience into the following scenes; a final bit of drama added to a dramatically effective scene.
Act 1 scene 5 is very dramatic due to a variety of reasons. Namely, the mood fluctuates wildly through the scene, between the jovial nature of Capulet to Tybalt’s vicious anger to Romeo’s grand, romantic speech. Also, the use of powerful language with subtle undertones in the build up to and including the conversation between Romeo and Juliet works together to create drama. Next is the way Shakespeare resolves the tension while introducing a cliff-hanger serves as a powerful act of drama to finish off the scene, a scene of love and hate, Shakespeare discusses deep issues with pertinence to human society across the ages, creating a sense of grandeur. Finally, the scene links critically to the rest of the play – without it the play couldn’t work as a whole. The scene sets up the confrontation between Romeo and Tybalt, the love of Romeo and Juliet and other key events. Act 1 scene 5 of Romeo and Juliet is a scene that is dramatically effective.