We are made aware of the feud before we even meet the lovers; it is the very first thing that the Chorus, who is a single person on the stage which Shakespeare and many other play writes used to calm down a disorderly audience and give background information on the play, says: ‘Two households both alike in dignity In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. ‘ Their love is ill-fated from the moment they first meet, at Capulet’s party, because of the dispute that has been going on for generations.
When we first meet Romeo, his father Lord Montague describes Romeo’s melancholic mood, this fits exactly the contemporary ideas of lovesickness in Shakespeare’s time. Lord Montague and Benvolio contrast Romeo”s feelings for Rosaline and how they have changed his personality. We can see that Romeo is not himself as he says: ‘Tut, I have lost myself; I am not here; This is not Romeo, he’s some other where. ‘ The many oxymorons, Romeo uses in his speech are meant to suggest his confused state of mind: ‘Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health, Still-waking sleep,’
Romeo sees Rosaline as the most beautiful woman on earth he matches her beauty to those of saints: ‘When the devout religion of mine eye Maintains such falsehood, then turn tears to fire! ‘ It seems that Romeo is only in love with the idea of being in love. On our first meeting with Juliet her mother is calling her. She replies to her mother in a formal way: ‘Madam, I am here. What is your will? ‘ She is modest, quiet and beautiful. Since she is from a powerful Verona family she is well dressed. When Lady Capulet suggests that the County Paris would make a good husband, Juliet responds: 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. ‘ In the times when the play was written it was normal for parents to arrange who their daughter would marry. When Romeo sees Juliet for the first time his extravagant declarations of love for Rosaline vanish in a second. He now speaks with tenderness and plainness: ‘Beauty to rich for use, for earth to dear! So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows, As yonder lady o’er her fellows shows. ‘ In the last line of his speech, ‘Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night. ‘ What Romeo says, is that what he said earlier in the play was silly and wrong. Ironically, when Benvolio was persuading Romeo to go to the party he told him he would soon forget Rosaline and this is just what happened. Romeo anticipates the line of approach he will take during the dance by saying that her touch will ‘bless’ his hand. It was believed at this time that true love always struck at first sight; love that grew gradually was no love at all. ‘This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this: My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand’
This is a quick-witted bout of flirtation in which both sides are equally smitten, as is made clear by what follows, but in which Juliet plays the proper young girl”s role of cutting up Romeo”s ‘lines’ as fast as he can think them up. ‘Saints do not move, but grant for prayers’ sake. ‘ ‘Then have my lips the sin that they have took. ‘ and ‘You kiss by the book. ‘ This shows Juliet to be much wittier than a typical 13 year old girl. This flirtatious fourteen-line passage is actually a sonnet; it was popular in the sixteenth century and generally regarded as the proper means for love poetry.
Juliet manages to tease Romeo slightly in the earnest gesture of the devotion that they declare: ‘For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,’ and ‘Ay, pilgrim, lips that they use in prayer. ‘ Juliet is encouraging Romeo to kiss her in a subtle way. She takes early charge of the relationship. Romeo”s love for Juliet is unmistakably passionate, which an Elizabethan audience would have loved. He uses a lot of effective imagery. For example the image of the sun: ‘It is the east, and Juliet the sun! Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,’
Romeo is putting Juliet on a higher pedestal, saying she is a higher being, he is also referring to the brightness of her beauty, and that she brings light into his world of darkness. In calling for the triumph of the sun over the moon, Romeo is hoping she will not remain a virgin much longer. Women who prolonged their virginity excessively were thought to suffer from “green-sickness,” a problem that could only be cured by healthy lovemaking. The entire opening soliloquy to this scene is devoted to Romeo”s fevered desire that Juliet will make love with him.
Despite his passion, he is shy enough, and polite enough, not to simply burst in upon her. It is the tension between his overwhelming desire and his reserve that shows how much he truly loves her. The comparison of a woman”s eyes to bright stars was a usual thing, but Romeo elaborates it in a dazzling series of lines dwelling on the brightness of Juliet”s beauty: ‘The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars As daylight doth a lamp. Her eyes in heaven’ Romeo is impetuous, impulsive and has his head in the clouds; he uses phrases of elaborate description.
Whereas Juliet is down-to-earth, practical, natural and spontaneous by her speech we can tell that it is her first experience of love and that she is young and because of the language she uses that Romeo excites her. It is Juliet who is thinking through the consequences of their love more systematically and practically than is Romeo. She almost immediately speaks of the death that threatens him: ‘And the place of death, considering who thou art, If any of my kinsmen find thee here’ Romeo replies that love cannot be held out by ‘stony limits’. Romeo believes that love has directed him to Juliet.
From the beginning their dialogue is riddled with reference to death. This is dramatically ironic because the chorus already told the audience that they will die because of their love. When Romeo says: ‘Alack, there lies more peril in thine eyes; And thou but love me, let them find me here’ He is using conventional and courtly language, which goes back centuries. Juliet”s long speech makes clear that she is still an honourable young woman who wishes her love had not been so promptly revealed; but now that it has been, she does not intend to look backward.
She indirectly refers that Jove laughs at the oaths of lovers. Just as Romeo had scorned the moon for its virginity, Juliet rejects it as too variable: ‘O swear not by the moon, th’ inconstant moon, That monthly changes in her circled orb, Lest that thy love prove likewise variable. ‘ Juliet is honest. She feels that she has been too easily won by Romeo: ‘Or if thou think’st I am too quickly won, I’ll frown and be perverse and say thee nay, So thou wilt woo; but else, not for the world. ‘ Again Juliet allows herself to flirt with oath in calling Romeo her God. Romeo insists that he will love Juliet faithfully.
Having proclaimed her love once, the basis of Juliet”s expression is unstopped, and she becomes the dominant figure in the rest of the scene. This young pair know very little about each other except that they are extremely attractive and witty. Juliet’s has split moods in this scene one is lead by her head and one by her heart. Her head is her practical side; her heart is spontaneous and excited. Falconry was a popular sport in Elizabethan England. Juliet is comparing Romeo to a falcon, and what she would like is for Romeo to be her falcon, she likes the idea of being able to call him back to her hand whenever she needs him: Hist! Romeo, hist! O for a falconer’s voice, To lure this tassel-gentle back again! ‘ When Romeo asked the Friar to marry Juliet and himself, the Friar agreed only because he is hoping that the marriage of Romeo and Juliet will put an end to feud between the houses of Montague and Capulet. From the text we can tell that Friar Laurence is Romeo’s confident, a father-figure. Children in the 14th/15th Centuries who had important parents didn’t have the same relationship as children today have with their parents. This is why Juliet confides in her nurse and Romeo in Friar Laurence.
The last line in Act two Scene one, Friar Laurence is saying to Romeo that he should take it slow because those that go to fast will ‘stumble’ later on: ‘Wisely and slow: they stumble that run fast. ‘ In the marriage scene it is Friar Laurence who is thinking ahead, he says: ‘So smile the heavens upon this holy act, That after hours with sorrow chide us not! ‘ Romeo, lives only in the present, and says so: ‘Amen, amen! But come what sorrow can, It cannot countervail the exchange of joy That one short minute gives me in her sight. ‘ In his view, the joy of a minute with Juliet will be greater than all the possible sorrow of any later hours.
Romeo adds that he is ready to face the greatest sorrow of all: ‘Do thou but close our hands with holy words, Then love-devouring death do what he dare; It is enough I may but call her mine. ‘ These exulting words foreshadow what actually happens; ‘love-devouring death’ makes its first appearance shortly after the wedding. The Friar understands that Romeo thinks love will make him bullet-proof, and tries to talk some sense into him: ‘These violent delights have violent ends And in their triumph die, like fire and powder, Which as they kiss consume. ‘
On their wedding night Friar Laurence anticipates that they will ‘consume’ each other consummate their marriage. Just like the nurse anticipates for Juliet. The Friar says that the ecstasies of love can”t last forever. ‘The sweetest honey Is loathsome in his own deliciousness, And in the taste confounds the appetite”:’ In other words, too much honey can ruin its taste. The Friar concludes his little talk by advising Romeo to ‘love moderately’ as, ‘Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow’. Juliet reveals her innermost feelings in her soliloquy. She is apprehensive and excited: she makes a reference to the classical god Phoebus Apollo: Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds, Towards Phoebus’ lodging; such a waggoner. ‘ Juliet uses a lot of phrases that make her seem impatient like, ‘Gallop’, ‘leap’ and ‘fiery-footed steeds’. Juliet is nervous about what is going to happen when Romeo arrives. She extends the falcon image: ‘Hood my unmann’d blood, bating in my cheeks, With thy black mantle; till strange love, grown bold,’ She gives the impression that she is worried about her body and that she will not fulfil Romeo’s needs. The repetitive use of the word ‘come’ refers to her impatience for Romeo to arrive quickly to her.
Most of the soliloquy is of a sexual nature but some of it is not, for example: ‘Give me my Romeo. And when I shall die Take him and cut him out in little stars, And he will make the faces of heaven so fine That all the world will be in love with night,’ This is extremely romantic. It also refers to death. When the nurse tells Juliet that Romeo has killed Tybalt, Juliet uses oxymorons, these show that she is confused, ‘beautiful tyrant’ and ‘fiend angelical’. However, when the nurse starts to criticise Romeo, Juliet cuts off the nurse and defends him, ‘Blister’d be thy tongue’.
Juliet implies that banishment is worse than death. She seems more mature and her practical side is seen especially when she says: ‘My husband lives, that Tybalt would have slain; And Tybalt’s dead, that would have slain my husband:’ Romeo uses direct and romantic speech that shows his sincere and loving feelings; ‘It was the lark, the herald of the morn, No nightingale. Look, love, what envious streaks Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east. Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops. I must be gone and live, or stay and die. This shows that he is mature; much more than Juliet earlier in the play. Their mature dreamy roles are swapped. Romeo reassures Juliet that they will be together again: ‘I doubt it not; and all these woes shall serve For sweet discourses in our time to come. ‘ Juliet’s reply to this phrase is: ‘O God! I have an ill-divining soul: Methinks I see thee, now art so low, As one dead in the bottom of a tomb: Either my eyesight fails, or thou look’st pale. ‘ This is dramatic irony because when Juliet wakes up from the potion she does see Romeo on the floor of the tomb.
Juliet seeks the help of Friar Laurence because she has been abandoned by her parents and her nurse, the one person she is closest to, except for Romeo but it seems that he too has deserted her. She feels suicidal when she talks to Friar Laurence; she would rather die than marry the County Paris. When Friar Laurence suggests that she takes the potion she appears to be relieved. Though out the scene she is very courageous. The soliloquy dwells on her fear of the vault; it enlarges what she had already said to Friar Laurence. The speech confirms that the vault is connected with the catastrophic climax of the play.
She is determined to kill her self in the potion does not put her in a slight coma: ‘What if this mixture do not work at all? Shall I be married than tomorrow morning? No, no; this shall forbid it: lie thou there. ‘ She fears it could be poison and she then contradicts that statement in the next one. She feels that she may go mad in the tomb if Romeo is not there when she wakes, the horror of these images make her go mad. In the end she takes the potion for Romeo’s sake: ‘Romeo, Romeo, Romeo! Here’s drink – I drink to thee! ‘ Romeo’s speech before taking the poison is direct and simple poetry. He is still referring to Juliet as ‘light’.
In the speech Romeo personifies death and accuses death of trying to keep Juliet beautiful so that death can use her for his pleasure: ‘That unsubstantial death is amorous, And that the lean abhorred monster keeps Thee here in the dark to be his paramour? ‘ He uses grotesque metaphors and similes. He appears to be preparing himself for death. ‘A dateless bargain to engrossing death! ‘ He is trying to prolong the moment. His love for Juliet is obvious at this point in the play; he drinks the poison for Juliet, ‘Here’s to my love! ‘ all he wants is to be with Juliet and if they can’t be together in life then the must be in death.
As a result of the lovers’ deaths the families are brought together. Prince Escalus makes sure that the blame is shared; he makes that very clear: ‘Where be these enemies? â€“ Capulet! Montague! See what a scourge is laid upon your hate, That heaven finds means to kill your joys with love; And I, for winking at your discords too, Have lost a brace of kinsmen. All are punished. ‘ The prince is also blaming himself; he knows that all had a part to play is Romeo and Juliet’s deaths, and this is why it is such a tragic ending which is written in a very expert way.