And consider how Shakespeare Manages to Present a Love Affair

It is the techniques which Shakespeare uses in the vital scenes when Romeo and Juliet are together that help to make one of the most famous true love stories ever. If the audience questions the love of Romeo and Juliet at any time, the power of emotion in the events of the play can be easily lost. Their love is proved by how many risks and sacrifices they are willing to take in order to be together. Shakespeare has to make the audience believe that two people can fall in love in seconds without even talking to each other.I think it would have been more believable in the sixteenth century, when it was written, because people fell in love carelessly, not for a person’s soul or good nature but for their high class or wealth. This would have made Romeo and Juliet’s love more believable as true love to a sixteenth century audience because they are undeterred by each other’s family past. Today, people may question how Romeo and Juliet could fall in love, marry and die in less than a week or in the “two hours traffic of our stage”. Nevertheless a modern audience can still be hit with all the power of an emotional and believable true love story.Throughout the play there is the theme of fate, that Romeo and Juliet have no control over their lives. This is mainly created by the prologue, which sets out the tragic ending before the play even begins, “A pair of star crossed lovers take their lives”. Although the audience knows the ending, this doesn’t make the play entirely predictable. They still don’t know how they come to meet their deaths. As the events unfold they know, through dramatic irony, that inevitably Romeo and Juliet won’t be able to change their fate that was set out in the prologue. This theme of fate and the characters “…death- marked love…” creates the hero and heroine of the play, giving them the audience’s sympathy because all their efforts to live ‘happily ever after’ are in vain. The audience feels sorry for the main characters thus making their love more powerful because it is their love that inevitably leads to their deaths.Romeo and Juliet’s brief love affair begins in Act 1 Scene 5 at a party at the Capulets’ house. Romeo is present and disguised in a mask with some of his Montague friends. He has begun the play as a depressed character because he claims love for Rosaline but she doesn’t love him back. This is Romeo and Juliet’s first meeting and therefore very important in making their love believable. Romeo sees Juliet first and instantly expresses amazement of her beauty, saying “O she doth teach the torches to burn bright” and “So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows.”This is an example of Romeo complementing Juliet on her uniquie beauty; saying not only how she is more beautiful than any one else at the party but also how she makes any other beauty, notably Rosaline, seem ugly. If the audience believes Romeo is sincere in his compliments of Juliet, then they will believe Romeo falls in love with Juliet at first sight, a fairy tale characteristic of true love. However, at this point in the play, there are reasons that Romeo’s love for Juliet can be doubted. For example, there is the fact that Romeo was in love with Rosaline in previous scenes insisting that she is “so rich in beauty” that he could not be made to forget her. Therefore Romeo’s fickle and exaggerated attitude to love makes it less believable to the audience that Romeo can fall in love with Juliet so soon after being in love with Rosaline:”…Did my heart love till now?Forswear it sight, I never saw true beauty till this night.”This exaggerated romantic characteristic that Romeo possesses can make the audience think that Romeo is less in love with Juliet and more in love with the romance and excitement of love itself.Something that is very important in how an audience believes in the true love of Romeo and Juliet is how well the play is performed. If the two lead roles are acted well, creating chemistry, then the audience are more likely believe in the reality of their situation on stage, and their love becomes true love. The performance of the play is particularly important in Act 1 Scene 5 as the setting of the play is a crowded party with music and every one in disguises. The scene should be well directed so that the audience’s attention is not taken away from Romeo and Juliet.This is their first scene together, when they fall in love, and must be highlighted as something special. Their love should be so powerful and emotive that the audience are convinced that their love is real. This may also be accomplished perhaps by adding soft romantic music in the background or by the use of follow spots to focus the attention of the audience on the lovers’ first conversation of the play whichis a sonnet (lines 93-106). The sonnet perfectly captures the awkwardness yet irresistibility of the moment. This is a moment in the play where Shakespeare’s eternal talents as a writer can put true love into words. The central image of the sonnet is of a pilgrim worshipping at a shrine, the unworthy pilgrim being Romeo at the shrine of Juliet.Romeo: “My lips two blushing pilgrims ready standTo smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss”Juliet: “… You do wrong your hand too much…For saints have hands that pilgrims hands do touchAnd palm to palm is holy palmers kiss.”Romeo’s romantic request for a kiss is wittily replied to by Juliet; a 21st century audience would see this as flirting. As they end their sonnet with that essential kiss, Romeo claims that he must take back his sin: “Give me my sin again.” It is ironic that their love is described using words like “pure” and “holy” when eventually it is their love that causes their death. At this point, the Nurse interrupts Romeo and Juliet. It had to be the Nurse who found them because any one else would have caused a fight, Tybalt or Paris for example. Their first meeting is brief yet it is the beginning of a love that brings them both so much happiness and at the same timee so much grief. This contrast is another theme of the play: “…loving hate…”Once separated, Romeo and Juliet learn of each other’s family background. Romeo says, “…my life is my foes debt.” To express his disappointment, Juliet states, “My only love sprung from my only hate.” Neither character doubts their love and are not upset that they cannot be together. They just feel that it is going to be more difficult for them. The fact that not only do they vow to pursue their love but also that they have no second thoughts suggests that their love for each other is out of their control: a “Prodigious birth of love” and therefore true love.The magic created by the astonishment of Romeo at the first sight of Juliet, the convincing way the play is performed, the classic Shakespearean language and the characters being undeterred by their family’s names make the audience believe in the love from the beginning.The lovers next meet in Act 2 Scene 2, made famous by poetry such as “Romeo, Romeo wherefore art thou Romeo?” and “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The scene begins with Juliet confessing her love for Romeo, not knowing that Romeo is listening, hiding in the orchard:”Deny thy Father and refuse thy name.Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”This request contrasts with the attitude of Juliet in earlier scenes when she respected and obeyed her family even saying,” But no more deep will I endart mine eyeThan your consent gives strength to make me fly.”Her readiness in Act 2 Scene 2 to disobey her family for Romeo shows how different her feelings were for Paris. The fact that Juliet is prepared to turn against her family to whom she had been very loyal, shows the immediate effect of meeting Romeo and the sacrifices she is willing to make to be with him.Juliet’s declaration of love to herself is a convenient dramatic device. It speeds up the action as now Romeo knows of Juliet’s love for him and he is free to announce his presence and confess his love for her. This saves the games of courtly love that were usually played at that time:”But thou overheard’st me, ere I was ware,My true love’s passion. Therefore pardon me,And not impute this yielding to light love,Which the dark night hath so discovered.”This contributes to their love affair being brief but doesn’t take away from the emotion of their love. In fact because the characters are honest from the beginning and don’t play “hard to get” or spend time “wooing” each other, the love becomes more mature and therefore more believable. It also makes it different from the love which Romeo and Rosaline shared as that was presented in a childish way with Romeo acting as a man in love was expected to. The uniqueness of Romeo and Juliet’s love makes it true as they are acting irrationally to be together at all costs and not behave in a way that was expected of young people at that time or indeed any time.In this scene there are more associations with fate and heaven. Juliet is given such compliments as, “Two of the fairest stars in all heaven…do entreat her eyes” and “…bright angel…” This has become one of the themes of Romeo and Juliet’s love, that it is something more than what every one else’s idea of love is. Theirs is heavenly and pure. This theme becomes so strong that by the end of the play heaven and fate have taken over and the lives of Romeo and Juliet are taken by it.Again in this scene Romeo exaggerates his feelings of love and romance and uses hyperbole to create dramatic effect, “With loves light wings did I o’er perch these walls…” and when told that he could be killed he replies,”Alack there lies more peril in thine eyeThan twenty of their swords; look thou but sweet,And I am proof against their enmity.”Although an audience of the 16th century would have believed in Romeo’s speech, it makes it more difficult for modern audience as Romeo goes too far. Up to this point in the scene we can be lead into thinking Romeo only wants Juliet for her beauty and isn’t intending to make a commitment. However any scepticism is removed when they decide to marry. Neither character proposes yet they both accept that marriage is their next step. This would surprise a modern audience, but when it was written it would have been obvious for two people in love to do that. The commitment of marriage strengthens their true love.Act 2 Scene 6 is the shortest scene with Romeo and Juliet together. It is one of many short scenes at the end of the play. Scenes like this help to make time seem to move quicker because of fast dialogue which speeds up the events and adds to the dramatic excitement of the play.The quick pace in this short scene and the impatience of the characters creates suspense and tension before the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt. It is Friar Laurance who brings the happy atmosphere down when he reminds the audience of what was said in the prologue: “These violent delights have violent ends…” warning Romeo that extreme emotions often end with violence. This is important in order to reiterate the theme of fate in the play and the fact that it is destined to end tragically.Romeo and Juliet exchange short vows of love in this scene. Romeo makes the ironic comment that after this meeting they will receive happiness:”Unfold the imagined happiness that bothReceive in either by this dear encounter.”This makes the events in the next scene more emotive as Romeo is so happy in this scene and so when he is banished from Verona it is even more tragic. After thier vows they exit to marry. The wedding takes place off stage to add to the secrecy of the event so that no one but the Friar sees the wedding of Romeo and Juliet. It also highlights the fact that the climax of this unique love story is not the wedding.The scenes that take place after Act 2 scene 6 are highly dramatic. Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, kills Mercutio so Romeo kills Tybalt. Romeo is then banished from Verona. Romeo is distraught to learn that he will be separated from Juliet and makes an effort to kill himself only to be stopped by the Friar. This is consistent with Romeo’s extravagant character and shows how much he couldn’t stand to be without his love. Romeo then rushes to see Juliet and they spend that night together as their wedding night.All these events make Monday pass very quickly and after the successive climaxes Shakespeare finally slows the pace down with Act 3 scene 5, the morning of Tuesday. Also these scenes prove Friar Laurences warning “violent delights have violent ends”. This is the last scene when Romeo and Juliet are alive together and so it is heart-breakingly sad for the audience because of the dramatic irony created at the beginning of the play. We are constantly reminded that this will be their last meeting by ironic lines such as:”…All these woes shall serveFor discourses in our times to come.”and”Me thinks I see thee now thou art so low,As one dead in the bottom of a tomb.”Lines like this create frustration that the audience have no control over the play and can’t warn or help the characters. It increases the effect of fate and fortune and reinforces the feelings of sympathy for the characters.In this scene Romeo and Juliet share words of despair at their parting and words of happiness that they ever found each other. They playfully argue about Romeo’s leaving and Juliet claims that, “It was the nightingale, and not the lark”, so day has not begun and so Romeo can stay longer. Romeo replies that he will gladly stay and die as he is “content” and has “more care to stay than will to go”.This shows how happy they are together and Romeo’s offer to die shows his love for Juliet as he feels he could die now whilst he is most happy and not experience the pain of being away from Juliet in Mantua. Juliet’s confession that it was the voice of the “lark” shows her love for Romeo, as she doesn’t want him to die. Everything the couple says to each over is filled with love and passion, creating the sense that they would do anything for each other. It is this feeling that gives the audience no choice but to be captivated in the romance of the play and accept the sincerity and true emotions of the characters.The next time the lovers meet they are less happy. Romeo has returned from Mantua to his Juliet who he thinks is dead but she is only unconscious from a potion made by the Friar and will wake up at any moment. This situation is incredibly frustrating for the audience who know that if only Juliet would wake up sooner then she could save Romeo. Romeo even says, “…is crimson in thy lips … death’s pale flag is not advanced there”, showing that Juliet doesn’t look dead but Romeo still does not realise his mistake. It is the possibility of happiness that shows how successful Shakespeare’s hero and heroine are as characters. The audience become so involved with the lovers’ plight that the credibility of their love is beyond doubt.Romeo’s ultimate sacrifice to be with Juliet in his last speech is expressed through the same heart felt poetic language he has used through out the play only this time he speaks of his love in a sombre tone. Surprisingly Romeo’s last words are about his “…everlasting rest…” in death and not about his love for Juliet. He says:”Thou desperate pilot, now at once run onThe dashing rocks thy sea sick weary bark”Romeo compares his willpower to the pilot and his body to the boat which is being steered onto the rocks of death. He does not die willingly therefore his love for Juliet loses some credibility because he is not content in the knowledge that he will be with Juliet for all eternity.However this would have spoilt the tragic climax of one of the most famous plays ever written. There is an enormous sense of waste in this scene because Romeo dies unnecessarily. It was always Shakespeare’s aim to make the audience feel immense pity for Romeo and his unfortunate end.Seconds after the death of Romeo, Juliet stirs and awakes to find Romeo next to her. In a film adaptation of the play, the director, Baz Luhrman, keeps Romeo alive as Juliet wakes thus indulging in the sense of timing even more so than Shakespeare. The audience is gripped by the realisation that if only Juliet had awoken seconds earlier, she and Romeo would have lived happily ever after. Ofcourse, in superb dramatic style, Shakespeare chose to have Romeo die before Juliet wakes and the climax of the tragedy is reached. It is important that the Friar then enters because has had a part to play as the voice of fate throughout the play.He was so desperate to end the grudge between the Capulets and the Montagues that he encouraged the lovers to be together. Symbolically he leaves Juliet when he hears a noise from outside in order to save himself. Although the films’ version of the ending is more dramatically effective, this part of the play was written to highlight the part of the Friar; if he hadn’t interfered, the ending could have been very different. Ironically, it is the death of Romeo and Juliet that eventually ends the “ancient grudge” and the families of Montague and Capulet are finally reconciled.Although there are few scenes with the lovers together on stage, Shakespeare keeps the audience’s attention on them by making every scene about them; there are no sub-plots. When they are not together, they are planning the next time they will be. Their love seems undeniably true except one flaw which makes me cast doubt on Juliet’s commitment: the fact that she didn’t run away to live with Romeo in Mantua when he was banished. However, I’m thinking from a 21st century point of view and it is possible that when the play was written, no Shakespearean audience would have even considered a young girl running away as women were considered more dependent and weak in the 16th century.There are many reasons why the love of Romeo and Juliet is so believable. They are always grateful and contagiously happy to have each other; they talk poetically to each other in beautiful language which forces the audience to feel the passionate emotions of the play; and they both make sacrifices to be with each other. Juliet betrays her family and gives up the safe and secure life she could have had with Paris and Romeo ironically offers three times to die for Juliet.However, the most conclusive piece of evidence in the play which suggests that Romeo and Juliet truly love each other is that they would rather die than live without each other so they make the ultimate sacrifice. Even though they had only known each other for only four days, their love was to become eternal in death. Their love began from their first meeting and grew into an emotionally volatile relationship which was out of their control. The theme of fate excuses any argument that Romeo and Juliet can’t be in love because they haven’t known each other long enough.Their love is something deeper than that. In fact, I think that the brevity of Romeo and Juliet’s love adds to the excitement and passion of their relationship. In conclusion, this is a play which includes impeccable timing, poetic language, dramatic qualities, heroic characters and an emotive plot so that anyone, with even the most hidden romantic hopes, can’t help but believe in the true passion and “…woe of Juliet and her Romeo.”

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