‘Romeo and Juliet’ – romance or tragedy

‘Romeo and Juliet’ was written by William Shakespeare in 1589. The tragedy and romance of the play has been performed many times in different ways, but is it really a romance or a tragedy?The prologue at the beginning of the play that is spoken by the chorus gives the audience a summarised story line so they know what to expect, “The fearful passage of their death marked love”. From the prologue, the audience will know if it is of a high-quality or an appalling play and if it’s a romance or a tragedy. The prologue in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is written in a sonnet form – this means that the play is going to be about love in one way or another. The audience would recognize this but would also identify that the play being a tragedy by the way “death” is involved in the sonnet.In a typical romance the audience would expect to see two beautiful lovers fall for each other because of destiny and then they should live happily ever after. However ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is not like this, the audience is constantly reminded that they are destined to be with each other but the two different families are pulling them apart. Consequently it gets too much for the “pair of star-crossed lovers” and tragically they are forced to suicide, the audience is frequently reminded with death throughout the play by the technique ‘foreshadowing’.Romeo and Juliet are two lovers that fall in love at first sight. They are both teenagers from two very different families with many family feuds. Juliet being a supposedly responsible daughter to Capulet and Lady Capulet meets with Romeo after Capulets party. It’s here where the two lovers express their love for each other. Juliet declares her love in a short soliloquy at the beginning of Act 2 Scene 2 not knowing that Romeo is listening in “Retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title.” Juliet declares her love for Romeo in spite of his belongings to the hated Montagues.Juliet is carried away with feeling fond of Romeo even though she has only seen him once and she is not supposed to be with any Montague, the audience might also be carried away with the two lovers meeting that they don not realise the consequences of them falling in love apart from listening to the prologue. Romeo is a ladies’ man, he only fights when he needs to, thinks this hatred between Capulet and Montague should and he falls in love very easily. When the audience first meets Romeo he is in love with Rosaline, he is lovesick; he locks himself up, he avoids his friends and he hides underneath trees to cry about Rosaline. As well as being lovesick he is also confused, he is in love with Rosaline but she is not with him; “Out of her favour where I am in love”. This could be described as an oxymoron, as the speech has contradictory terms that do appear in conjunction to each other, in this instance it is ‘love’.When Romeo arrives at the Capulet’s party he immediately set his eyes on Juliet. The first thing he says about Juliet he uses a metaphor “O she doth teach the torches to burn bright!” explaining that she is perfect and that everything lights up when she is around. This is also an example of hyperbole: extravagant and exaggerated language. The audience can now see that he has instantaneously fallen in love with Juliet “ne’er saw true beauty till this night.” Before he came to the party he was in love with Rosaline but his feelings have instantly changed to Juliet “Did my heart love till now?” he uses similes to describe how she stands out “as a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear”. He uses rhyming couplets in describing how perfect Juliet is.As soon as the two lovers’ eyes meet it is love at first sight. The audience knows this when they meet for this first time, their language and how they say it reveals how they feel for each other; the speech said by Romeo and Juliet together is in a sonnet form, this tells the audience that they are discussing love as soon as they meet. This may mean that they are in love. Using sonnets is a typical way in a Shakespearean romance to express how two lovers feel for each other. Sonnet writing was a popular and a highly esteemed activity in Shakespeare’s day and age. In the sonnet when Romeo and Juliet first meet they use religious and romantic imagery. However, the religious imagery used by the pair should not deceive you into thinking that this is a religious or even solemn exchange.Juliet plays the proper young girl’s role of dissecting Romeo’s “lines” as fast as he can think them up. The religious language is more blasphemous than religious but it does show the audience that the couple are in love; “O then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do: they pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.” Religion was an important part of love in the sixteenth century and Shakespeare maybe using this imagery to show that Romeo and Juliet are actually in love. The audience now believe that the two lovers will love each other for ever and live happily ever after just like a typical romance.The couple meet again the same night outside Capulet’s mansion. At the start of Act 2 Scene 2, Romeo tells the audience what he thinks of Juliet using a soliloquy, he explains that her eyes are “two of the fairest stars in all the heavens” and “The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars”. These quotations tell us that Romeo, even though falling in love at first sight, falls in love very easily. Romeo thinks Juliet is perfect and unreal.When seeing Juliet, Romeo fears because what is happening seems dream-like and out of this world “I am afeard….all of this is but a dream too flattering – sweet to be substantial”. Romeo and Juliet have both fallen in love with each other very easily. Romeo also tells Juliet his “life were better ended by their hate, than death progu�d, wanting of thy love”; he would rather die in love with Juliet than to die not in love with her. Although this sounds very sweet, it is also very foolish of him to say this as he has only just met Juliet, but this could be the love speaking, not him.Juliet, just like Romeo has fallen in love very easily. But she is the most sensible one out of the two; she fears for his safety and him being seen by her guards “If they do see, they will murder thee.” Juliet is a very young girl and she obeys her parents very much so loving Romeo and doing something on her own is a big step forward for her. Juliet is still quite unsure though; she asks Romeo straight out if he loves her “Dost thou love me?” this shows that Juliet is a bit uncertain about their quick romance. Juliet also fears their suddenness of their love, but although she is unsure she still wants to get married very quickly “thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow”!If not hearing the prologue the audience would now wonder if their love will actually last. Juliet is very cautious and frightened about their relationship but Romeo is so sure that they are meant for each even though he has just stopped loving Rosaline. This is the first real meeting of Romeo and Juliet in private and from this scene there is no glimpse of any tragedy happening except from the quickness of their love and the couple being from different families, these are two big factors that play a part in the play a and a part in splitting up Romeo and Juliet. From this scene onwards the relationship and romance between the lovers go from good to bad.Act 3 Scene 1; this is another big scene in the play that shows the audience a part of the tragedy that is to come. There is action and tragedy in this fight scene. Up to this moment the audience has only seen romance, but this is where the play turns on its head and goes from romance to tragedy. The fight in this scene consists of three characters; Tybalt who wants to kill Romeo for supposedly gate crashing the Capulet party, Romeo who has just married Juliet and who wants to keep peace by not fighting with Tybalt “good Capulet, which name I tender as dearly as mine own, be satisfied”, Romeo is a woman’s man who wants reconciliation between the two families and for there to be no fighting, he has also just married a Capulet who is Tybalt’s cousin (Juliet).Mercutio also plays a big part in the fight; he is furious when Romeo refuses to take up Tybalt’s challenge; “O calm, dishonourable, vile submission”. Mercutio makes the situation and the tragedy between Romeo and Juliet worse; he decides to fight Tybalt himself. They fight and Romeo, being married to a Capulet and not wanting the fight to go on, steps in to stop the fight. At this moment Mercutio gets stabbed.”Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man” are the words from Mercutio after he had been stabbed, although being nearly dead Mercutio still uses puns and double meanings like “grave”, this symbolises death but could also mean solemn and upset. Romeo, feeling guilty because of Mercutio dying in his honour, feels that Juliet has made him womanly “O sweet Juliet, thy beauty hath made me effeminate”. Romeo and Juliet’s romance has now turned to their tragedy, one good man has died because of their romance. From this Romeo kills Tybalt which leads to another twist towards tragedy in the play.This scene marks the turning point where romance turns to tragedy with two close friends and family die, death and solemnity has occurred in this scene which leads to Romeo being banished from the city of Verona for killing a Capulet after the Prince had warned the Montague’s and Capulet’s not to fight, his sentence was originally death but Romeo has only been banished. Romeo feels that he would rather die than to be left away from Juliet and his family “But ‘banish�d’ to kill me? ‘Banish�d’?” The audience now do not know where this twist will take the two lovers, what will happen to Romeo and Juliet? Where will this lead them? This is the first real time where tragedy has been involved in the play, from this moment onwards the audience will see a lot more tragedy instead of romance, but the audience would still think that play will end with two lovers together in true love.Romeo and Juliet now turn to the Friar for help; Romeo is being banished and Juliet is going to have to marry Paris even though she is married to Romeo. The Friar only makes the situation worse, he has apparently done well so far by marrying Romeo and Juliet, but this and all the other of his supposedly bright ideas turn Romeo and Juliet’s marriage into Romeo and Juliet’s death bed. The Friar finally gets another idea when Juliet threatens to kill herself. Romeo and Juliet’s marriage is slowly falling apart, again the audience are on the edge of their seats pondering what is going to happen.The Friar is literally forced by Juliet to make a last option “Take thou this vial, being then in bed…..no warmth, no breath shall testify thou livest….two and forty hours, and then awake from a pleasant sleep”, Juliet will take a potion which makes her look dead, she will then awake in forty two hours where Romeo will be standing. Although this sounds like a good idea, it is relying so much on other people that it does not work out, this is the marking point where there whole romantic end turns to a tragic death of two lovers.Juliet takes the potion after having much doubt when the time arose, she is filled with fearful thoughts; is the Friar honest? Will she awake in the tomb before Romeo comes? Will she go mad with dread? “How if, when I am laid into the tomb, I wake before the time that Romeo come to redeem me?” this is just one of many thoughts playing with her mind. Eventually she drinks the potion, this displays true love between Juliet and Romeo; she has risked her life to be with Romeo “Romeo, Romeo, Romeo! Here’s drink – I drink to thee.”Before this scene there has been lots of clues to what is going to happen to the two lovers at the end of the play this technique is called ‘foreshadowing’; “some vile forfeit of untimely death”, “my grave is like to be my wedding bed”, “Wisely and slow, they stumble that run fast”, “These violent delights have violent ends”. All of these are telling the audience that death is upon the two lovers even though they are meant for each other. Even though the audience believed that the lovers were going to end up very happy, they still had references that the play was actually going to end with tragic end. These indications have been disguised within the play.The tragedy concludes in Act 5 Scene 3. It starts off like a typical romance with the brave hero (Romeo) killing the bad man (Paris) to et to his lover. He then sees Juliet under the influence of the potion but with Romeo thinking that Juliet is actually dead he says his last words “O you the doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss a dateless bargain to engrossing Death?” The audience are shocked that the original romance has turned into a tragedy, the play has got the audience really into the act with them begging Juliet to wake up before Romeo kills himself. This is what makes the play effective with romance and tragedy being very big roles within it. The two meant to be lovers have defied any typical romance to become a very dramatic tragedy.’Romeo and Juliet’ is one of the biggest romantic and tragic plays in the world. The romance at the beginning of the play and the tragedy towards the end mixes the emotions of the audience to make them feel a part within the performance. The foreshadowing throughout the play gave the audience an idea of what to come at the end; “These violent delights have violent ends”, this is exactly what happens in the play. Romeo and Juliet are happily married until fate turns against them and destroys their relationship. Fate has the biggest part to play in the performance; it was fate that Romeo and Juliet saw each other in the first place, if any event did not take place then this romance would have never turned into a tragedy.This is also true for characters; every character played apart in making and destroying Romeo and Juliet’s marriage. Overall I think ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a tragedy, without the tragedy at the end this play would have never been known, it’s the tragedy that makes the play. If this play was classed as a romance by any one then the person(s) couldn’t have read the end of the play. It is the tragedy that makes the play work and the audiences’ last thought is that it has to be a tragedy otherwise the two lovers would not have died. The two lovers dying make the play a tragedy. “A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life”.

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