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Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

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Act 1 of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” is a dramatic act, immediately grabbing the audience’s attention. It is also significant in terms of themes and characters. Act 1 foreshadows the ending of the play and introduces fate, conflict and love as themes. Act one introduces Romeo and Juliet as the central characters, but also the Nurse, Benvollio, Mercutio and Tybalt as key characters in the play. Language and imagery bring alive both themes and characters.

Act 1, scene 1 contains a lot of dramatic significance as the feud between the two families, the Capulets and Montagues, is conveyed straight away. The scene also introduces conflict, while also containing comedy. The act begins with Sampson and Gregory, servants to the Capulet family, partaking in stereotypical male banter. Shakespeare makes this humorous, by his use of sexual innuendo. Sampson claims that he “will be cruel with the maids” of the Montague family and cut off their “maidenheads”. This refers to taking their virginity. This demonstrates the character’s disrespectful use of humour and is also very violent and dark. After this members of the Montague family enter and the dramatic action begins. It starts with Sampson “biting his thumb” which was an obscene gesture of the time; this is dramatically significant because it shows aggression and high emotion towards the Capulet family. This is ridiculous when it is introduced to the audience because the idea of family hatred that has gone on for years isn’t explained. This aggression is exposed when Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, says “I hate the word peace like I hate hell, all Montagues, and you.” This shows a great deal of the pointless hatred between the families. This also expresses that Tybalt is an angry, fiery cha...

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... second time it is Juliet who is the aggressor, and in one conversation she is suddenly mature enough to understand what she desires. This is illustrated by her claiming “Then have my lips the sin that they have took.” Although the sonnet is beautiful, it also serves a darker purpose. The prologue is also a sonnet sharing the same rhyme scheme as Romeo and Juliet’s shared sonnet. This again brings up themes of love and fate, and the foreshadowing of their untimely death. Shakespeare uses language brilliantly to express perfect love and link it to tragic fate, which carries a great deal of dramatic significance.

In conclusion Act 1 is crafted to set up the tragedy that later follows. The audience is aware from the beginning that Romeo and Juliet are doomed and therefore can see the dramatic significance of characters and events that are described in the first act.
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