Act 1 Scene 1 of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Introduction of Key Themes

Act 1 Scene 1 of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Introduction of Key Themes

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Act 1 Scene 1 of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Introduction of Key Themes

William Shakespeare is known worldwide as a playwright. His plays are
used for both entertainment and educational purposes, all over the
world. Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford Upon Avon.
Shakespeare is commonly known as 'gentle Shakespeare' from the way he
writes and conducts his plays: tender, often amused but always
sympathetic. This has attracted a range of audiences, which come along
with different expectations and different views. Audiences often like
to watch presentations of scripts they already know. The play Romeo
and Juliet introduces many key themes, such as love, friendship,
betrayal and death. These are all points which focus on dramatic
tension. This closely links with other Shakespeare's plays,
particularly A Midsummer Nights Dream, the humour and theme of love is
very much the same.

In the time that Shakespeare wrote and performed his plays, audiences
would have been watching in poor conditions, either upon rotten wooden
benches or stood in cold stands. This was taken into consideration
when Shakespeare composed his scripts. He would have thought about
ways to grab and keep the audiences attention, which he did so by
incorporating lots of dramatic tension.

Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare's most famous plays, although
not completely his own work. It was written between 1594 and 1596. The
basic plot was not his own and taken from a poem "The tragical history
of Romeus and Juliet" by Arthur Brooke, in 1562. There have been many
versions of Romeo and Juliet, the most recent being Baz Luhurman's
video creation starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes. Luhurman
adapted Shakespeare's play to suit a more modern day setting, and to
appeal to 20th century audiences. His movie was successful and many
new and younger people who wouldn't have before, got to appreciate
Shakeseare's works. Franco Ciffereli produced a version of Romeo and
Juliet, this was made in1968, so a more traditional and less modern
storyline was used. Because Shakespeare's writing is loose and

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contains few stage directions, it means his plays can be interpreted
in these many different ways.

Shakespeare uses a prologue, this raises tension. Tension needs to be
raised at the beginning because it helps to gain the audiences
attention and creates dramatic irony. The prologue is written in a
sonnet form and finishes with a rhyming couplet. Although sonnets are
typically about love, Romeo and Juliet is also about hate, loyalty,
fate and confusion. All of these themes are introduced in the
prologue.

The opening scene features Gregory and Sampson. We learn that the
situation in Verona is full of argument and disagreement. It shows the
conflict between the two families, Capulets and Montagues. It is
important to introduce this conflict at the beginning of the play, so
that the audience would feel familiarised with the story so far, as
the prologue has already talked of the 'two households.' Puns are used
to raise tension, puns such as "I will cut off their heads" this is
then passed to "the heads of the maids?" examples such as this are
quick passing puns this makes the audience busy in keeping up with the
dialogue, it also creates rhythm which emphasises on the busy
situation. This is called stichomythia. Shakespeare chose to use this
kind of humour to represent scenes and surroundings through language,
rather than props and set. Using humour is a good technique to keep
the audience gripped.

Benvolio and Tybalt both enter the scene. Benvolio's immediate
reaction is to keep the peace "Part, fools!" this shows a sensible
member of the family associated with a higher status. Tybalt
retaliates to Benvolio's orders by calling him names "heartless hinds"
this is associated with a pantomime villain. Shakespeare creates
tension through hatred, which is what Tybalt represents. Introducing
hate such early on in the play has an impact of dramatic tension as
the audience may see Tybalt as a threat to peace, thus "giving away"
the ending of the play. Officers, citizens, Lord and Lady Montague and
Lord and Lady Capulet then enter. At this point in the play there
would be lots of tension filling the stage. weapons> "Strike! Beat them down! Down with the Capulets! Down with
the Montages!" This suggests that Shakespeare has created a city of
hate against both families. It suggests that the families troubles
involves the whole town, and that nobody has control over the family
feud. It seems that it infuriates everyone, emphasised by citizens
carrying weapons. This creates dramatic tension as it leaves the
audience asking lots of questions: what will happen next?

Sardonic humour is created in Act 1 Scene 1. They use 'Sir' at the end
of each question "Do you quarrel, sir?" this shows how the characters
are mocking each other. Shakespeare emphasises on this lack of respect
for one another to symbolise reasons why conflict arises. In Act 3
Scene 1 mockery is used. This shows how conflict has developed and
sarcastic humour is not used anymore. The characters now use
statements when in conflict, "…..turn and draw," this is when Tybalt
now orders rather than giving a chance to continue the argument. Outer
conflict is not the only form in Romeo and Juliet. The character Romeo
has conflict inside himself. The main themes in the play are love and
hate, the feelings Romeo have reflect this. Romeo's first speech in
the play is full of oxymoron's "O heavy lightness," these oxymoron's
show the inner conflict. Tension is created through this.

Shakespeare has used imagery to show us status. This is reinforced
with Prince Escales speech. The Prince arrives on the scene, very
angry at the situation of confrontation that the two families have
caused between the whole city. The prince feels that dramatic measures
must be taken to try and bring the peace between the Capulets and the
Montagues once and for all. Prince Escales speaks in verse form, which
creates images to the audience, "With purple fountains issuing from
your veins!" This shows the audience how people with a higher status
in the play can speak in a more elegant way, iambic pentameters are
used to show this. At the end of the Prince's speech it is noticeable
how the whole mood changes and everyone then appears calm, this is an
example of how the Prince has control of the situation. The Montagues
and the Capulets use their status to begin trouble, I think
Shakespeare uses this issue to convey the way he feels about how
people abuse their power by doing things wrong.

In Act 3 Scene 1, Tybalt murders Mercutio, who is Romeo's best friend,
this is why Romeo takes Tybalt's life. The conflict between the two
sides has developed to its peak and the theme of hate and death is now
clearly linked with love. Another key theme in Romeo and Juliet is
fate. Back in the 16th century fate was thought to be controlled by
the stars. This was a popular way of thinking as the plague was
sweeping through Europe at the time and rapidly killing people.
Because of this people were asking why this cruelty was occurring, and
the answer that our lives were being determined by the stars seemed to
make sense. Shakespeare connected this theme with the prologue by
calling it Romeo and Juliet's love "death marked" at the very
beginning. Another example of fate being mentioned in the script is
when Romeo hears of Juliet's death, he says, "Then I defy you, stars!"
This is a way in which Shakespeare creates dramatic tension. This
tension is created, as the audience believes that the story is just
like fate and cannot be changed. The reference to the stars made this
more believable when the play was first written and performed. The
fact that the audience also know what is going to happen but cannot
change this makes the tension even greater.

Shakespeare introduces the themes in Romeo and Juliet very well using
a variety of techniques, all creating dramatic tension. I felt that
the themes helped to keep the audience gripped to watching the play as
it keeps them keen on wanting to see how they develop throughout.
Shakespeare's intention was to write a play that when read or watched
would have the audiences undivided attention throughout the script. I
feel that he achieved this, as when you look today at the different
versions of Romeo and Juliet that have been re-written, customised and
performed all have become successful but all kept on the basis of
Shakespeare's ideas, themes and tension.
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