This unit will help the students to understand the background of the Shakespearean period. It is equally important to know the theatrical scenario of the Age, because without understanding it, one cannot grasp the Elizabethan Era completely. The unit also will relate the nutshell summary of the play.
THE THEATRE AND THE STAGE CRAFTS OF THE ELIZABETHAN ERA
In England the influence of the Italian Renaissance was weaker, but the theatre of the Elizabethan Age was all the stronger for it. Apart from the rediscovery of classical culture, the 16th century in England was a time for developing a new sense of national identity, necessitated by the establishment of a national church. Furthermore, because the English were more suspicious of Rome and the Latin tradition, there was less imitation of classical dramatic forms and an almost complete disregard for the rules that bound the theatre in France and Italy. England built on its own foundations by adapting the strong native tradition of medieval religious drama to serve a more secular purpose. When some of the continental innovations were blended with this cruder indigenous strain, a rich synthesis was produced. Consequently, the theatre that emerged was resonant, varied, and in touch with all segments of society. It included the high seriousness of morality plays, the sweep of chronicle histories, the fantasy of romantic comedies, and the irreverent fun of the interludes.
At the same time, the theatre had to contend with severe restrictions. The suppression of the festival of Corpus Christi in 1548 as a means of reinforcing the Protestant Church marked the rapid decline of morality plays and mystery cycles. Their forced descent into satirical propaganda mocking the Catholic faith polarized the audience and led to riots. By 1590, playwrights were prohibited from dramatizing religious issues and they had to resort and confined to history, mythology, allegory, or allusion in order to say anything about contemporary society. Violations and flouting these restrictions meant imprisonment. Nevertheless, playwrights managed to argue highly explosive political topics. In Shakespeare's histories, for instance, the subject of kingship is thoroughly examined in all its implications: both the rightful but incompetent sovereign and the usurping but strong monarch are scrutinized. It was the most daring undertaking during the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603). The situation for actors was not helped by the hostile attitude of the City of London authorities. The authorities regarded theatre as an immoral pastime to be discouraged rather than tolerated. Professional companies, however, were invited to perform at court from the beginning of the 16th century and public performances took place wherever a suitable space could be found--in large rooms of inns, in halls, or in quiet innyards enclosed on all sides with a temporary platform stage. Around the stage, the audience could gather while others looked out from the windows above. But such makeshift conditions only retarded the development of the drama and kept it on an amateurish level.
THE ELIZABETHAN THEATRE.
These conditions were considerably improved during Elizabeth's reign by the legitimizing in 1574 of regular weekday performances and the building of the first playhouse in 1576 by James Burbage. The new theatre called simply the Theatre was erected in London immediately outside the City boundary. Other theatres followed, including the Curtain, the Rose, the Swan, and the Globe, where most of Shakespeare's plays were first staged. Just as the Spanish playhouse reproduced the features of the corrale it had grown out of, so the Elizabethan playhouse followed the pattern of the improvised innyard theatre. It was an enclosed circular structure containing two or three galleries with benches or stools and had an unroofed space in the middle where spectators could stand on three sides of the raised platform stage. Behind the stage was a wall with curtained doors and, above this was an actors' and musicians' gallery. Large numbers of people could be accommodated, and the price was kept low at between one penny and sixpence. This type of stage allowed for fluid movement and considerable intimacy between actors and audience, while its lack of scenery placed the emphasis firmly on the actor interpreting the playwright's words. Such sheer simplicity presented a superb challenge for the writer: the quality of both language and acting had to be good enough to hold the attention of the spectators and make them use their imaginations.This challenge was quickly taken up by a generation of playwrights who could carry forward the established dramatic forms and test the possibilities of the new stage. Christopher Marlowe was the major innovator who developed a vigorous style of tragedy that was refined by his contemporary. William Shakespeare began writing for the theatre about 1590. At this time, professional companies operated under the patronage of a member of the nobility. In Shakespeare's company, the Chamberlain's Men, the actors owned their playhouse, prompt books, costumes, and properties, and they shared in the profits. Other companies paid rent to the patron and received salaries from him. There were very few rehearsals for a new play, and because the texts were not immediately printed (to avoid pirating by rival companies) each actor was usually given only his own lines, with the relevant cues, in manuscript form. No women appeared on the Elizabethan stage. The female roles were taken either by boy actors or, in the case of older women, by adult male comedians. As in Italy, all the actors had to be able to sing and dance and often to make their own music. The great actors of the day were Richard Burbage, who worked in Shakespeare's company, and Edward Alleyn, who was mainly associated with Ben Jonson. In spite of the fact that theatres like the Globe played to a cross section of London's populace, audiences seem to have been attentive and well behaved. An alternative to the outdoor public playhouse was the private indoor theatre. The first of these was an abandoned monastery near St. Paul's Cathedral. It was converted in 1576 by Richard Farrant and renamed the Blackfriars Theatre. Others included the Cockpit, the Salisbury Court, and the Whitefriars. Initially these theatres were closer to the Spanish model, with the bare stage across one end, an inner stage at the back, benches in front for the audience, and galleries all around. Later, they made use of more elaborate scenery and featured the Italian-style proscenium arch. Because of the reduced size of the audience, higher prices had to be charged, which excluded all except the wealthier and learned segment of the public. This in turn affected the style of writing. These private theatres were mostly used by boy companies that presented a more refined and artificial type of drama. One of their chief dramatists was John Lyly, though Ben Jonson wrote many of his plays for them. Growing rivalry between the boy and adult companies, exacerbated by hostility from the increasingly powerful Puritan movement, resulted in James I imposing even tighter controls and exercising heavy censorship on the theatre when he came to the throne in 1603.
THE SHAKESPEAREAN THEATRE
Before Shakespeare‘s time and during his boyhood, troupes of actors performed wherever they could in halls, courts, courtyards, and any other open spaces available. However, in 1574, when Shakespeare was ten years old, the Common Council passed a law requiring plays and theatres in London to be licensed. In 1576, actor and future Lord Chamberlain's Man, James Burbage, built the first permanent theater, called "The Theatre", outside London city walls. After this many more theatres were established, including the Globe Theatre. Elizabethan theatres were generally built after the design of the original Theatre. Built of wood, these theatres comprised three tiers of seats in a circular shape, with a stage area on one side of the circle. The audience's seats and part of the stage were roofed, but much of the main stage and the area in front of the stage in the center of the circle were open to the elements. About 1,500 audience members could pay extra money to sit in the covered seating areas, while about 800 "groundlings" paid less money to stand in this open area before the stage. The stage itself was divided into three levels: a main stage area with doors at the rear and a curtained area in the back for "discovery scenes"; an upper, canopied area called "heaven" for balcony scenes; and an area under the stage called "hell," accessed by a trap door in the stage. There were dressing rooms located behind the stage, but no curtain in the front of the stage, which meant that scenes had to flow into each other, and "dead bodies" had to be dragged off. Performances took place during the day, using natural light from the open center of the theater. Since there could be no dramatic lighting and there was very little scenery or props, audiences relied on the actors' lines and stage directions to supply the time of day and year, the weather, location, and mood of the scenes. Shakespeare's plays masterfully supply this information. For example, in Hamlet the audience learns within the first twenty lines of dialogue where the scene takes place ("Have you had quiet guard?"), what time of day it is ("'Tis now strook twelf"), what the weather is like ("'Tis bitter cold"), and what mood the characters are in ("and I am sick at heart").One important difference between plays written in Shakespeare's time and those written today is that Elizabethan plays were published after their performances, sometimes even after their authors' deaths. Those plays were in many ways a record of what happened on stage during these performances rather than directions for what should happen. Actors were allowed to suggest changes to scenes and dialogue and had much more freedom with their parts than actors today. Shakespeare's plays are no exception. In Hamlet, for instance, much of the plot revolves around the fact that Hamlet writes his own scene to be added to a play in order to ensnare his murderous father. Shakespeare's plays were published in various forms and with a wide variety of accuracy during his time. The discrepancies between versions of his plays from one publication to the next make it difficult for editors to put together authoritative editions of his works. Plays could be published in large anthologies called Folios (the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays contains 36 plays) or smaller Quartos. Folios were so named because of the way their paper was folded in half to make chunks of two pages each which were sewn together to make a large volume. Quartos were smaller, cheaper books containing only one play. Their paper was folded twice, making four pages. In general, the First Folio is of better quality than the quartos. Therefore, plays that are printed in the First Folio are much easier for editors to compile. Although Shakespeare's language and classical references seem archaic to some modern readers, they were commonplace to his audiences. His viewers came from all classes, and his plays appealed to all kinds of sensibilities, from "highbrow" accounts of kings and queens of old to the "lowbrow" blunderings of clowns and servants. Even his most tragic plays include clown characters for comic relief and to comment on the events of the play. Audiences would have been familiar with his numerous references to classical mythology and literature, since these stories were staples of the Elizabethan knowledge base. While Shakespeare‘s plays appealed to all levels of society and included familiar story lines and themes. They also expanded his audiences' vocabularies. Many phrases and words that we use today, like "amazement," "in my mind's eye," and "the milk of human kindness" have been coined by Shakespeare. His plays contain a greater variety and number of words than almost any other work in the English language. This indicates that he was quick to innovate. He had a huge vocabulary, and was interested in using new phrases and words.
DRAMA DURING THE REIGN OF JAMES I
Although the Italian influence gradually became stronger in the early part of the 17th century, the English theatre was by then established and confident enough to take over foreign ideas without losing any of its individuality. Jonson became increasingly preoccupied with the dramatic unities, while other writers of the Jacobean period such as John Webster, Thomas Middleton, and John Ford favoured a more definite separation of comedy and tragedy than had been the case in Elizabethan drama. They were given to sensationalism in their revenge plays, finding inspiration in the darker moods of Seneca and often setting them in Italy.
Meanwhile, at court the pastoral was finding new popularity, partly because it provided opportunities for spectacular scenery, and with it came the revival of the masque. The masque is a sumptuous allegorical entertainment combining poetry, music, dance, scenery, and extravagant costumes. As court poet, Ben Jonson collaborated with the architect and designer Inigo Jones to produce some of the finest examples of the masque. Having spent a few years in Italy, Jones was greatly influenced by the Italian painted scenery and its use of machinery. On his return to England he did much to bring scenic design up to date and introduced many innovations. Members of the court had thorough training in dancing, fencing, singing, instrumental music, and courtly ceremonial. They were therefore well prepared to perform in the masques, even to take solo parts and to appear in the chorus. Masques became even more elaborate under Charles I. In 1634 Jonson, however, angrily withdrew his contribution when he saw that the visual elements were completely overtaking the dramatic content. When the Civil War broke out in 1642, the Puritans closed all the theatres and forbade dramatic performances of any kind. This created an almost complete break in the acting tradition for 18 years until the Restoration of Charles II. Thereafter the theatre flourished once again though on quite different lines.
ABOUT ROMEO AND JULIET
Romeo and Juliet was first published in quarto in 1597, and republished in a new edition only two years later. The second copy was used to create yet a third quarto in 1609, from which both the 1623 Quarto and First Folio are derived. The first quarto is generally considered a bad quarto, or an illicit copy created from the recollections of several actors. The second quarto seems to be taken from Shakespeare's rough draft, and thus has some inconsistent speech and preserved lines which Shakespeare apparently meant to cross out. Romeo and Juliet derives its story from several sources available during the sixteenth century. Shakespeare's primary source for the play is Arthur Brooke's Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet (1562), which is a long, dense poem. This poem in turn was based on a French prose version written by Pierre Boiastuau (1559), who had used an Italian version by Bandello written in 1554. Bandello's poem was further derived from Luigi da Porto's version in 1525 of a story by Masuccio Salernitano (1476).
Shakespeare's plot remains true to the Brooke version in most details, with theatrical license taken in some instances. For example, as he often does, Shakespeare telescopes the events in the poem which take ninety days into only a few days. He also depicts Juliet as a much younger thirteen rather than sixteen, thus presenting a young girl who is suddenly awakened to love. One of the most powerful aspects of Romeo and Juliet is the language. The characters curse, vow oaths, banish each other, and generally play with the language through overuse of action verbs. In addition, the play is saturated with the use of oxymorons, puns, paradoxes, and double entendres. Even the use of names is called into question, with Juliet asking what is in the name Romeo that denies her the right to love him. Shakespeare uses the poetic form of sonnet to open the first and second acts. The sonnet usually is defined as being written from a lover to his beloved. Thus, Shakespeare's "misuse" of the prose ties into the actual tension of the play. The sonnet struggles to cover up the disorder and chaos which is immediately apparent in the first act. When the first sonnet ends, the stage is overrun with quarrelling men. However, the sonnet is also used by Romeo and Juliet in their first love scene, again in an unusual manner. It is spoken by both characters rather than only one of them. This strange form of sonnet is, however, successful, and even ends with a kiss. It is worthwhile to note the rather strong shift in language used by both Romeo and Juliet once they fall in love. Whereas Romeo is hopelessly normal in his courtship before meeting Juliet, afterwards his language becomes infinitely richer and stronger. He is changed so much that the Mercutio remarks, "Now art thou sociable" (2.3.77). The play also deals with the issue of authoritarian law and order. Many of Shakespeare's plays have characters who represent the unalterable force of the law like the Duke in The Comedy of Errors and Prince Escalus in Romeo and Juliet. In this play, the law attempts to stop the civil disorder and banishes Romeo at the midpoint. However, as in The Comedy of Errors, the law again seems to be a side issue which cannot compete with the much stronger emotions of love and hate.
SHORT SUMMARY OF ROMEO AND JULIET
The play is set in Verona, Italy, where a feud has broken out between the families of the Montegues and the Capulets. The servants of both houses open the play with a brawling/ fighting
scene. It eventually draws in the noblemen of the families and the city officials, including Prince Escalus. Romeo is lamenting the fact that he is love with a woman named Rosaline. Rosaline has vowed to remain chaste for the rest of her life. He and his friend Benvolio happen to stumble across a servant of the Capulet's in the street. The servant, Peter, is trying to read a list of names of people invited to a masked party at the Capulet house that evening. Romeo helps him read the list and receives an invitation to the party. Romeo arrives at the party in costume and falls in love with Juliet the minute he sees her. However, he is recognized by Tybalt, Juliet's cousin. Tybalt wants to kill him on the spot. Capulet intervenes and tells Tybalt that he will not disturb the party for any amount of money. Romeo manages to approach Juliet and tell her that he loves her. She and he share a sonnet and finish it with a kiss. Juliet's Nurse tells Romeo who Juliet really is. He is upset when he finds out he loves the daughter of Capulet. Juliet likewise finds out who Romeo is, and she laments the fact that she is in love with her enemy. Soon thereafter Romeo climbs the garden wall leading to Juliet's garden. Juliet emerges on her balcony and speaks her private thoughts out loud, imagining herself alone. She wishes Romeo could shed his name and marry her. At this, Romeo appears and tells her that he loves her. She warns him to be true in his love to her, and makes him swear by his own self that he truly loves her. Juliet then is called inside, but manages to return twice to call Romeo back to her. They agree that Juliet will send her Nurse to meet him at nine o'clock the next day, at which point Romeo will set a place for them to be married. The Nurse carries out her duty, and tells Juliet to meet Romeo at the chapel where Friar Laurence lives and works. Juliet goes to find Romeo, and together they are married by the Friar.
Benvolio and Mercutio, a good friend of the Montegues, are waiting on the street when Tybalt arrives. Tybalt demands to know where Romeo is so that he can challenge him to duel in order that he would avenge Romeo's sneaking into the party. Mercutio is eloquently vague, but Romeo happens to arrive in the middle of the verbal bantering. Tybalt challenges him but Romeo passively resists fighting, at which point Mercutio jumps in and draws his sword on Tybalt. Romeo tries to block the two men, but Tybalt cuts Mercutio and runs away, only to return after he hears that Mercutio has died. Romeo fights with Tybalt and kills him. When Prince Escalus arrives at the murder scene he chooses to banish Romeo from Verona forever. The Nurse goes to tell Juliet the sad news about what has happened to Tybalt and Romeo. Juliet is heart-broken, but soon recovers when she realizes that Romeo would have been killed if he had not fought Tybalt. She sends the Nurse to find Romeo and give him her ring. Romeo comes that night and sleeps with Juliet. The next morning he is forced to leave at dusk when Juliet's mother arrives. Romeo goes to Mantua where he waits for someone to send news about Juliet or about his banishment. During the night Capulet decides that Juliet should marry a young man named Paris. He and Lady Capulet go to tell Juliet that she should marry Paris, but when she refuses to obey Capulet becomes infuriated and orders her to comply with his orders. He then leaves, and is soon followed by Lady Capulet and the Nurse, whom Juliet throws out of the room, saying, "ancient damnation". Juliet then goes to Friar Laurence, who gives her a potion or medicine that will make her seem dead for at least two days. She takes the potion and drinks it that night. The next morning, the day Juliet is supposed to marry Paris, her Nurse finds her "dead" in bed. The whole house decries her suicide, and Friar Laurence makes them hurry to put her into the family vault. Romeo's servant arrives in Mantua and tells his master that Juliet is dead and buried. Romeo hurries back to Verona. Friar Laurence discovers too late from Friar John that his message to Romeo has failed to be delivered. He rushes to get to Juliet's grave before Romeo does. Romeo arrives at the Capulet vault and finds it guarded by Paris, who is there to mourn the loss of his betrothed. Paris challenges Romeo to a duel, and is quickly killed. Romeo then carries Paris into the grave and sets his body down. Seeing Juliet dead within the tomb, Romeo drinks some poison he has purchased and dies kissing her. Friar Laurence arrives just as Juliet wakes up within the bloody vault. He tries to get her to come out, but when she sees Romeo dead beside her, Juliet takes his dagger and kills herself with it. The rest of the town starts to arrive, including Capulet and Montegue. Friar Laurence tells them the whole story. The two family patriarches agree to become friends by erecting golden statues of the other's child.
Romeo and Juliet
6.1. List of the Characters
6.2. Study of the Major Characters
6.3. Act wise Summary and Analysis
6.4. Thematic Study of the Play
6.4.1. Romeo and Juliet as the Love Tragedy
6.4.2. Love and Violence
6.4.3. The Individual versus Society
6.4.4. The Destiny of the Lovers
6.4.5. Images in the Play
6.4.6. Different Points of View
6.4.7. The Dramatic Use of the Poison in the Play
6.4.9. Queen Mab
6.5. Let‘s Sum up
6.0. OBJECTIVES This unit will help the students understand Romeo and Juliet in detail. First, the characters have been discussed in short and then in detail. The detailed reading of the summary will help them understand the play and its thematic concerns. That will be followed by the discussion of the different themes of the play. 6.1. LIST OF CHARACTERS 6.1.1. Romeo
Romeo is the son and heir of Montague and Lady Montague. He is a young man of about sixteen. He is handsome, intelligent, and sensitive. Though impulsive and immature, his idealism and passion make him an extremely likable character. He lives in the middle of a violent feud between his family and the Capulets, but he 96
is not at all interested in violence. His only interest is love. At the beginning of the play he is madly in love with a woman named Rosaline, but the instant he lays eyes on Juliet, he falls in love with her and forgets Rosaline. Thus, Shakespeare gives us every reason to question how real Romeo‘s new love is, but Romeo goes to extremes to prove the seriousness of his feelings. He secretly marries Juliet, the daughter of his father‘s worst enemy. He happily takes abuse from Tybalt; and he would rather die than live without his beloved. Romeo is also an affectionate and devoted friend to his relative Benvolio, Mercutio, and Friar Lawrence. 6.1.2. Juliet Juliet is the daughter of Capulet and Lady Capulet. She is a beautiful thirteen-year-old girl. She begins the play as a naïve child who has thought little about love and marriage, but she grows up quickly upon falling in love with Romeo, the son of her family‘s great enemy. Because she is a girl in an aristocratic family, she has none of the freedom Romeo has to roam around the city, climb over walls in the middle of the night, or get into swordfights. Nevertheless, she shows amazing courage in trusting her entire life and future to Romeo, even refusing to believe the worst reports about him after he gets involved in a fight with her cousin. Juliet‘s closest friend and confidant is her Nurse, though she‘s willing to shut the Nurse out of her life the moment the Nurse turns against Romeo. 6.1.3. Friar Lawrence Friar is a Franciscan friar. He is friend to both Romeo and Juliet. He is kind, civic-minded, and a proponent of moderation Friar Lawrence secretly marries the impassioned lovers in hopes that the union might eventually bring peace to Verona. Being a Catholic holy man, Friar Lawrence is also an expert in the use of seemingly mystical potions and herbs. 6.1.4. Mercutio Mercutio is a kinsman to the Prince, and Romeo‘s close friend. He is one of the most extraordinary characters in all of Shakespeare‘s plays. Mercutio overflows with imagination, wit, and a strange, biting satire and brooding fervour. He loves wordplay, especially sexual double entendres. He can be quite hotheaded, and hates people who are affected, pretentious, or obsessed with the latest fashions. He finds Romeo‘s romanticized ideas about love tiresome so he tries to convince Romeo to view love as a simple matter of sexual appetite. 6.1.5. The Nurse 97
She is Juliet‘s nurse. She is the woman who breast-fed Juliet when she was a baby and has cared for Juliet her entire life. She is a vulgar, long-winded, and sentimental character. The Nurse provides comic relief with her frequently inappropriate remarks and speeches. But, until a disagreement near the play‘s end, the Nurse is Juliet‘s faithful confidante and loyal intermediary in Juliet‘s affair with Romeo. She provides a contrast with Juliet. Her view of love is earthy and sexual, whereas Juliet is idealistic and intense. The Nurse believes in love and wants Juliet to have a nice-looking husband, but the idea that Juliet would want to sacrifice herself for love is incomprehensible to her. 6.1.6. Tybalt Tybalt is one of the family members of Capulet. He is Juliet‘s cousin on her mother‘s side. He is vain, fashionable, and supremely aware of courtesy and the lack of it. He becomes aggressive, violent, and quick to draw his sword when he feels his pride has been injured. Once drawn, his sword is something to be feared. He loathes Montagues. 6.1.7. Lord Capulet Capulet is the patriarch of the Capulet family, father of Juliet, husband of Lady Capulet, and enemy, for unexplained reasons, of Montague. He truly loves his daughter, though he is not well acquainted with Juliet‘s thoughts or feelings. He seems to think that what is best for her is a ―good‖ match with Paris. Often prudent, he commands respect and propriety, but he is liable to fly into a rage when either is lacking. 6.1.8. Lady Capulet She is Juliet‘s mother and Capulet‘s wife. A woman who herself married young (by her own estimation she gave birth to Juliet at close to the age of fourteen), she is eager to see her daughter marry Paris. She is an ineffectual mother, relying on the Nurse for moral and pragmatic support. 6.1.9. Lord Montague He is Romeo‘s father, the patriarch of the Montague clan and bitter enemy of Capulet. At the beginning of the play, he is chiefly concerned about Romeo‘s melancholy. 6.1.10. Lady Montague She is Romeo‘s mother and Montague‘s wife. She dies of grief after Romeo is exiled from Verona. 98
6.1.11. Count Paris He is a kinsman of the Prince and the suitor of Juliet most preferred by Capulet. Once Capulet has promised him he can marry Juliet, he behaves very presumptuous toward, acting as if they are already married. 6.1.12. Benvolio He is Montague‘s nephew and Romeo‘s cousin and thoughtful friend. He makes a genuine effort to defuse violent scenes in public places, though Mercutio accuses him of having a nasty temper in private. He spends most of the play trying to help Romeo get his mind off Rosaline, even after Romeo has fallen in love with Juliet. 6.1.13. Prince Escalus He is the Prince of Verona and a kinsman of Mercutio and Paris. As the seat of political power in Verona, he is concerned about maintaining the public peace at all costs. 6.1.14. Friar John Friar is a Franciscan friar charged by Friar Lawrence with taking the news of Juliet‘s false death to Romeo in Mantua. Friar John is held up in a quarantined house, and the message never reaches Romeo. 6.1.15. Balthasar He is Romeo‘s dedicated servant, who brings Romeo the news of Juliet‘s death. He is unaware that her death is a ruse. 6.1.16. Sampson & Gregory They are two servants of the house of Capulet, who, like their master, hate the Montagues. At the outset of the play, they successfully provoke some Montague men into a fight. 6.1.17. Abram He is Montague‘s servant, who fights with Sampson and Gregory in the first scene of the play. 6.1.18. The Apothecary He is an apothecary in Mantua who looks like skeleton. Had he been wealthier, he might have been able to afford to value his morals more than money, and refused to sell poison to Romeo. 99
6.1.19. Peter He is a Capulet servant who invites guests to Capulet‘s feast and escorts the Nurse to meet with Romeo. He is illiterate, and a bad singer. 6.1.20. Rosaline She is the woman with whom Romeo is infatuated at the beginning of the play. Rosaline never appears onstage, but it is said by other characters that she is very beautiful and has sworn to live a life of chastity. 6.1.21. The Chorus The Chorus is a single character who, as developed in Greek drama, functions as a narrator offering commentary on the play‘s plot and themes. 6.1.22. Pertruccio The page of Tybalt 6.1.23. Chief Watchman 6.1.24. Citizens of the Watch
6.2. STUDY OF THE MAJOR CHARACTERS
6.2.1. Romeo The name Romeo, in popular culture, has become nearly synonymous with ―lover.‖ Romeo, in Romeo and Juliet, does indeed experience a love of such purity and passion that he kills himself when he believes that the object of his love, Juliet, has died. The power of Romeo‘s love, however, often obscures a clear vision of Romeo‘s character, which is far more complex.
Even Romeo‘s relation to love is not so simple. At the beginning of the play, Romeo pines for Rosaline, proclaiming her the paragon of women and despairing at her indifference toward him. Taken together, Romeo‘s Rosaline induced histrionics seem rather juvenile. Romeo is a great reader of love poetry, and the portrayal of his love for Rosaline suggests he is trying to re-create the feelings that he has read about. After first kissing Juliet, she tells him ―you kiss by th‘ book,‖ meaning that he kisses according to the rules, and implying that while proficient, his kissing lacks 100
originality. In reference to Rosaline, it seems, Romeo loves by the book. Rosaline, of course, slips from Romeo‘s mind at first sight of Juliet. But Juliet is no mere replacement. The love she shares with Romeo is far deeper, more authentic and unique than the clichéd puppy love Romeo felt for Rosaline. Romeo‘s love matures over the course of the play from the shallow desire to be in love to a profound and intense passion. One must ascribe Romeo‘s development at least in part to Juliet. Her level-headed observations, such as the one about Romeo‘s kissing, seem just the thing to snap Romeo from his superficial idea of love and to inspire him to begin to speak some of the most beautiful and intense love poetry ever written. Yet Romeo‘s deep capacity for love is merely a part of his larger capacity for intense feeling of all kinds. Put another way, it is possible to describe Romeo as lacking the capacity for moderation. Love compels him to sneak into the garden of his enemy‘s daughter, risking death simply to catch a glimpse of her. Anger compels him to kill his wife‘s cousin in a reckless duel to avenge the death of his friend. Despair compels him to suicide upon hearing of Juliet‘s death. Such extreme behaviour dominates Romeo‘s character throughout the play and contributes to the ultimate tragedy that befalls the lovers. Had Romeo restrained himself from killing Tybalt, or waited even one day before killing himself after hearing the news of Juliet‘s death, matters might have ended happily. Of course, though, had Romeo not had such depths of feeling, the love he shared with Juliet would never have existed in the first place. Among his friends, especially while bantering with Mercutio, Romeo shows glimpses of his social persona. He is intelligent, quick-witted, fond of verbal jousting (particularly about sex), loyal, and unafraid of danger. 6.2.2. Juliet Having not quite reached her fourteenth birthday, Juliet is of an age that stands on the border between immaturity and maturity. At the play‘s beginning however she seems merely an obedient, sheltered, naïve child. Though many girls her age—including her mother—get married, Juliet has not given the subject any thought. When Lady Capulet mentions Paris‘s interest in marrying Juliet, Juliet dutifully responds that she will try to see if she can love him, a response that seems childish in its obedience and in its immature conception of love. Juliet seems to have no friends her own age. And she is not comfortable talking about sex (as seen in her discomfort when the Nurse goes on and on about a sexual joke at Juliet‘s expense in Act I, scene iii). 101
Juliet gives glimpses of her determination, strength, and sober-mindedness, in her earliest scenes, and offers a preview of the woman she will become during the five-day span of Romeo and Juliet. While Lady Capulet proves unable to quiet the Nurse, Juliet succeeds with one word. In addition, even in Juliet‘s dutiful acquiescence to try to love Paris, there is some seed of steely determination. Juliet promises to consider Paris as a possible husband to the precise degree her mother desires. While an outward show of obedience, such a statement can also be read as a refusal through passivity. Juliet will accede to her mother‘s wishes, but she will not go out of her way to fall in love with Paris. Juliet‘s first meeting with Romeo propels her full-force toward adulthood. Though profoundly in love with him, Juliet is able to see and criticize Romeo‘s rash decisions and his tendency to romanticize things. After Romeo kills Tybalt and is banished, Juliet does not follow him blindly. She makes a logical and heartfelt decision that her loyalty and love for Romeo must be her guiding priorities. Essentially, Juliet cuts herself loose from her prior social moorings—her Nurse, her parents, and her social position in Verona—in order to try to reunite with Romeo. When she wakes in the tomb to find Romeo dead, she does not kill herself out of feminine weakness, but rather out of an intensity of love, just as Romeo did. Juliet‘s suicide actually requires more nerve than Romeo‘s: while he swallows poison, she stabs herself through the heart with a dagger. Juliet‘s development from a wide-eyed girl into a self-assured, loyal, and capable woman is one of Shakespeare‘s early triumphs of characterization. It also marks one of his most confident and rounded treatments of a female character. 6.2.3. Friar Lawrence
Friar Lawrence occupies a strange position territory in Romeo and Juliet. He is a kind hearted cleric who helps Romeo and Juliet throughout the play. He performs their marriage and gives generally good advice, especially in regard to the need for moderation. He is the sole figure of religion in the play. But Friar Lawrence is also the most scheming and political of characters in the play: he marries Romeo and Juliet as part of a plan to end the civil strife in Verona. He spirits Romeo into Juliet‘s room and then out of Verona. He devises the plan to reunite Romeo and Juliet through the deceptive ruse of a sleeping potion that seems to arise from almost mystic knowledge. This mystical knowledge seems out of place for a Catholic friar. Why does he have such knowledge and what could such knowledge mean? The answers are not clear. In addition, though Friar Lawrence‘s plans all seem well conceived and well intentioned, they serve as the main mechanisms through 102
which the fated tragedy of the play occurs. The students should recognize that the Friar is not only subject to the fate that dominates the play—in many ways he brings that fate about. 6.2.4. Mercutio With a lightning-quick wit and a clever mind, Mercutio is a scene stealer and one of the most memorable characters in all of Shakespeare‘s works. Though he constantly puns, jokes, and teases—sometimes in fun, sometimes with bitterness—Mercutio is not a mere jester or prankster. With his wild words, Mercutio punctures the romantic sentiments and blind self-love that exist within the play. He mocks Romeos self-indulgence just as he ridicules Tybalt‘s hauteur and adherence to fashion. The critic Stephen Greenblatt describes Mercutio as a force within the play that functions to deflate the possibility of romantic love and the power of tragic fate. Unlike the other characters who blame their deaths on fate, Mercutio dies cursing all Montagues and Capulets. Mercutio believes that specific people are responsible for his death rather than some external impersonal force.
6.3 ACTWISE SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS
The chorus introduces the play, and tells the audience that two families in Verona have reignited an ancient feud. Two lovers, one from each family, commit suicide after trying to run away from their families. The loss of their children compels the families to end the feud.
The servants of the Capulets are on the street waiting for some servants of the Montague's to arrive. When they do, Samson from the Capulets bites his thumb at them, essentially a strong insult. Abraham from the Montague's accepts the insult and the men start to fight. Benvolio, Romeo's cousin, enters and makes the men stop fighting by drawing his own sword. Tybalt, Juliet's cousin, then also enters the street. Seeing Benvolio, he too draws his sword and enters the fight.
Old Capulet runs onto the stage and demands a sword so that he too may fight. His wife restrains him, even when Old Montague emerges with his sword drawn as well. The Citizens of the Watch have put up a cry, and manage to get Prince Escalus to 103
arrive. The Prince chides them for three times before causing the street of Verona to be unsafe. He orders them to return home, and personally accompanies the Capulets. The Montagues and Benvolio remain on stage. They ask Benvolio why Romeo was not with him. He tells them that Romeo has been in a strange mood lately. When Romeo appears, the Montagues ask Benvolio to find out what is wrong, and then depart. Romeo informs Benvolio that he is in love with a woman named Rosaline who wishes to remain chaste for the rest of her life, which is why he is so depressed.
Paris pleads with Capulet to let him marry Juliet, who is still only a girl of thirteen. Capulet tells him to wait, but decides to allow Paris to woo her and try to win her heart. He then tells his servant Peter to take a list of names and invite the people to a masked ball he is hosting that evening. Peter meets Romeo on the street, and being unable to read, asks Romeo to help read the list for him. Romeo does, and realizes that the girl he loves, Rosaline, will be attending this party. Peter tells him that it will be held at Capulet's house, and that he is invited if he wishes to come. Both Benvolio and Romeo decide to go.
Lady Capulet asks the Nurse to call for Juliet. She does, and then tells Lady Capulet that Juliet will be fourteen in two weeks. She then digresses and speaks of how Juliet was as a child, causing both Juliet and her mother embarassment. The mother tells Juliet that Paris has come to marry her. She then describes Paris as being beautiful, and compares him to a fine book that only lacks a cover. Juliet does not promise anything, but agrees to at least look at the man that night at dinner.
Romeo, Mercutio and Benvolio are making their way to the masked party. Romeo is still depressed, even though he gets to see Rosaline. Mercutio tries to cheer him up by telling a story about Queen Mab, a fictitious elf that infiltrates men's dreams. Romeo finally shushes him and comments that he is afraid of the consequences of going to this party.
Romeo stands to the side during the dancing, and it is from this spot that he first sees Juliet. He immediately falls in love with her. Tybalt overhears Romeo talking to a serving man and recognizes him as Romeo Montague by his voice. However, before Tybalt can create a scene, Old Capulet tells him to leave Romeo alone, since it would look bad to have a brawl in the middle of the festivities. Romeo finds Juliet and touches her hand. They speak in sonnet form to one another, and Romeo eventually gets to kiss her. However, Juliet is forced to go see her mother. The Nurse tells Romeo that Juliet is a Capulet, at which he is startled. Juliet finds her Nurse at the end of the party and begs her to find out who Romeo is. The Nurse returns and tells her he is Romeo, the only son of the Montague family. Juliet is heart-broken that she loves a "loathed enemy".
Analysis of Act I
This play begins with a sonnet, a form of prose usually reserved for a lover addressing his beloved. The sonnet is a very structured form of prose, lending itself to order. Shakespeare cleverly contrasts this orderly sonnet with the immediate disorder of the first scene. Thus, the scene quickly degenerates into a bunch of quarrelling servants who soon provoke a fight between the houses of Montegue and Capulet. This scene is wrought with sexual overtones, with the various servants speaking of raping the enemy's women. The sexual wordplay will continue throughout the play, becoming extremely bawdy and at times offensive, yet also underlying the love affair between Romeo and Juliet. The disorder within the play is evidenced by inverted circumstances. Servants start the quarrel, but soon draw the noblemen into the brawl. The young men enter the fight, but soon the old men try to deny their age and fight as well. The fact that this whole scene takes place in broad daylight undermines the security that is supposed to exist during the day. Thus the play deals with conflicting images: servants leading noblemen, old age pretending to be young, day overtaking night. The Nurse speaks of Juliet falling as a child when she relates a story to Lady Capulet. This story indirectly pertains to the rise and fall of the characters. Since this is a tragedy, the influence of wheel's fortune cannot be overlooked. Indeed, Juliet's role in the play does parallel the wheel of fortune, with her rise to the balcony and her fall to the vault.
The Nurse also foreshadows, "An I might live to see thee married once". Naturally she does not expect this to be realized in so short a time, but indeed she does live to only see Juliet married once. Romeo compares Juliet to, "a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear" when he first sees her. This play on the comparison of dark and light shows up frequently in subsequent scenes. It is a central part of their love that important love scenes take place in the dark, away from the disorder of the day. Thus Romeo loves Juliet at night, but kills Tybalt during the day. It especially shows up in the first act in the way Romeo shuts out the daylight while he is pining for Rosaline. In the fifth scene the lover's share a sonnet which uses imagery of saints and pilgrims. This relates to the fact that Romeo means Pilgrim in Italian. It is also a sacrilegious sonnet, for Juliet becomes a saint to be kissed and Romeo a holy traveller. The foreshadowing so common in all of Shakespeare's plays comes from Juliet near the end of the first act. She states, "If he be married, / My grave is like to be my wedding bed.". This will be related over and over again, from her Nurse and later even from Lady Capulet. One of the remarkable aspects of the play is the transformation of both Romeo and Juliet after they fall in love. Juliet first comes across as a young, innocent girl who obeys her parents' commands. However, by the last scene she is devious and highly focused. Thus, she asks her nurse about three separate men at the party, saving Romeo for last so as not to arouse suspicion. Romeo will undergo a similar transformation in the second act, resulting in Mercutio commenting that he has become sociable. There is a strange biblical reference which comes from Benvolio in the very first scene, when he attempts to halt the fight. He remarks, "Put up your swords. You know not what you do" (1.1.56). This is the same phrase used by Jesus when he stops his apostles from fighting the Roman guards during his arrest. It seems to preordain Juliet's demise, namely her three day "death" followed by a resurrection which still ultimately ends in death.
The chorus introduces the next act, saying that Romeo has given up his old desire for a new affection. Juliet is likewise described as being in love. Both lovers share the problem that they cannot see each other without risking death, but the chorus indicates that passion will overcome that hurdle. 106
Romeo enters and leaps over a garden wall. Mercutio and Benvolio arrive looking for Romeo, but cannot see him. Mercutio then call out to him in long speech filled with obscene wordplay. Benvolio finally gets tired of searching for Romeo, and they leave. Romeo has meanwhile succeeded in hiding beneath Juliet's balcony. She appears on her balcony and, in this famous scene, asks, "Oh Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?". She wishes that Romeo's name did not make him her enemy. Romeo, hiding below her, surprises her by interrupting and telling Juliet that he loves her. Juliet warns Romeo that his protestations of love had better be real ones, since she has fallen in love with him and does not want to be hurt. Romeo swears by himself that he loves her, and Juliet tells him that she wishes she could give him her love again. Juliet's Nurse calls her, and she disappears only to quickly reappear again. Juliet informs Romeo that if he truly loves her, he should propose marriage and tell her when and where to meet. The Nurse calls her a second time, and Juliet exits. Romeo is about to leave when she emerges yet a third time and calls him back.
Friar Laurence is out collecting herbs when Romeo arrives. Romeo quickly tells him that he has fallen in love with Juliet Capulet. The Friar is surprised to hear that Rosaline has been forgotten about so quickly, but is delighted by the prospect of using this new love affair to unite the feuding families.
Benvolio and Mercutio speak about Romeo's disappearance the night before. Benvolio tells Mercutio that Romeo did not come home at all. Romeo arrives and soon engages in a battle of wits with Mercutio, who is surprised by Romeo's quick replies. He says, "Now art thou sociable, now art thou Romeo". Juliet's Nurse arrives with her man Peter and asks to speak with Romeo. Mercutio starts making sexual jokes about the Nurse, but finally exits with Benvolio. The Nurse tells Romeo her mistress is willing to meet him in marriage. Romeo indicates the Nurse should have Juliet meet him at Friar Laurence's place that afternoon.
Juliet eagerly awaits her Nurse and news from Romeo. The Nurse finally arrives and sits down. Juliet begs her for information, but the Nurse comically refuses to tell her anything until she has settled down and gotten a back rub. She finally informs Juliet that Romeo awaits her at the chapel where Friar Laurence lives.
Romeo and Friar Laurence are in the chapel waiting for Juliet to arrive. The Friar cautions Romeo to "love moderately." Juliet soon appears and Friar Laurence takes the two young lovers into the church to be married.
Analysis of Act II
The interaction and conflict of night and day is raised to new levels within the second act. Benvolio states that, "Blind is his love, and best befits the dark", in reference to Romeo's passion. And when Romeo finally sees Juliet again, he wonders, "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks? / It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. / Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon". Romeo then invokes the darkness as a form of protection from harm, "I have night's cloak to hide me from their eyes". This conflict will not end until the disorder of the day eventually overcomes the passionate nights and destroys the lives of both lovers. It is worthwhile to note the difference between Juliet and Rosaline. Juliet is compared to the sun, and is one of the most giving characters in the play. "My bounty is as boundless as the sea, / My love as deep. The more I give thee / The more I have, for both are infinite". Rosaline, by contrast, is said to be keeping all her beauty to herself, to die with her. This comparison is made even more evident when Romeo describes Rosaline as a Diana (the goddess of the moon) and says to Juliet, "Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon". The balcony scene is more than a great lovers' meeting place. It is in fact the same as if Romeo had entered into a private Eden. He has climbed over a large wall to enter the garden, which can be viewed as a sanctuary of virginity. Thus he has invaded the only place which Juliet deems private, seeing as her room is constantly watched by the Nurse or her mother. One of the interesting things which Shakespeare frequently has his characters do is that they swear to themselves. For instance, when Romeo tries to swear by the moon, Juliet remarks that the moon waxes and wanes, and is too variable. Instead, she says, "Or if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self". Shakespeare often has characters encouraged to be true to themselves first, as a sign that only then can they be true to others..
Again, note the change in Juliet's behaviour. Whereas she used to obey the authority of her nurse, she now disappears twice, and twice defies authority and reappears. This is a sure sign of her emerging independence, and is a crucial factor in understanding her decision to marry Romeo and defy her parents. There is a strong conflict between the uses of silver and gold throughout the action. "How silver-sweet sound lovers' tongues by night" and "Lady, by yonder blessed moon I vow, / That tips with silver all these fruit-tree tops". Silver is often invoked as a symbol of love and beauty. Gold, on the other hand, is often used ironically and as a sign of greed or desire. Rosaline is thus described as being immune to showers of gold, which almost seem to be a bribe. When Romeo is banished, he comments that banishment is a "golden axe," meaning that death would have been better and that banishment is merely a euphemism for the same thing. And finally, the erection of the statues of gold at the end is even more a sign of the fact that neither Capulet nor Montegue has really learned anything from the loss of their children. One of the central issues is the difference between youth and old age. Friar Laurence acts as Romeo's confidant, and the Nurse advises for Juliet. However, both have advice that seems strangely out of place given the circumstances of the play. For instance, Friar Laurence says to Romeo, "Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast". He also advises Romeo to "Therefore love moderately". The insanity of this plea to love "moderately" is made ludicrous by the rapid events which follow. In fact, by the end of the play we even see Friar Laurence rejecting his own advice and stumbling to reach Juliet's grave before Romeo can find her. "How oft tonight have my old feet stumbled at graves?".
Benvolio and Mercutio are on a street in Verona waiting for Romeo to arrive. While there, Tybalt and Petruccio see them and come over to provoke a quarrel. Tybalt is expressly looking to find Romeo, whom he wants to punish for sneaking into the masked party the previous day. Romeo arrives and tries to be submissive to Tybalt by telling him that he harbours no hatred of the Capulet house. Tybalt is unsure how to deal with Romeo, but since Mercutio is provoking him to a duel, he draws his sword and attacks Mercutio. Romeo draws his sword and intervenes too late to stop Tybalt from stabbing Mercutio. Tybalt and Petruccio then exit the area.Mercutio leaves the stage with Benvolio, who soon returns to tell Romeo that Mercutio has died. Romeo vows revenge on Tybalt, who soon reappears to fight with him. In the duel, Romeo kills Tybalt. Benvolio tells Romeo to run away before the Prince arrives. The Prince, followed by the Montague and Capulet families, shows up at the scene. Benvolio tells him the entire story, but the Prince refuses to believe that Romeo is guiltless. He banishes Romeo from Verona, threatening to kill him should he return.
Juliet delivers one of the most elegant soliloquies in the play about Romeo, whom she is hoping to receive news about. Her Nurse enters with the news of Tybalt's death and Romeo's banishment, but as in the previous scene refuses to immediately tell Juliet what she knows. Instead, the nurse lets Juliet believe that it is Romeo who has been killed. When the Nurse finally reveals the truth to Juliet, Juliet immediately chides Romeo for pretending to be peaceful when in fact he is able to kill Tybalt. She then recants, and tells the Nurse, "Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband?" Juliet laments the fact that Romeo has been banished, and indicates that she would rather have both her parents killed then see Romeo banished. The Nurse promises to go find Romeo and bring him to Juliet's bed that night. She tells Juliet that he is hiding with Friar Laurence. Juliet gives the Nurse a ring for Romeo to wear when he comes to see her that night.
Friar Laurence tells Romeo that he is banished from Verona, and that he should be happy that the Prince was willing to commute the death sentence. Romeo considers banishment worse than death, because it means that he can never see Juliet again. When the Friar tries to console him, Romeo says, "Wert thou as young as I, Juliet thy love.../ Then mightst thou speak". The nurse enters and finds Romeo on the ground weeping. She tells him to stand up. Romeo is so upset by the events that he starts to stab himself, but the Nurse snatches away the dagger. Friar Laurence tells Romeo that he should be happy, since he and Juliet are still alive and want to see each other. The Friar then gets Romeo to go see Juliet that night, with the expectation that Romeo will run away to Mantua the next morning.
The Capulets and Paris are preparing for bed, even though it is almost morning. Old Capulet decides right then that Juliet will marry Paris. He comments, "I think she will be ruled / In all respects by me". He tells Lady Capulet to speak to Juliet about the matter immediately before going to bed.
Romeo and Juliet are in her bedroom as daylight approaches. They pretend for a short minute that it really is still the night, but the Nurse arrives to tell Juliet her mother approaches. Romeo descends from the balcony to the ground and bids her goodbye. Lady Capulet tells Juliet she has, to cheer her up, news about the planned wedding with Paris. Juliet tells her that she would sooner marry Romeo rather than Paris. Capulet himself enters and becomes furious when Juliet refuses to marry Paris. He calls Juliet "young baggage" and orders her to prepare to marry Paris the upcoming Thursday. Lady Capulet refuses to help Juliet, and even the Nurse tells her that Paris is a fine gentleman whom she should marry. Juliet kicks out her Nurse and prepares to visit Friar Laurence. As the Nurse leaves, Juliet calls her, "Ancient damnation!".
Analysis of Act III
Mercutio leads the action in this most dramatic of the five acts. When wounded, he cries out "A plague o' both your houses", saying it three times to ensure that it becomes a curse. Indeed, it is the plague which causes the final death of both Romeo and Juliet. Friar John says that he was unable to deliver the letter to Romeo because, "the searchers of the town, / Suspecting that we both were in a house / Where the infectious pestilence did reign, / Sealed up the doors, and would not let us forth". One of the most beautiful soliloquies is that of Juliet when she beckons for nightfall, again representing the contrast to the disorder of the day's events. "Come, gentle night; come, loving, black-browed night, / Give me my Romeo, and when he shall die / Take him and cut him out in little stars, / And he will make the face of heaven so fine / That all the world will be in love with night / And pay no worship to the garish sun". The Nurse's arrival in this act with information about Romeo and Tybalt reinforces the fact that this is now a tragedy, not a comedy. This can be seen in the contrast of this scene with the first scene where the Nurse withholds information from Juliet. In the first scene, the Nurse is playfully devious in telling Juliet about where Romeo wants to meet her for their marriage. Now however, the same playfulness is no longer comic, rather it is infuriating. In this sense Shakespeare turns the Nurse from a comic character into a tragic character. She is a character who cannot realize the importance of what she is saying. Juliet's dedication to Romeo emerges very strongly at this point. At first she derides Romeo for killing Tybalt, but she soon has a change of heart and says, "Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband?". She then states that she would sacrifice ten thousand Tybalts to be with Romeo, and later includes her parents in the list of people she would rather lose than Romeo. This dedication to a husband or lover is something which emerges frequently in Shakespeare, and is a point he tries to emphasize. Romeo's misery at being banished is clearly shown in his preference for death. "Then 'banished' / Is death mistermed. Calling death 'banished' / Thou cutt'st my head off with a golden axe". Friar Laurence tries to show him that by being alive he at least still has a chance to see Juliet again. Even the Nurse, entering where Romeo is hiding, says, "Stand up, stand up, stand up you be a man". The analysis of the first act introduced the image of the wheel of fortune. This was applied to Juliet, who throughout the previous acts rose from a humble daughter to become a strong woman standing on a balcony, and completely in charge of her situation. However, at this juncture, the Nurse informs Romeo that Juliet "down falls again" as a result of his banishment and her loss of Tybalt. Later, Juliet takes this image even further, saying, "Methinks I see thee, now thou art so low / As one dead in the bottom of a tomb". This of course also is integrated with the foreshadowing so common in Shakespeare's plays. Lady Capulet comments about Juliet's refusal to marry Paris that, "I would the fool were married to her grave". This phrase will of course come true quite soon, when Juliet dies while still married to Romeo. The conflict between the older generation and the younger comes to head in the final scene of act three. The Nurse advocates that Juliet forget about Romeo and instead focus on Paris, the virtues of whom she proceeds to extol. Juliet, poisoningly sweet in her sarcasm, sends the Nurse away from her for the first time, remarking, "Ancient damnation!", both a reference to the Nurse's age and to the problems she must deal with. This leaves Juliet completely alone to face the hostile world.
Paris is speaking with Friar Laurence about the wedding with Juliet. Friar Laurence, aware that Juliet cannot marry Romeo, is full of misgivings.
Juliet enters and is forced to speak with Paris, who acts arrogant now that the marriage is going to happen. Juliet rebuffs him by giving vague answers to his questions. She finally asks Friar Laurence if she can meet with him alone, meaning that Paris has to leave. Friar Laurence comes up with a rash plan to get Romeo and Juliet together. He gives Juliet a poison which will make her appear dead to the world. In this way, rather than marry Paris, she will instead be placed in the vault where all deceased Capulets are buried. Friar Laurence will then send a letter to Romeo, telling him what is being done so that he can return and sneak Juliet out of the tomb and also away from Verona.
Juliet arrives home and tells her father that she has repented her sin of being disobedient to him. He pardons her and happily sends her off to prepare her clothes for the wedding day. Capulet then goes to tell Paris that Juliet will marry him willingly.
Juliet convinces both her mother and the Nurse that she wants to sleep alone that night. She prepares to drink the poison that Friar Laurence gave her, but cautiously puts a knife next to her bed in case the potion should fail to work. Juliet then drinks the potion and falls motionless onto her bed.
The Nurse goes to fetch Juliet but instead finds her lying dead. Lady Capulet enters and also starts lamenting her daughter's demise. Capulet then arrives and, discovering his daughter has committed suicide, orders the music to change to funeral tunes.
Analysis of Act IV
Friar Lawrence is the wiliest and most scheming character in Romeo and Juliet: he secretly marries the two lovers, spirits Romeo to Mantua, and stages Juliet‘s death. The friar‘s machinations seem also to be tools of fate. Yet despite the role Friar Lawrence plays in bringing about the lovers‘ deaths, Shakespeare never presents him in a negative, or even ambiguous, light. He is always treated as a benign, wise presence. The tragic failure of his plans is treated as a disastrous accident for which Friar Lawrence bears no responsibility.
In contrast, it is a challenge to situate Paris along the play‘s moral continuum. He is not exactly an adversary to Romeo and Juliet, since he never acts consciously to harm them or go against 113
their wishes. Like almost everyone else, he knows nothing of their relationship. Paris‘s feelings for Juliet are also a subject of some ambiguity, since the audience is never allowed access to his thoughts. Later textual evidence does indicate that Paris harbors a legitimate love for Juliet, and though he arrogantly assumes Juliet will want to marry him, Paris never treats her unkindly. Nevertheless, because she does not love him, he represents a real and frightening potentiality for Juliet. Once again Juliet demonstrates her strength. She comes up with reason after reason why drinking the sleeping potion might cause her harm, physical or psychological, but chooses to drink it anyway. In this action she not only attempts to circumvent the forces that obstruct her relationship with Romeo, she takes full responsibility for herself. She recognizes that drinking the potion might lead her to madness or to death. Drinking the potion therefore constitutes an action in which she takes her life into her own hands, and determines its worth to her. In addition to the obvious foreshadow in Juliet‘s vision of Tybalt‘s vengeful ghost, her drinking of the potion also hints at future events. She drinks the potion just as Romeo will later drink the apothecary‘s poison. In drinking the potion she not only demonstrates a willingness to take her life into her own hands, she goes against what is expected of women and takes action. In their mourning for Juliet, the Capulets appear less as a hostile force arrayed against the lovers and more as individuals. The audience gains an understanding of the immense hopes that the Capulets had placed in Juliet, as well as a sense of their love for her. Similarly, Paris‘s love for Juliet seems wholly legitimate. His wailing cannot simply be taken as grief over the loss of a wife who might have brought him fortune. It seems more personal than that, more like grief over the loss of a loved one.
Many productions of Romeo and Juliet cut the scene depicting Peter and the musicians. Productions do this for good reason: the scene‘s humor and traded insults seem ill placed at such a tragic moment in the play. If one looks at the scene as merely comic relief, it is possible to argue that it acts as a sort of caesura, a moment for the audience to catch its breath from the tragedy of Act IV before heading into the even greater tragedy of Act V. If one looks at the scene in context with the earlier scenes that include servants a second argument can be made for why Shakespeare included it. From each scene including servants, we gain a unique perspective of the events going on in the play. Here, in the figure of the musicians, we get a profoundly different view of the reaction of the lower classes to the tragedy of Juliet‘s death. Initially the musicians are wary about playing a happy song because it will be considered improper, no matter their explanations. It is not, after all, for a mere musician to give explanations to mourning noblemen. As the scene progresses it becomes clear that the musicians do not really care much about Juliet or the tragedy in which she is involved. They care more about the fact that they are out of a job, and perhaps, that they will miss out on a free lunch. In other words, this great tragedy, which is, undoubtedly, a tragedy of epic proportions, is still not a tragedy to everyone.
Romeo has had a dream in which Juliet finds him dead which has disturbed him. His servant Balthasar arrives in Mantua from Verona with news that Juliet is dead. Romeo immediately orders him to bring a post horse so that he can return to Verona and see her for himself. Romeo then finds a poverty stricken apothecary and pays him for some poison.
Friar John arrives to tell Friar Laurence that he was unable to deliver the letter to Romeo. His excuse is that some people were afraid he carried the pestilence (the plague) and refused to let him out of a house. Friar Laurence realizes that this destroys his plans, and orders a crowbar so that he can go rescue Juliet from the grave.
Romeo and Balthasar arrive at Juliet's tomb, where Paris is standing watch to ensure no one tries to rob the vault. Paris sees Romeo and fights him, but is killed in the process. His page then runs off to fetch the city watchmen. Romeo opens up the tomb and sees Juliet. He sits down next to her, takes a cup and fills it with the poison, then drinks it and dies kissing Juliet. Friar Laurence arrives only seconds later and discovers that Paris has been killed by Romeo. Juliet awakes and finds Romeo dead beside her, with the cup of poison still next to him. She kisses him, hoping some of the poison will kill her as well. Friar Laurence pleads with her to come out of the vault, but instead Juliet chooses to kill herself with Romeo's dagger. At this point the watchmen arrive, along with the Prince, Montague and Capulet. Friar Laurence tells them the story as he knows it, and Balthasar gives the Prince a letter written by Romeo which verifies the story. Montague, in order to make amends for Juliet's death, tells them he will erect a golden statue of her in Verona for all to see. Not to be outdone, Capulet promises the same of Romeo. The Prince ends the play with the words, "For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo."
Analysis of Act V
Much in the way that the characters in Richard III dream about their fates in the final act of that play, Romeo too has a dream which tells of his fate. "I dreamt my lady came and found me dead". The use of dreams is meant to foreshadow, but also heightens the dramatic elements of the tragedy by irrevocably sealing the character's fate. When Romeo goes to the Apothecary to buy his poison, it is as if he were buying the poison from Death himself. Note the description of the Apothecary, "Meagre were his looks. / Sharp misery had worn him to the bones". He is clearly an image of Death. Romeo pays him in gold, saying, "There is thy gold - worse poison to men's souls". This description of gold ties into the conflict between gold and silver. It is gold that underlies the family feuding, even after the death of both Romeo and Juliet when Capulet and Montegue try to outbid each other in the size of their golden statues. Thus for Romeo gold really is a form of poison, since it has helped to kill him. The analysis of the first act pointed out some of the numerous sexual references throughout the play. In the final death scene there is even the full force of the erotic element. Romeo drinks from a chalice, a cup with a shape that is often compared to the torso of a woman. Meanwhile Juliet says, "O happy dagger, / This is thy sheath! There rust, and let me die". The dagger is of course Romeo's, and the sexual overtones are starkly clear. In addition to this, there is ambiguity about the use of the word "die." To die actually had two meanings when Shakespeare was writing, meaning either real death or sexual intercourse. Thus, even at the very end of the play, we cannot be sure from the words alone whether Juliet is committing suicide or engaging in sexual relations with Romeo. A final comment concerns Friar Laurence. His actions at the end of the play are remarkable for a holy man because he attempts to play God. Friar Laurence gets Juliet to drink a potion which puts her to sleep, faking death, and then he tries to resurrect her. In his attempt to play God, Friar Laurence is condemned to fail by the simple arrogance of his act. This tie-in with the death of Christ would not have escaped the Christian audiences watching the play.
6.4 THEMATIC STUDY OF THE PLAY
6.4.1 Romeo and Juliet as the Love Tragedy Romeo and Juliet is the most famous love story in the English literary tradition. Love is naturally the play‘s dominant and most important theme. The play focuses on romantic love, specifically the intense passion that springs up at first sight between Romeo and Juliet. In Romeo and Juliet, love is a violent, ecstatic, overpowering force that supersedes all other values, loyalties, and emotions. In the course of the play, the young lovers are driven to defy their entire social world: families (―Deny thy father and refuse thy name,‖ Juliet asks, ―Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, / And I‘ll no longer be a Capulet‖); friends (Romeo abandons Mercutio and Benvolio after the feast in order to go to Juliet‘s garden); and ruler (Romeo returns to Verona for Juliet‘s sake after being exiled by the Prince on pain of death. Love is the overriding theme of the play, but a reader should always remember that Shakespeare is uninterested in portraying a prettied-up, dainty version of the emotion, the kind that bad poets write about, and whose bad poetry Romeo reads while pining for Rosaline. Love in Romeo and Juliet is a brutal, powerful emotion that captures individuals and catapults them against their world, and, at times, against themselves. The powerful nature of love can be seen in the way it is described, or, more accurately, the way descriptions of it so consistently fail to capture its entirety. At times love is described in the terms of religion, as in the fourteen lines when Romeo and Juliet first meet. At others it is described as a sort of magic: ―Alike bewitchèd by the charm of looks‖. Juliet, perhaps, most perfectly describes her love for Romeo by refusing to describe it: ―But my true love is grown to such excess / I cannot sum up some of half my wealth‖. Love resists any single metaphor because it is too powerful to be so easily contained or understood. Romeo and Juliet does not make a specific moral statement about the relationships between love and society, religion, and family. Rather, it portrays the chaos and passion of being in love, combining images of love, violence, death, religion, and family in an impressionistic rush leading to the play‘s tragic conclusion.
6.4.2 Love and Violence
The themes of death and violence permeate Romeo and Juliet. They are always connected to passion, whether that passion is love or hate. The connection between hate, violence, and death seems obvious. But the connection between love and violence requires further investigation. Love, in Romeo and Juliet, is a grand passion, and as such it is blinding. It can overwhelm a person as powerfully and completely as hate can. The passionate love between Romeo and Juliet is linked from the moment of its inception with death: Tybalt notices that Romeo has crashed the feast and determines to kill him just as Romeo catches sight of Juliet and falls instantly in love with her. From that point on, love seems to push the lovers closer to love and violence. Romeo and Juliet are plagued with thoughts of suicide, and a willingness to experience it. Romeo brandishes a knife in Friar Lawrence‘s cell and threatens to kill himself after he has been banished from Verona and his love. Juliet also pulls a knife in order to take her own life in Friar Lawrence‘s presence just three scenes later. After Capulet decides that Juliet will marry Paris, Juliet says, ―If all else fail, myself have power to die‖. Finally, each imagines that the other looks dead the morning after their first, and only, sexual experience (―Methinks I see thee,‖ Juliet says, ―. . . as one dead in the bottom of a tomb‖. This theme continues until its inevitable conclusion: double suicide. This tragic choice is the highest, most potent expression of love that Romeo and Juliet can make. It is only through death that they can preserve their love, and their love is so profound that they are willing to end their lives in its defence. In the play, love emerges as an amoral thing, leading as much to destruction as to happiness. But in its extreme passion, the love that Romeo and Juliet experience also appears so exquisitely beautiful that few would want to resist its power.
6.4.3 The Individual versus Society
Much of Romeo and Juliet involves the lovers‘ struggles against public and social institutions that either explicitly or implicitly oppose the existence of their love. Such structures range from the concrete to the abstract: families and the placement of familial power in the father; law and the desire for public order; religion; and the social importance placed on masculine honor. These institutions often come into conflict with each other. The importance of honour, for example, time and again, results in brawls that disturb the public peace.
Though they do not always work in concert, each of these societal institutions, in some way, present obstacles for Romeo and Juliet. The enmity between their families, coupled with the
emphasis placed on loyalty and honour to kin, combine to create a profound conflict for Romeo and Juliet, who must rebel against their heritages. Further, the patriarchal power structure inherent in Renaissance families, wherein the father controls the action of all other family members, particularly women, places Juliet in an extremely vulnerable position. Her heart, in her family‘s mind, is not hers to give. The law and the emphasis on social civility demands terms of conduct with which the blind passion of love cannot comply. Religion similarly demands priorities that Romeo and Juliet cannot abide by because of the intensity of their love. Though in most situations the lovers uphold the traditions of Christianity (they wait to marry before consummating their love), their love is so powerful that they begin to think of each other in blasphemous terms. For example, Juliet calls Romeo ―the god of my idolatry,‖ elevating Romeo to level of God. The couple‘s final act of suicide is likewise un-Christian. The maintenance of masculine honour forces Romeo to commit actions he would prefer to avoid. But the social emphasis placed on masculine honour is so profound that Romeo cannot simply ignore them. It is possible to see Romeo and Juliet as a battle between the responsibilities and actions demanded by social institutions and those demanded by the private desires of the individual. Romeo and Juliet‘s appreciation of night, with its darkness and privacy, and their renunciation of their names, with its attendant loss of obligation, make sense in the context of individuals who wish to escape the public world. But the lovers cannot stop the night from becoming day. And Romeo cannot cease being a Montague simply because he wants to; the rest of the world will not let him. The lovers‘ suicides can be understood as the ultimate night, the ultimate privacy. 6.4.4 The Destiny of the Lovers
In its first address to the audience, the Chorus states that Romeo and Juliet are ―star-crossed‖—that is to say that fate controls them. This sense of fate permeates the play, and not just for the audience. The characters also are quite aware of it. Romeo and Juliet constantly see omens. When Romeo believes that Juliet is dead, he cries out, ―Then I defy you, stars,‖ completing the idea that the love between Romeo and Juliet is in opposition to the decrees of destiny. Of course, Romeo‘s defiance itself plays into the hands of fate, and his determination to spend eternity with Juliet results in their deaths. The mechanism of fate works in all of the events surrounding the lovers: the feud between their families; the horrible series of accidents that ruin Friar Lawrence‘s seemingly well-intentioned plans at the end of the play; and the tragic timing of Romeo‘s suicide and Juliet‘s awakening. These events are not mere coincidences, but rather manifestations of fate that help bring about the unavoidable outcome of the young lovers‘ deaths. The concept of fate described above is the most commonly accepted interpretation. There are other possible readings of fate in the play: as a force determined by the powerful social institutions that influence Romeo and Juliet‘s choices, as well as fate as a force that emerges from Romeo and Juliet‘s very personalities.
6.4.5 Images in the Play
One of the play‘s most consistent visual motifs is the contrast between light and dark, often in terms of night/day imagery. This contrast is not given a particular metaphoric meaning. Light is not always good, and dark is not always evil. On the contrary, light and dark are generally used to provide a sensory contrast and to hint at opposed alternatives. One of the more important instances of this motif is Romeo‘s lengthy meditation on the sun and the moon during the balcony scene, in which Juliet, metaphorically described as the sun, is seen as banishing the ―envious moon‖ and transforming the night into day. A similar blurring of night and day occurs in the early morning hours after the lovers‘ only night together. Romeo, forced to leave for exile in the morning, and Juliet, not wanting him to leave her room, both try to pretend that it is still night, and that the light is actually darkness: ―More light and light, more dark and dark our woes‖.
6.4.6 Different Points of View
Shakespeare includes numerous speeches and scenes in Romeo and Juliet that hint at alternative ways to evaluate the play. Shakespeare uses two main devices in this regard: Mercutio and servants. Mercutio consistently skewers the viewpoints of all the other characters in play. He sees Romeo‘s devotion to love as a sort of blindness that robs Romeo from himself. Similarly, he sees Tybalt‘s devotion to honor as blind and stupid. His punning and the Queen Mab speech can be interpreted as undercutting virtually every passion evident in the play. Mercutio serves as a critic of the delusions of righteousness and grandeur held by the characters around him.
Where Mercutio is a nobleman who openly criticizes other nobles, the views offered by servants in the play are less explicit. There is the Nurse who lost her baby and husband, the servant Peter who cannot read, the musicians who care about their lost wages and their lunches, and the Apothecary who cannot afford to make the moral choice, the lower classes present a second tragic world to counter that of the nobility. The nobles‘ world is full of grand tragic gestures. The servants‘ world, in contrast, is characterized by simple needs, and early deaths brought about by disease and poverty rather than dueling and grand passions. Where the nobility almost seem to revel in their capacity for drama, the servants‘ lives are such that they cannot afford tragedy of the epic kind.
6.4.7 The Dramatic Use of the Poison in the Play
In his first appearance, in Act II, scene ii, Friar Lawrence remarks that every plant, herb, and stone has its own special properties, and that nothing exists in nature that cannot be put to both good and bad uses. Thus, poison is not intrinsically evil, but is instead a natural substance made lethal by human hands. Friar Lawrence‘s words prove true over the course of the play. The sleeping potion he gives Juliet is concocted to cause the appearance of death, not death itself, but through circumstances beyond the Friar‘s control, the potion does bring about a fatal result: Romeo‘s suicide. As this example shows, human beings tend to cause death even without intending to. Similarly, Romeo suggests that society is to blame for the apothecary‘s criminal selling of poison, because while there are laws prohibiting the apothecary from selling poison, there are no laws that would help the apothecary make money. Poison symbolizes human society‘s tendency to poison good things and make them fatal, just as the pointless Capulet-Montague feud turns Romeo and Juliet‘s love to poison. After all, unlike many of the other tragedies, this play does not have an evil villain, but rather people whose good qualities are turned to poison by the world in which they live.
In Act I, scene I, the buffoonish Samson begins a brawl between the Montagues and Capulets by flicking his thumbnail from behind his upper teeth, an insulting gesture known as biting the thumb. He engages in this juvenile and vulgar display because he wants to get into a fight with the Montagues but doesn‘t want to be accused of starting the fight by making an explicit insult. Because of his timidity, he settles for being annoying rather than challenging. The thumb-biting represents the foolishness of the entire Capulet/Montague feud and the stupidity of violence in general.
6.4.9 Queen Mab
In Act I, scene iv, Mercutio delivers a dazzling speech about the fairy Queen Mab, who rides through the night on her tiny wagon bringing dreams to sleepers. One of the most noteworthy aspects of Queen Mab‘s ride is that the dreams she brings generally do not bring out the best sides of the dreamers, but instead serve to confirm them in whatever vices they are addicted to—for example, greed, violence, or lust. Another important aspect of Mercutio‘s description of Queen Mab is that it is complete nonsense, albeit vivid and highly colourful. Nobody believes in a fairy pulled about by ―a small grey-coated gnat‖ whipped with a cricket‘s bone. Finally, it is worth noting that the description of Mab and her carriage goes to extravagant lengths to emphasize how tiny and insubstantial she and her accoutrements are. Queen Mab and her carriage do not merely symbolize the dreams of sleepers, they also symbolize the power of waking fantasies, daydreams, and desires. Through the Queen Mab imagery, Mercutio suggests that all desires and fantasies are as nonsensical and fragile as Mab, and that they are basically corrupting. This point of view contrasts starkly with that of Romeo and Juliet, who see their love as real and ennobling. Thus Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare‘s love tragedies which we have studied in the former units. To study this play, you must remember it point wise by breaking it in sub points. The characters of Romeo and Juliet are important which also are included in the theme of love tragedy. Apart from love and hate, other topic equally important is the role of fate or fortune in the lives of the lovers. When we talk of love in this play, we have to remember that Romeo is the lover also of the agony and pain in love. He appears to be so much dejected even before he saw Juliet. That is why it is said that he is in love with the very idea of being in love. To understand the play in detail the students are, however, advised to read the text of play.
6.5 LET’S SUM UP This unit is a continuation of the earlier unit covering the detailed study of the play Romeo and Juliet. This unit structurally falls into three stages: introduction of characters and brief sketches of the major characters, scene wise summary of each Act followed by critical analysis of the Acts and thematic discussion of the play. In the first part of the unit we have been acquainted with 22 characters (both minor and major) of the play with their descriptions based on their roles in the play. It further critically discusses the portrayal of the major characters of Romeo, Juliet, Friar Lawrence and Mercutio. The second part speaks of the summary of each scene followed by commentaries on the scenes. The unit ends with the survey of various themes in the play.