English Paper 1 – Romeo and Juliet

Fate The purpose of a prologue in the Renaissance era was to shock the audience and make the tragedy genre more obvious: ”a pair of star-crossed lovers take their lives”. Shakespeare uses cosmic imagery to introduce the theme of fate. The ‘star[s]’ symbolise fortune, suggesting fate will control their situation. Also a mention of love and death within the same line- a motif throughout the play.Death-like language is juxtaposed with celestial imagery: ”when he shall die…/ he will make the face of heaven so fine”. This presents a romanticised portrayal of death. HOWEVER, the prophetic verb ‘shall’ reinforces the theme of fate, suggesting that R+J do not have any control over their love.In the balcony scene, love is compared to the moon: ”O’ swear not by the moon, th’inconstant moon”. This reveals of ‘inconstant’ and transient R+Js’ love is. By using celestial imagery, S reveals how fate plays a role in the play’s tragic ending. The celestial imagery in the prologue ”star-crossed” suggests that stars equal fate and supports the idea that R+J are controlled by fate and inevitably ‘death marked’
Feud Shakespeare uses dramatic irony to indicate the tragic outcomes that the feud brings: ”you know not what you do”= members of the feud unaware of the consequences the feud brings. Although prologue suggests R+J are destined to die through their ‘death-marked love’, mentions of ‘parents’ rage’ undermine this suggesting that it is the rivalry of the two families that leads to tragedy in what would otherwise be a story of love. INDEED, the very first words of the play utter ‘two households’ immediately issuing a sense of conflict. Shakespeare’s use of antithesis throughout the play shows wider themes: ”Here’s much to do with hate, but more with love” = reference to the feud shows what society wants to happen in contrast with personal desires. Oxymora is used throughout the play, suggest that love cannot exist without hate and vice versa: ”O brawling love! O loving hate!”- Both these paradoxical language features reflect chaos and confusion in play. The oxymora and antithesis used by Romeo also presents him as a Petrarchan lover, perhaps in an attempt to illustrate the bittersweet nature of love. Oppositional forces is a central theme so Romeo’s language is also a subtle reminder to the audience of the feud.In the first scene of the play the feud is presented as the blame of the tragedy as the Prince says ”Cankered with peace, to part your cankered hate”. Here, the juxtaposition of ‘love’ and ‘hate’ represents the conflict that is central to the play. Cacophonic verb ‘cankered’ creates connotations of sickness = unstable society or ‘infected body politic’ that corrupts and destabilises the society. LINK: ”a plague o’ both your houses”- disease imagery reinforces infected body politic and inclusion of ‘both your houses’ suggests both sides of the feud, C+M, are equally to blame for the ‘plague’ and tragedy of the play.
Hamartia Although the celestial imagery used in the prologue: ”star-crossed lovers” could symbolise fortune suggesting fate will control the ‘lovers’ situation, the line could also suggest that it is the lovers, R+J, own fault for the tragedy since ‘crossed’ implies that their love is not fitting within society. By ‘crossing’ the ‘stars’ they go against fate and society, perhaps bringing about their own death and tragedy. DESPITE, mentions of being ‘death-marked’, it could be argued that their youthful impetuousness and desire for freedom from oppressive systems is what ultimately accelerates the play towards its tragic ending: ‘We met, we wooed and made exchange of vow” = Triadic list exaggerates how quickly Romeo is in his pursuit of love and the caesura used quickens the pace making him appear even more dismissive and unaware.Shakespeare reveals R’s hamartia when he does not acknowledge other character’s warnings about his hastiness e.g. Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech; the anacoluthon from dreamy, fairy tale-like language: ”her chariot is an empty hazelnut”, to darker, more foreboding language ”dreams he of cutting foreign throats” could act as a warning for Romeo by symbolising the tragic outcomes that love leads to. Even Juliet tells Romeo ‘it is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden’, Romeo ignores this, continuing to remain ‘purblind’ asking the Friar to ‘consent to marry us’ the next morning. = Hamartia plays a role, not purely down to fate
Romeo In Act 1, scene v, Romeo’s language becomes elevated when talking about love. This reveals R’s flaw; his obsessive pursuit of love. This is shown as he attempts to use syllogism in order to seduce Juliet: ”Have saints not lips, and holy palmers too?”. R’s increasingly syllogistic language shows how hasty he is, revealing his hamartia, a concept seen in tragic plays= S preaching to audience of consequences of going against society. Shakespeare reveals R’s hamartia when he does not acknowledge other character’s warnings about his hastiness e.g. Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech; the anacoluthon from dreamy, fairy tale-like language: ”her chariot is an empty hazelnut”, to darker, more foreboding language ”dreams he of cutting foreign throats” could act as a warning for Romeo by symbolising the tragic outcomes that love leads to. Even Juliet tells Romeo ‘it is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden’, Romeo ignores this, continuing to remain ‘purblind’ asking the Friar to ‘consent to marry us’ the next morning. = Hamartia plays a role, not purely down to fateRomeo conforms to Petrarchan conventions throughout the play: ”Juliet is the sun / Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon”. Here, Shakespeare uses apostrophe to present Romeo as a Petrarchan Lover. The antithesis and use of opposites ‘sun’ and ‘moon’, however, acts as a subtle reminder to the audience about the central theme of oppositional forces and the feud.
The Prince In the first scene of the play the feud is presented as the blame of the tragedy as the Prince says ”Cankered with peace, to part your cankered hate”. Here, the juxtaposition of ‘love’ and ‘hate’ represents the conflict that is central to the play. Cacophonic verb ‘cankered’ creates connotations of sickness = unstable society or ‘infected body politic’ that corrupts and destabilises the society. LINK: ”a plague o’ both your houses”- disease imagery reinforces infected body politic and inclusion of ‘both your houses’ suggests both sides of the feud, C+M, are equally to blame for the ‘plague’ and tragedy of the play. After the ‘fray’ in the first scene of the play, it is the Prince who reinstates order within the unstable society. This is reflective of the power of the monarchy during Elizabethan England, when the play was written: ”hear the sentence of your moved Prince”. S’s use of possessive pronoun ‘your’ exaggerates the loyalty and allegiance towards the monarchy that would have been felt by many members of an Elizabethan audience as the monarchy represented the ultimate power. As shown in the final scene of the play, when it is the prince who, once again, reinstates order within the unstable society: ”scourge is laid upon your hate”- reinstating order in both first and last scene reinforces importance of monarchy in keeping order/stability.
Juliet In Act 1, scene ii, the form of Capulet’s speech creates a false sense of harmony, through use of iambic pentameter, which creates an even and harmonious tone, suggesting all will go to plan concerning Juliet and Paris’ marriage. This is also a form of dramatic irony since the audience knows this is not the case, making Capulet’s wishes for the ‘hopeful lady of [his] earth’ even more tragic. This false sense of harmony is reinforced by the use of rhyming couplets = sense of unity; in this way, S could be suggesting that unity and harmony would prevail had Juliet done as her father wished. Juliet’s defiance brings about the tragedy.
Fathers and the Patriarchy In Act 1, scene ii, the form of Capulet’s speech creates a false sense of harmony, through use of iambic pentameter, which creates an even and harmonious tone, suggesting all will go to plan concerning Juliet and Paris’ marriage. This is also a form of dramatic irony since the audience knows this is not the case, making Capulet’s wishes for the ‘hopeful lady of [his] earth’ even more tragic. This false sense of harmony is reinforced by the use of rhyming couplets = sense of unity; in this way, S could be suggesting that unity and harmony would prevail had Juliet done as her father wished. Juliet’s defiance brings about the tragedy. In the same scene, it appears that Capulet gives Juliet a say in her marriage as he says ‘within her scope of choice’. However this is undermined as he says ‘lies my consent’ = Juliet only given an illusion of choice. Reflective of the little control women had over their marriage choice in the Renaissance era. Earlier in the scene, Capulet says ‘Ere we may think her ripe to be a bride’. = Juliet commodified and possession of her father, the norm of renaissance society. Adjective ‘ripe’ has connotations of youth and virginity, suggesting that in her father’s eyes this is J’s biggest worth, which is also reflective of the renaissance era. In Act 3, Scene v, marriage is presented as a contract. This is shown through the language used by Capulet: ”our decree”. This term has legal connotations, revealing how marriage operated as a contract during EE.
Context Shakespeare could be offering a didactic message by showing the tragedy that is let to R+Js’ refusal to conform to what society is telling them: ”I have been feasting with mine enemy”. Romeo aware he’s breaking the rules. During Elizabethan England religion influenced many aspects of society. By showing R+J to be using god-like and idolatry language, S presents their relationship as not only non-conformist, but also sinful: ”He shall make the face of heaven so fine”. Tragic ending reflective of both the problems that would occur in EE if children refused to a marriage conducted by their parents as well as the dangers of failing to adhere to the official religion decreed by the Queen.
Love//Death In Act 1, Scene i, love is presented as unbalanced with death and hatred. This is revealed through the unstable society’s focus on fighting and the ‘fray’ at the beginning of the scene: ”the quarrel is between our masters / and us their men”. This clearly shows the blood feud between the two families and how it changes the place of love in society. Death-like language is juxtaposed with celestial imagery: ”when he shall die…/ he will make the face of heaven so fine”. This presents a romanticised portrayal of death. HOWEVER, the prophetic verb ‘shall’ reinforces the theme of fate, suggesting that R+J do not have any control over their love.Balcony scene- refs to nature and use of natural imagery reveals link between love//death: ”my bounty is as boundless as the sea”. At first, alliteration = rehearsed and romantic feel. HOWEVER, there could be darker undertones as the sea could be seen as violent and consuming, much like R+Js’ love. S could present this image in order to reveal a darker side to R+Js’ love and could allude to the tragic consequences that their forbidden love leads to.Constant underlying messages linking love and death acts as a form of dramatic irony = didactic message to renaissance audience. Elsewhere in the balcony scene, love is compared to the moon: ”O’ swear not by the moon, th’inconstant moon”. This reveals of ‘inconstant’ and transient R+Js’ love is. By using celestial imagery, S reveals how fate plays a role in the play’s tragic ending. The celestial imagery in the prologue ”star-crossed” suggests that stars equal fate and supports the idea that R+J are controlled by fate and inevitably ‘death marked’
The Friar The Friar can be seen as the cause of the tragedy as it is he who propels the play towards its tragic ending through his actions. Despite warning Romeo that ”Young men’s love then lies / Not truly in their hearts, but in their ears”. The Friar uses the formal language of rhyme and proverbs to stress the need for caution to Romeo. YET, in some ways the Friar can be seen as hypocritical and contradictory as despite warning Romeo of the consequences of haste he says ‘I will be brief’, marrying the pair and underestimating the power of the feud and hatred. He later blames ‘unhappy fortune’ on the tragedy of the play despite playing an important role in it.
Shakespearean fool The main characters that embody comedy are Mercutio and the Nurse who are presented as foolish characters (fitting within the Shakespearean fool conventions). E.g. Mercutio’s Queen Mab speech, which appears to be ridiculing and mocking Romeo in a comical way: ”She gallops night by night: Through lovers’ brains”. The Queen Mab speech, although dreamlike, presents perhaps the most realistic version of love in the whole play. The darkness and violence of the speech: ”dreams he of cutting foreign throats” could act as a warning for Romeo that he chooses to ignore. INDEED, the anacoluthon from dreamy, fairy tale-like language: ”her chariot is an empty hazelnut”, to darker, more foreboding language ”dreams he of cutting foreign throats” could act as a warning for Romeo by symbolising the tragic outcomes that love leads to. Likewise, despite being presented as frantic and foolish in a comical way, the Nurse, too, tries to warn Juliet by suggesting that Paris is more suitable: ”such a man!”DESPITE, being a dynamic and foolish character (fitting within the Shakespearean fool conventions)It could be argued that Mercutio offers some of the most profound moments in the whole play, perhaps an attempt on S’s behalf to illustrate that people often overlook the ‘wise fool’ due to blindness or pure ignorance.

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