Romeo and Juliet: Prologue and Act 1, Scene 1 and 2

Romeo and Juliet: Prologue and Act 1, Scene 1 and 2 Romeo and Juliet is one of William Shakespeare’s earliest plays. Even when it was first performed around 1597, this play was a major hit. Today, it remains one of Shakespeare’s most successful plays. There have been numerous film and artistic adaptations over the centuries.Romeo and Juliet differs from Shakespeare’s other tragedies such as Hamlet and King Lear, which follow a classical model of tragedy. In that model, the high-ranking protagonist falls from a state of prosperity to one of misery as a result of a tragic flaw. In other words, the fall comes from within the protagonist.In Romeo and Juliet, however, the protagonists are brought down by forces largely beyond their control. The outside force of fate is one of the greatest obstacles that the two protagonists face. The theme of love, which is characteristic of Shakespeare’s comedies, also sets Romeo and Juliet apart from other tragedies. In fact, the first two acts of Romeo and Juliet contain elements of comedy before the tone turns more tragic.
Romeo and Juliet: Prologue and Act 1, Scene 1 and 2 Romeo and Juliet begins with a prologue in the form of a sonnet that the Chorus recites. The prologue describes the scene of the action (Verona, Italy) and provides some background information about the main characters. It also fills the audience in on the hatred and hostility between the Capulets and the Montagues. The prologue introduces the important themes of the play, which include love and sacrifice as well as free will and fate.The prologue gives the audience an idea about what will unfold on the stage:From forth the fatal loins of these two foespair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;These lines tell the audience that the star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, can never be together because of the enmity, or hatred, between their families. This enmity bears ultimate responsibility for their tragedy.The young lovers die because they have been born into a violent and cruel world. In this way, the prologue reveals what will happen in the play. The prologue also creates an emotional intensity that ensures that the audience will feel sympathetic toward the young lovers, who they know are destined to die.
Act I, Scene I, Summary The feud between the Montagues and the Capulets ignites in a street brawl that starts between the servants of the two houses. The Prince of Verona stops the fight and tells the families that they will be sentenced to death if they fight in the streets again. In the aftermath, Romeo’s cousin Benvolio talks to Montague and Lady Montague about their son Romeo. They are worried because he has been acting withdrawn. Benvolio talks to Romeo and learns that he’s sad because he’s in love with Rosaline, but she does not love him back. Benvolio encourages Romeo to forget Rosaline by meeting other girls.
Act I, Scene II, Summary Count Paris asks Capulet if he can marry his daughter Juliet. Capulet isn’t sure if it’s a good idea because Juliet is just 13 years old. However, Capulet invites Paris to a feast so that he can spend more time getting to know Juliet. Capulet sends a servant to invite the guests. The servant can’t read the list of invitees, but he runs into Romeo in the street and asks him for help. Romeo reads the list for the servant and finds out that Rosaline will be at the feast. His cousin Benvolio encourages Romeo to go to the feast, even though he is not invited.
Analysis: In scene I, the audience learns more about the feud between the Capulet and Montague families. The intense hatred between these families sets the mood of the scene. The atmosphere is filled with hostility and hatred. The feud is portrayed as deep-rooted but also trivial. No reason for the feud is revealed. The senselessness of the fight serves to heighten the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet’s eventual deaths. It shows that the two families’ hatred will stand in the way of Romeo and Juliet’s love.Scenes I and II also introduce the audience to the main themes of love and fate. Scene I introduces the theme of love through the love-struck character of Romeo. To Romeo, love is “a madness most discreet.” He is shown to be emotional and passionate from the start of the play. In the first scene, Romeo is depressed because he is in love with Rosaline, who has rejected him. His relentless, but hopeless, pursuit brings to mind the Petrarchan lover. The Italian poet Petrarch wrote sonnets for Laura, a married, unattainable woman. The theme of unattainable and passionate love is carried forward over the next scenes.
Romeo and Juliet: Prologue and Act I, Scenes I and II (continued) Scene II develops the theme of fate and free will. Count Paris wants to marry Juliet, and her father agrees to let him court her. Juliet is not consulted when her father and Paris discuss her possible future. Capulet’s authority over his daughter reflects the social structure of the period in which women were expected to be submissive and agree with the patriarch’s decisions. So, in effect, Juliet is not free to control her own fate. Shakespeare develops these themes further as the play progresses.
Which lines in this excerpt from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet best develop the theme of fate and freewill? JULIET: I’ll look to like, if looking liking move:But no more deep will I endart mine eyeThan your consent gives strength to make it fly.
Romeo and Juliet: Act 1, Scene 3 – 4 In act I, scene IV of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo and his friends Mercutio and Benvolio get ready to attend the Capulet ball. Romeo tells his friends about a strange dream he had, which he takes as a bad omen. Mercutio concludes that dreams are meaningless. However, Romeo’s premonition hints at the fate awaiting him and Juliet.In scene V, Romeo goes to the Capulet ball, but he is spotted by Juliet’s hot-headed cousin Tybalt. Tybalt immediately wants to fight Romeo for attending the ball uninvited, but Lord Capulet stops him. Romeo falls in love with Juliet and forgets about Rosaline. Romeo and Juliet both discover each other’s true identities.These scenes set up the unavoidable conclusion of the lovers’ deaths. The events heighten the sense that fate is in control and there is nothing the young lovers can do about it. In scene III, Juliet’s mother persuades her to allow Count Paris to court her and possibly marry her. Though Juliet is not interested, she obeys, which highlights the theme of her lack of free will. However, when she falls in love with Romeo, Juliet begins to assert her free will.
Which lines in this excerpt from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet best develop the theme of fate JULIET: Go ask his name: if he be married.My grave is like to be my wedding bed.
Character Analysis Four major characters in act I are Romeo, Juliet, Mercutio, and the Nurse. Mercutio is a foil to Romeo, and the Nurse is a foil to Juliet. The two lovers are complete romantics, who will do anything for love. Mercutio and the Nurse, on the other hand, are more practical and pragmatic. To them, love is irrational and has no value.The witty Mercutio is not as emotional as his friend Romeo:If love be rough with you, be rough with love;Prick love for pricking, and you beat love down,Through such lines, Mercutio tries to convince Romeo that there are plenty of other girls and love is not worth the hassle. Romeo, however, values love and is willing to risk his life to go to a Capulet party just to see Rosaline, a girl who has rejected his love. Where Mercutio is cynical, Romeo is idealistic and impulsive.
Character Analysis #2 Juliet’s nurse, like Mercutio, is bawdy and coarse. She makes vulgar jokes about Juliet in front of her mother, though she seems to care about Juliet. The Nurse is a foil to Juliet because she represents opposing qualities. While she’s old, crude, and cynical, Juliet is young and hopeful. The Nurse also seems to believe that women are subservient to men. While Juliet has complex feelings about love and marriage, the Nurse seems to be simple and happy not to think about the complexities of love or other feelings.Juliet, unlike the Nurse, has a more idealistic view of love. She believes that love is not just about attraction or social status. When Lady Capulet tries to convince her to accept Count Paris by praising his physical appearance and wealth, Juliet agrees to allow him to court her. Yet, Juliet also states that she won’t go any further than her parents want her to. So while Juliet has accepted her parents’ wishes, she also implies that she won’t try very hard to like Paris if his personality doesn’t interest her.
young and independent-minded juliet
naïve and protected juliet
cynical about women’s roles in society nurse
idealistic about life juliet
pragmatic and practical about feelings nurse
unpolished and crude nurse
Focus on Language Shakespeare uses figurative language to further develop and enrich the characters and the plot of his plays. Examples of alliteration, allusion, metaphor, oxymoron, pun, and simile are found throughout Romeo and Juliet.Alliteration: This figure of speech involves the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of two or more words. For example, when Lady Capulet asks Juliet to let Paris woo her, Juliet replies, “I’ll look to like, if looking liking move.” Note how the sound of the letter l at the beginning of several words is repeated in this line.Allusion: An allusion is a reference to a real or fictitious person, event, place, work of art, or another work of literature in a piece of writing. In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo’s poetry about Rosaline has many allusions:Well, in that hit you miss: she’ll not be hitWith Cupid’s arrow; she hath Dian’s wit;Note how Romeo alludes to Diana, the virgin goddess who looks after virgins, when he compares Rosaline to her. He also alludes to Cupid when he says that even the god of love cannot make Rosaline love him.
Focus on Language #2 Metaphor: A metaphor is a direct way of making a comparison in which one thing is said to be something else. For example, when Lady Capulet first asks Juliet to allow Count Paris to court her she compares Paris’s good looks to a delightful book:Read o’er the volume of young Paris’ face,And find delight writ there with beauty’s pen;Simile: In addition to metaphors, Shakespeare uses similes to make comparisons in the play. A simile creates a comparison using the words like or as. Similes are usually used to compare two dissimilar objects. An example of a simile is found in what Romeo says when he first sees Juliet:It seems she hangs upon the cheek of nightLike a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear;Here, Romeo says that Juliet is like a jewel.
Focus on Language #3 Pun: A pun is a play on words to be funny or clever. Puns usually use words that have multiple meanings. Sometimes they use homophones, words that sound the same but have different meanings. Many puns in Romeo and Juliet are lewd. Juliet’s nurse and Romeo’s friend Mercutio use puns most often. The Capulets’ servants Sampson and Gregory also use puns in the play’s first scene. Shakespeare gives most of the puns in the play to the bawdy and lower-class characters. However, other characters also use puns, such as this dignified example from Romeo:Give me a torch: I am not for this ambling;Being but heavy, I will bear the light.In Romeo’s pun, the word light refers to both the actual light that a torch sheds and the emotion or feeling of being “light,” or without worries. The word heavy refers to Romeo’s physical weight and also to the emotion of feeling low and weighed down.Oxymoron: An oxymoron uses contrasting images, ideas, or concepts within an expression. The term comes from the Greek words oxys and moros, which mean sharp and dull and show how opposing words are combined. An example of oxymoron can be found in Romeo’s line, “Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate!” Juliet’s speech is also characterized by oxymoron when she finds out that Romeo is a Montague:My only love sprung from my only hate!Too early seen unknown, and known too late!
Oxymoron: O heavy lightness! serious vanity!Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
Alliteration: From forth the fatal loins of these two foesA pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Metaphor: My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready standTo smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
Simile: Go ask his name: if he be married.My grave is like to be my wedding bed.
Allusion: The date is out of such prolixity:We’ll have no Cupid hoodwink’d with a scarf,
Pun: Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads;take it in what sense thou wilt.
Literary Analysis: When reading a play like Romeo and Juliet, doing a literary analysis can help you interpret the writing. A literary analysis is a type of argument. Like any argument, a literary analysis conveys a perspective, interpretation, or evaluation about the text that is being analyzed. Every effective argument consists of a central claim or thesis. A writer provides evidence to support this claim.The writer of a literary analysis tries to convince readers to accept the writer’s interpretation or evaluation of the text as valid. Putting forth a debatable thesis statement is the first step to achieving this goal. This thesis statement, for example is weak because it’s not debatable: “William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet explores the fate of young lovers in sixteenth-century Verona.” An effective thesis statement should be specific, make a strong claim, and convey one main idea. Here are a few good examples of a thesis statement for an essay on Romeo and Juliet:•In Romeo and Juliet, fate rather than personal flaws lead to tragedy.•Shakespeare explores the negative consequences of weak governance through the character of Prince Escalus of Verona in Romeo and Juliet.
Literary Analysis #2: The writer provides evidence from within the text to support the thesis statement by quoting certain lines or paragraphs. When you use quotes from the text or from some other reference material, it’s important that you attribute them correctly. Writers often use in-text citations for this purpose. You can also use evidence from outside the text, such as biographical information about the author, expert opinions of literary critics, and other types of media that reference the text.To collect and include effective evidence in a literary analysis, it is important to read the text and mark any important ideas, symbols, or images. That will help you determine the work’s themes. Reading other essays about the same work or a similar topic can also help you work out your ideas. Remember not to be overly influenced by others’ opinions.You should also format your paper so the information is clear and organized. For example, when quoting dialogue, set the lines from the drama apart from the rest of the text like this:From forth the fatal loins of these two foesA pair of star-cross’d lovers take their lifeOr, if you integrate the lines within the main text, use slashes to indicate line breaks in this way: “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes/A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life.”The next screen presents a short literary analysis.
The Concept of Fate in Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet challenges the classical model of tragedy by suggesting that fate, rather than a personal flaw, is at the root of the tragedy. The audience learns in the opening prologue that the two lovers are doomed from the start and that their tragic demise will be through no fault of their own:From forth the fatal loins of these two foesA pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life.Literary scholar Ruth Nevo suggests a similar idea in her essay “Tragic Form in Romeo and Juliet.” Nevo describes how chance and luck are predominant in the major events of the play. For instance, she points out that a coincidence leads to the two lovers meeting in act I. It’s only when Romeo meets the illiterate servant that he learns about the Capulets throwing a ball. Later, the coincidences become greater and have more dangerous consequences for the lovers. A crucial letter doesn’t reach Romeo and leads to a fatal misunderstanding.Shakespeare heightens the suspense and inevitability of the forthcoming tragedy through his use of foreshadowing. After the friends banter before going to the Capulet ball uninvited, Romeo says, “I fear, too early: for my mind misgives/Some consequence yet hanging in the stars.” His words are an unwitting reminder that the tragedy cannot be averted because it is “in the stars.” In other words, it is their fate to die.

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