Explain romeo and juliet, English

Explain Romeo and Juliet?

Your first step is to make yourself read the WHOLE PLAY. If it baffles you, see if you can find a video or audio recording that is true to the original. I recommend Franco Zefferelli’s 1969 film over the recent movie with Leonardo di Caprio.

Once you have read the play, you should try to identify the MAJOR CONFLICTS between the characters. In this play, that should be fairly easy to do. On the one hand, you have the feud between the two noble houses, the Montagues and the Capulets, ready to erupt into a fight at any time. And on the other hand, you have the love between Romeo and Juliet, each from an opposing family--a love that is at odds with the feud, and completely indifferent to the world outside.

Next, take another long look at the OPENING SCENE of the play. Remember that Shakespeare continually sets up the major ideas he wants to develop from the very beginning of his plays. Here, misunderstandings erupt into violence--a violence that festers for several acts until it explodes in two killings in Act III.

Think about how unconventional Romeo & Juliet’s relationship is for the times. Back then, parents arranged marriages between their children. That is why in this play Shakespeare has Count Paris play the conventional courter who formally appeals to Old Capulet for Juliet’s hand.

Because the two know their parents would not approve, Romeo must meet Juliet in secret. So they begin their love affair in a hidden garden, in the dark, cool night--far from the midday heat and the eyes of the public square. It is an artificial separation that falls apart when Tybalt slays Mercutio and Romeo is forced to take revenge on Tybalt. Think for a bit about other oppositions Shakespeare sets up between the world of the lovers and the outside world.

For much of the first half of the play, Shakespeare scatters scenes that seem to have little to do with either the feud between the families or with Romeo and Juliet’s love. If you are like me, these scenes are difficult to make sense of...There are lots of puns and wordplay--often around words that are no longer in use.

For example, consider Mercutio and Benvolio teasing Romeo at the opening of Act II, just before the famous balcony scene. Contrasted with Romeo’s new love for Juliet, they remind him of his past love for Rosaline; in preparation for the new ways Romeo will speak of love, they tease him about his poetical artificial-sounding love--how he would sigh and rhyme "love" with "dove"; and finally, in opposition for the depth of feeling Romeo will show for Juliet, their raunchy comments reduce love to mere lust and animal satisfaction. See if you can now make sense of the other scenes of this nature.

Romeo’s killing of Tybalt begins the second half of the play, where the comic elements become tragic, the action moves faster and faster toward the final catastrophe.

For example, notice how in Act IV, happy occasions become tragic ones. After Juliet takes Friar Lawrence’s potion, her marriage bed becomes her deathbed, and her wedding feast becomes a funeral. See if you can notice other examples.

As the confidant of the two lovers, Friar Lawrence is the most important "minor" character in the play. He is the wise man, the maker of potions, collector of herbs, the one able to distinguish between the good and the bad in all things, the one able to use the bad (potential poisons) for good ends (for healing). As a voice of moderation, he continually preaches patience and care to Romeo. The Friar "reads" life accurately and wisely.

Indeed, being able to "read truly" is very important in this play. In the opening scene, one set of household servants "misread" the gestures of another; Tybalt "misreads" Benvolio’s actions, and a fight erupts. Capulet’s servant is given a list he literally cannot read, and so he asks Romeo if he can read the names.

Emotions such as haste, anger, or grudges blind characters, preventing them from "reading" truly; in these cases, they rely upon conventional or traditional responses to make decisions. Thus to the hot-tempered Tybalt, Romeo, as a Montague MUST be a rogue and a villain; Tybalt cannot see him in any other way and challenges him to fight. See if you can find other examples where emotions cause people to misread situations.

Juliet, on the other hand, realizes that Romeo’s NAME is only a cover for what lies beneath. She and Romeo playfully "deny" Romeo as a Montague, and so they can uncover the truth of their relationship lying beneath the convention. Romeo and Juliet’s LANGUAGE matches their newfound ability to see truth, for they no longer talk in conventional terms about love. Investigate for yourself the ways their love is deeper than you might expect. Then ask yourself WHY? What CAUSED it to be like this?

But it turns out that being able to "read" truly is not quite enough, for as Shakespeare lets us see, messages can be delivered misleadlingly, or can go astray and not be delivered at all. For example, when Friar Lawrence’s message about Juliet’s faked death goes astray, Balthasar delivers another message in its place, which turns out to be "false," and to which Romeo acts too hastily in response.

So...WHY, when the Friar comes up with a scheme to reunite the lovers do these messages go astray? WHY, immediately after the happiness of the lovers’ marriage, does Tybalt kill Mercutio? WHY does Romeo arrive at Juliet’s tomb and drink the poison just seconds before she awakens?

There seems to be a force beyond Romeo & Juliet’s control--even beyond Friar Lawrence’s--that causes these unfortunate coincidences. That force the people of Shakespeare’s time called FATE. But perhaps more important than the actual misfortunes is the way Romeo and Juliet respond to the workings of fate. See if you can identify other incidents of FATE in this play, and how the characters respond to them.

Now that you have worked through these aspects of the play, believe it or not, you are ready to READ THROUGH THE PLAY AGAIN to test your observations. If you are right, you will notice many MORE things to confirm your thinking. If you are not quite on track, this second read through will help you correct and modify your opinions.

Posted Date: 5/2/2013 2:57:45 AM | Location : United States

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