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Dramatic Structure in “Romeo and Juliet”

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A look at the structure of a play reveals how it has been put together. The most important structural device in “Romeo and Juliet” is juxtaposition for contrast. Shakespeare repeatedly puts two different people or actions or words side by side to heighten the differences between them.

Shakespeare uses foil characters to point out the differences between them. One example of this is when he uses Rosaline as a foil character to compare to Juliet. The first thing you see when Rosaline is compared to Juliet is that Juliet is extremely immature. To prove Juliet’s immaturity is when she is talking about not marring if she can’t be married to Romeo. This is an immature thought because she is acting similar to a child trying to get whatever it wants. Another pair of foil characters is Benvolio and Mercutio. “I pray thee, good Mercutio, let’s retire…we shall not scape a brawl; For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.”[III, i, 1& 3-4] This quote shows Benvolio is civil and not looking for trouble, unlike Mercutio. This quote also demonstrates Benvolio’s smarts because one can see that he thought out the events that could potentially happen.

Shakespeare places contrasting actions side by side to heighten tension in conflicts and to move the plot along. A major example of this is when it makes the transaction from Romeo and Juliet’s graceful marriage to the disturbing scene of Tybalt’s death. “Tybalt, the reason that I have to love thee Doth much excuse the appertaining rage” [III, i, 62& 63] This quote is said by Romeo to Tybalt right before there brawl occurs. Romeo is telling Tybalt that they shouldn’t be fighting because they are now relatives; however Tybalt thinks Romeo is mocking him. Another example is Juliet’s wedding turning into a funeral over night. This not only brings the play from happiness and joy to depression and sadness, but it also moves the plot along a great deal.

Shakespeare even uses contrast in words and images to point out differences. An instance that this is used is when Capulet describes Juliet’s wedding to her funeral. “Turn from their office to black funeral; Our instruments to melancholy bells.” [IV, v, 88 & 89] This quote is Capulet changing all of the festive wedding materials and plans to gloomy funeral plans. One other example of this is when Romeo discovers Juliet for the first time. “But soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!” [II, ii, ] This shows this device of literature because Romeo is referring to Juliet as daylight and brightness to point out her beauty.

Shakespeare perfected his plays into much more by using structural devices. Such as using foil characters, contrasting actions side by side, and by using contrast in words and images to point out differences. As one can see Shakespeare is an extremely sophisticated writer, which turns his plays into something much more than just a play.

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