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Show How Shakespeare Creates Tension Prior to Act 1 Scene 5

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Romeo and Juliet was written in 1595 – 6 by the most well known writer William Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet is a heart breaking story based on conflict between the love and hatred of two families. Shakespeare wrote this play about tragedy mainly because the audience enjoyed watching this type of play. It was very popular to have a tragedy in a play at this period of time. In most of Shakespeare’s plays there is a sad or bad ending and they are usually based on long poems. The main setting of this story is Italy, which at that time was known as a country of romance, love and glamour. People like Thomas Greene thought Romeo and Juliet were poor because they dealt with crude emotions and simple people, but Shakespeare wanted to appeal to his very diverse audience. In this essay I will show how Shakespeare conveys tension to the audience in act one scene five; I will be looking at the use of language, imagery and what affects these create on the audiences mind.

There are several techniques exemplified in Act 1 Scene 5 that bring around numerous emotions among the audience. These can promote a variety of reactions, sometimes humorous, others gut-wrenching. Either way, all the techniques illustrate to the spectators how illustrious this play, based upon two intense lovers and the extremes that they pass through to withhold their passion, can be.

Shakespeare has included this line in his prologue “a pair of star cross lovers take their lives “; this shows that the play ends in tragedy. He uses dramatic devises such as monologues and a sonnet. He also uses a variety of language; some characters speak in poetry and others speak in prose. Also the way the scene is structured makes it an effective piece of drama. Another way tension gradually begins to build is when a viscous fight between the Montague’s and Capulet’s take place. Tybalt, a Capulet shouts “peace, I hate the word”. To make matters worse and the atmosphere more tense prince Escalus announces to both families “your lives will pay the forfeit of the peace”. Tension is also built when Romeo says “for my mind misgives, some consequence yet hanging in the stars” this tells us that Romeo has a bad feeling within him and that tragedy could strike.

In the beginning of act one scene five the servants are preparing for the banquet (party). The mood is very humorous at this point as the servants are rushed off their feet to get the banquet ready, the servants tell people what to do and how to do it. Frantically rushing around they use repitious language to express their tension

“You are looked for and sort for, asked for and called for in the great chamber”. This rapid use of repetition builds tension within the audience. This makes them realise that the party is important and everything must get done on time. At the same time lord Capulet is welcoming his guests enthusiastically to this grand party and expecting an enjoyable evening. He is trying to create a welcoming and warm impression. The atmosphere of the excitement and some humour in the first lines of the scene also serve to provide a change and contrast to what has gone on in the previous scene.

Romeo secretly enters the Capulet’s party disguising his face within a mask as he doesn’t wish for his identity of being a Montague to be revealed. Here Romeo caches sight of Juliet and begins to marvel at her outstanding beauty. He is now mesmerized by her that he enquires (to a serving man)

“What ladies that which doth enrich the hand of yonder knight?” he is now insanely in love with Juliet.

This begins to create a joyful and romantic impression in the audiences mind, as they slowly start to realise that Romeo is falling in love, and is stunned by Juliet’s beauty.

Romeo comments on her beauty “that lady stands out for others like a white dove amongst black crows”. He is expressing that Juliet is like no other woman, she is so beautiful, and she stands out from all other women. Romeo begins to wonder has he fallen in love,

“Did my heart love till now”.

Now suspense and drama is steadily bought into the scene, when Tybalt identifies Romeo of being a Montague. “This by his voice should be a Montague fetch me my rapier, boy”. This type of language suggests to an audience that something will happen later in the play.

This is the part of the play which brings the audience on edge and make them realise that Romeo should be aware of this situation. Tybalt’s aggression and anger increases and he is determined to kill Romeo “to strike him dead I hold not a sin”

Matters become worse when lord Capulet steps in, Tybalt informs lord Capulet that he has discovered a Montague (who is Romeo) in the party ” uncle this is a Montague, our foe”,

Upon hearing this lord Capulet seems restful and calm, “let him alone”; upon saying this audience must begin to feel that Romeo is secure for now. Lord Capulet firmly states to Tybalt that he shall not cause any commotion or problems in any way. “I will not for the wealth of this town, here in my house do him disparagement” this is a positive point for the audience, and is again reassuring that nothing shall happen with Romeo in any way. Lord Capulet commands Tybalt not to do anything but still tybalt is engaged with fury and protests, but lord Capulet stays firm. Tybalt leaves still muttering that he shall not forget what has happened “I will withdraw, but this intrusion shall, now seeming sweet, shall convert to the bitterest gall”. This is now making the audience assume that Romeo is not safe and anything can happen to him at any moment.

Romeo approaches Juliet and begins to speak to her for the first time. He says “this holy shrine, the gentle sin is this, my lips two blushing pilgrims ready stand too smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss”. Automatically Romeo begins to express his love for Juliet. He is trying to say to her that she is so beautiful he worships her and is a pilgrim to her (the shrine). Romeo also expresses “grant thou, lest faith turn to despair” Romeo is asking for a ‘wish’ to kiss Juliet, as this decision is in her hands. When Romeo and Juliet kiss, the language is densely descriptive for several reasons. If Romeo was to touch Juliet it would be considered disrespectful, so a kiss would be beyond the word controversial. Hence, Shakespeare focuses a lot of attention upon this very moment. The audience experience a romantic moment between Romeo and Juliet, love surrounds them as they kiss. Suddenly the nurse interrupts and informs Juliet that her mother wishes to see her. “Madam your mother craves a word with you” Juliet exits.

Romeo begins a conversation with the nurse, and without hesitation asks “what is her mother?” Romeo soon discovers that Juliet is a Capulet “o dear account, my life is my foes debt” Romeo feared that Juliet would turn out to be a Capulet, the audience would be aware of this. Tension would be high.

Juliet is eager to discover Romeo’s identity and so she sets of the nurse to enquire about him “go ask his name if he be married”. The nurse brings back bad news “his name is Romeo and a Montague” this is a very shocking and tense moment for the audience, as questions will arise in their minds, of what will happen next.

Juliet reacts “my only love spring from my only hate” she is emphasising that her only love comes from her enemy’s family. She is dismayed.

There are many consequences connected to this tremendous love story, lord Capulet forces Juliet into marriage with Paris, and she refuses. Romeo murders Tybalt in rage and is sent on an exile as punishment. Juliet is alone and so sets of to meet Friar Lawrence, she requests something. He gives her a vile of potion which will make Juliet appear dead for a few hours, until Romeo returns. He also mentions that he would send Romeo a letter, informing him of this situation. Romeo is left un-informed.

He returns and assumes that Juliet is ‘dead’, so Romeo commits suicide, after a while Juliet is horrified to find Romeo dead and now truly kills herself.

The two families realise there severe mistakes and losses, and so unite once again.

Romeo and Juliet was a mixture of experiences, both of joy and sorrow, there were a few exciting action filled moments, and a few heart-breaking moments. Shakespeare has written this story in a basic form, yet it is so interesting and enjoyable to read. The plot of the story is so simple, yet so affective.

Shakespeare constantly engages the viewer through the tension he builds by placing his characters in eerie situations and formulating a negative conclusion throughout the play whilst suspending an element of hope especially towards the end when the time has come for Romeo and his Juliet to inevitably die. This suspense is a naturally enjoyable experience for most people, as it is a supreme form of entertainment. I personally believe that the play is an exceptional piece of work, leaving no space for improvement for it continuously withholds the audience’s attention and thus, achieves its goal.

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