Romeo and Juliet begins with a prologue; which is a sonnet. The prologue addresses us, as the audience, and tells us what is going to happen by the end of the play. Through the technique of dramatic irony the sonnet is a formal opening for the play, which contains antithesis, ‘ancient grudge to new munity.’ To express the chaos of the feud. This line also shows exactly how long the feud has been going for. ‘A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life’ introduces two themes of the play – fate and love. The prologue uses dramatic irony in the line ‘Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife,’ this creates tension with the audience, as we know what is going to happen throughout the play. The feud is represented as madness, and disorder. Then we are plunged immediately into this chaos in scene one.
In the scenes leading up to scene five, Shakespeare exposes the inadequacy of all other types of love. The play opens with the representation of lust as the lowest level of love; this shows the feud has been corrupted every section of society. The servants, which are of the lowest level, open the play with crude discussions of rape and lust. The servants are throwing insults at each other. ‘I mean, and we choler, we’ll draw.’
‘Ay, while you live, draw your neck out of collar.’
Shakespeare uses stichomythia to dramatise the exchange between the servants. Their exchange between each other is to express their crude view of love. Language is used as a form of violence.
Shakespeare shows the historical context of women in scene one. Women, for the servants are ‘the weaker vessels,’ objects of male-lust. Women’s status in the Elizabethan period is immediately revealed. In addition, Lady Capulet and Capulet’s marriage is a shown as damaged, ‘A crutch, a crutch! Why call for a sword?’ Lady Capulet insults her husband, also his manhood is insulted. This argument shows that women are passed between men, in the Elizabethan period; they were objects.
When Prince enters the scene his speech is in blank verse, showing he is of a high social status. His speech is an iambic pentameter as it has ten syllables per line. ‘If you ever disturb our streets again, your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.’ This is more evidence of what is to come in the play: The Prince is saying that someone will pay with their own life. Further down, Shakespeare uses repetition to tell us that the feud is ongoing, and to repeat that people will pay with their life. This also could show us that both Romeo and Juliet by the end of the play paid with their life. This creates further tension in the audience.
Then we have the first reference of Romeo. ‘O where is Romeo?’ This shows that Lady Montague has some care for her son, but doesn’t know much about him. ‘A troubled mind’ shows symptoms of being love sick, or a false love. This ‘love’ is the conventional behaviour of a love sick young man, during Elizabethan period. In Lurhmann’s interpretation of the play, he uses juxtaposition of scenes, from intense activity to a slow relaxed scene of Romeo. Montague leaves it to Benvolio to find out what is wrong with Romeo. This gives Benvolio responsibility, emphasising the importance of friendship in Verona, but this also shows his parents love towards him as inadequate. At this point our...