Comical Elements in Romeo & Juliet

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The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedie, of Romeo and Iuliet – a play with such a title as this could hardly be expected to contain any great deal of light-hearted comedy, but comic elements can still be seen throughout the course of the story. Characters joke and jest in between romantic soliloquies; bright imagery are embedded between passages of trouble, darkness, and death. These elements are so subtly included in the tragedy that one barely notices their poignancy as the story folds out. Upon reflection, however, readers can see that this most lamentable tragedy is not purely tragic. Why would Shakespeare, then, theoretically, "dilute" the pathos of Romeo & Juliet by using these comical elements? He could have simply went along with Aristotle and developed the tragedy even further, but instead, he chose to combine humor into his play as well.

The daily hustle and bustle of the Montague and Capulet serving men are so strikingly ordinary in comparison to Romeo and Juliet's romantic lives that it can easily be seen as comedic. The very first scene of the play opens with wit-play from the two Capulet servants, Sampson and Gregory. Their imitation of the language of their masters makes for an entertaining little exchange as they play around with words like "collier….choler….collar" (9) since the speech of the servants throughout the play are quite a few notches below the language of their superiors. Peter, the illiterate servant of the Capulets, is one such example of the servingmen's humor through their inferiority. He asks Romeo and Benvolio for help in reading the guest list, and inadvertently invites them – or rather, uninvites – them to the feast. Later, after the "death" of Juliet, he has a seemingly irrelevant exchange with the musicians, in which he attempts some witticism. "Then will I lay the serving-creature's dagger on you pate. I will carry no crochets. I'll re you, I'll fa you. Do you note me?" (207). He uses multiple meanings of words such as...
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