Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet; focusing on Romeo as the ‘tragic hero’. Poems: Dulce et decorum est by Wilfred Owen and For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon
Personal experiences and political/historical perspectives heavily influenced the presentation of heroism in Shakespeare plays and in Literary Heritage poems about World War 1. The authors often developed the concept of heroism in prose, drama and poetry, which is subliminally connected to political/historical contexts. The term ‘hero’ initially evolved from Greek mythology. ‘A being possessing god like powers and beneficence who often came to be honoured as divinity.’ ‘(In later antiquity) an immortal being; a demigod.’ The essay will reconnoitre the essence behind the meaning of ‘heroism’ and more specifically ‘tragic heroism’. The influence the Greek myths had on Shakespeare dramas and how the classical mythology of ‘heroism’ evolved into Shakespeare’s ‘tragic heroism’ will also be analysed. The literal dictionary meaning of ‘tragic hero’ is ‘a great or virtuous character in a dramatic tragedy that is destined for downfall, suffering, or defeat.’ Many people have different interpretations and viewpoints on this particular term and various interpretations tie in together to create the modern meaning of ‘heroism’. Shakespeare was accustomed to writing tragic novellas/plays, as the Elizabethan era was partial to this particular genre. I will be focusing on how Shakespeare portrays Romeo as the ‘tragic hero’ and the language and structure Shakespeare uses to elaborate and emphasize on this particular point. The other playwright that I will be scrutinizing is poems; these particular poems will be regarding WW1. Many poems were written at the time of the war, some based on personal experiences and some from the viewpoint of the families. In all these poems a detailed emphasis was given to the description of the soldiers. The similarity these two works of literature have lies in the heroism they represent, in this case naïve yet brave martyrdom, which in fact boils down to them representing themselves as ‘heroes’ when sacrificing themselves for their country and people. The two chosen poems are ‘Dulce et decorum est’ written by Wilfred Owen and ‘For the Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon. These two poems have one particular underlying theme that they both share, the devalued soldiers who heroically fought and became victims of the war. To establish similarities between the different portrayals of heroism, I will evaluate how the character of Romeo is depicted in the play and compare this to the presentation of the soldier figure represented in my selection of poems.
Heroism in Romeo and Juliet:
Shakespeare is a well- known author who wrote in the 1500's. Many of his plays are classified as tragedies. A tragedy is described as a serious catastrophe or a sad event. In Shakespeare plays, a tragedy is identified as a story that ends dejectedly due to the fall of the central character, which is the tragic hero. Romeo is classed as the ‘tragic hero’ because he sacrifices himself for Juliet; the love of his life and as a result saves the two rivalling families from any further fights and quarrels. It is necessary for a person to possess certain qualities in order for them to be classified as a ‘tragic hero’. One of these qualities is to be of noble birth or high status (being wealthy). In the play Romeo and Juliet, Romeo playing the tragic hero, indeed does possess this quality. Romeo is from the noble family of the Montague’s and in the city of Verona the Montague’s are a very well known and respected family. Act 1, Scene 1: "My noble uncle." Benvolio is in-fact referring to Lord Montague, the father of Romeo. He is thought highly of by the Nurse and is described to be a...