How Does Shakespeare Emphasise His Key Themes of Love and Conflict in Act I Scene V?

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Romeo and Juliet is the most famous love story in the English literary tradition. Love is naturally the play’s dominant and most important theme and is shown frequently throughout Act I scene V. The second most dominant theme is that of hatred, the contrasting theme to love; the theme of hatred permeates Romeo and Juliet and can be seen in an array of different forms throughout Act I scene V. In this essay I will discuss key themes in plot, characters and language. This scene alternates between the themes love and hatred, creating dramatic tension and suspense. Capulet is holding a ball in order to introduce his thirteen year old daughter Juliet to his kinsman Paris. Earlier in Act One Paris asked Capulet's permission to woe and marry Juliet. This subject was broached by Lady Capulet and the Nurse, who gives a rude bawdy significance to marriage. Juliet, being only thirteen, stated that it is not something she has really given much consideration to but she will look at Paris to see if marriage would be acceptable. A very young and naïve Juliet at this point, who has quite an immature outlook on love. The opening twelve lines of Act I scene V are set in the great hall of the Capulet’s, all is a-bustle. Through the conversation of the servants, we are given visual clues of a party taking place, and the stressful atmosphere around preparing for a party: “Away with the joint-stools, remove the court-cupboard, look to the plate.” The dramatic purpose of these twelve lines is that traditionally in the days of Shakespeare there was no scenery, so words filled the roles of props, sets and lighting. This short scene among the servants serves to establish that some time has passed in the progress of the feast. They complain that they are short staffed: “Where’s Potpan that he helps not to take away? He shifts a trencher! He scrape a trencher!” Shakespeare opens this scene with a very frantic and quick atmosphere to create drama to alert and entice the audience. We are first introduced to the second theme of youth and age in this scene through Capulet's interaction with his guests and relatives. He watches his younger guests enter his party and dance: “I have seen the day that I have worn a visor and could tell a whispering tale in a fair lady’s ear” The reminiscence with his cousin about the masques they danced in as young men emphasizes his position within the play as an old man past his "dancing days." When Romeo sees Juliet for the first time, he is struck by her beauty and breaks into a sonnet. The imagery Romeo uses to describe Juliet gives important insights into their relationship. Romeo initially describes Juliet as a source of light, like a star, against the darkness: "she doth teach the torches to burn bright! It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night." As the play progresses, a cloak of interwoven light and dark images is cast around the pair. The lovers are repeatedly associated with the dark, an association that points to the secret nature of their love because this is the time they are able to meet in safety. At the same time, the light that surrounds the lovers in each other's eyes grows brighter to the very end, when Juliet's beauty even illuminates the darkness of the tomb. The association of both Romeo and Juliet with the stars also continually reminds the audience that their fate is "star-cross'd."

Romeo believes that he can now distinguish between the artificiality of his love for Rosaline and the genuine feelings Juliet inspires. Romeo acknowledges his love was blind, "Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight / for I ne'er saw true beauty till this night." Romeo’s change in emotions can been seen throughout this scene. At the beginning of the play, Romeo pines for Rosaline, proclaiming her the paragon of women and despairing at her indifference toward him. Taken together, Romeo’s Rosaline-induced histrionics seem rather juvenile. Romeo is a great reader of love poetry, and the portrayal of his love for...
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