How Does Shakespeare Use Conflict in Romeo and Juliet Act 1 Scene 1?

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How does Shakespeare use conflict in Romeo and Juliet Act 1 Scene 1? In this essay I will address how conflict is successfully used in Act 1 Scene 1 to prepare the audience for the rest of the play. It will firstly show how Shakespeare uses physical conflict between the two feuding families. Secondly I will demonstrate the idea that Shakespeare introduces emotional conflict through the character of Romeo, and his outpourings of love for Rosaline. Finally I will show that the character of Romeo demonstrates both physical or external conflict and emotional or internal conflict. The purpose of the prologue is to clearly outline the plot of the whole play in fourteen lines and it also allows the audience to be settled before the actual play properly starts. The audience gets a glimpse of the rest of the play, it is introducing the idea that there is conflict; for instance “death-marked love” gives the idea of love not being positive, but is hinting that love is in fact negative as it relates to death. The prologue is a fourteen-line sonnet; it rhymes alternately till the last two lines where the sentences end in rhyming couplets indicating to the audience that the first act is beginning. The audience watching the play would associate a sonnet with love. However the audience is made aware that death and violence are going to be a major part of the play due to very angry, violent and aggressive words; these include “death”, “rage” and also “mutiny”. We are also told that “from ancient grudge break to new mutiny” which describes a history “ancient” long standing conflict between the two families. We also learn that there is a “continuance of the parents’ rage” indicating to the audience that this conflict is still on-going and unlikely to be easily resolved. Act 1 Scene 1 opens with Gregory and Sampson of the house of Capulet, in a public place in Verona City which shows immediately where the story will take place. From the outset it is clear that the servants are looking for physical conflict, as they are ‘armed with swords and bucklers’. At this time gentlemen wore swords, but servants usually didn’t, so by being armed it is obvious that Gregory and Sampson are looking for trouble. The language of the two servants is very masculine “we’ll draw” (swords) gives the audience the idea that Sampson is looking for a fight. We learn that he “will take the wall of any man or maid of Montague” clearly demonstrating he will not run from any conflict with the Montagues. However, Gregory is not as interested in taking part in this conflict but is more interested in talking with his mouth rather than his sword. “If thou art moved, thou runn’st away” shows how he would rather goad Sampson and challenge his masculinity with the clever use of words. The language used during the interaction between the two servants, such as addressing each other as “thou” is very upper class and not the language of a servant. This would appeal to the nobility and the upper classes in the audience. This scene is also very comedic; it does this to show the lighter side of the conflict within Romeo and Juliet. One way it is funny is when talking about the male sexual slurs “My naked weapon is out” is referring to his sword in a sexual way, which will entertain the audience. Another comedic feature is how Gregory can change the context of Samsons words. Sampson states that “we’ll not carry coals” meaning that they will not be accept any goading by the Montague then Gregory replies “No, for then we should be colliers” (coal miners) this is funny as he changed the context of carrying coals to mock Samson. The first encounter between the two families begins when servants of the two households Sampson and Gregory (Capulet) meet Abraham and Balthasar (Montague). Sampson symbolically bites his thumb; this indicates that he is looking for a fight. Again we see conflict being introduced as biting your thumb at someone was an insulting gesture. He does this to stir things up...
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