How is the Theme of Love Presented in Act I of Romeo and Juliet?
In Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet”, the theme of love is central to the play and is highlighted by being set against a backdrop of conflict and violence. Throughout the play, Shakespeare uses the constant juxtaposition of love and hatred. I believe he does this so that the audience can really feel the plight of the two lovers set against such hateful circumstances. It also helps them to empathise and appreciate the struggle that Romeo and Juliet have to go through. Great tension is constantly present as the audience waits to see when the hatred will bring an end to their love. (E.O.P) In Act I of “Romeo and Juliet”, Shakespeare displays the parental love demonstrated by the Montagues and the Capulets and the “courtly” love of Romeo and Rosaline that is unrequited. However, the audience are then shown the purest and most natural form of love between Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet towards the end of Act I of the play. The effect of this is to build up dramatic tension as we are introduced to the hatred between the two families. The scene is set for the violent background to the forbidden love affair that will eventually unfold. (E.O.P) To begin with, Shakespeare uses a prologue which uses language to present the themes of love and hate. It is used to introduce the plot of the play, to let the audience know what is going to happen and to introduce the important themes. By using this classical style, Shakespeare gives his play a sense of dignity. I can also see that the prologue is written in sonnet form which intrigues me. I think that he uses this sonnet form to grab the attention and appeal to the audience because the Elizabethans enjoyed any clever use of language that fascinated them. Shakespeare also uses the sonnet form to add an eloquent touch to the play and boast his skills as a poet as well as a playwright. (E.O.P) Shakespeare creates a general atmosphere of hatred and imminent violence. However he then introduces love to the play that will eventually bring an end to all the quarrelling. Shakespeare says “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes”, which shows us that from these two sworn enemies, come the future leaders of the two families who are supposed to continue this hatred, however they end up falling in love with each other. As well as this, Shakespeare uses very powerful imagery in the prologue, such as “A pair of star-cross’d lovers”. This alliteration is used to emphasise the darker (and therefore more interesting) aspects of the play and also to foreshadow the play’s themes of romance, anger and death. (E.O.P) In the prologue, Shakespeare twice refers to the Capulets and Montagues as “parents” and to Romeo and Juliet as their “children”. Shakespeare is using irony in this way to demonstrate that the “children” are actually behaving in a wiser and more mature way than their parents whereas it really should be the parent’s role to guide their children in a wise manner. This therefore causes the audience to sympathise with the lovers, whose love for each other leads to a maturity unmatched by their quarrelling parents. (E.O.P)We see that in Act 1 Scene 1 of the play Lord and Lady Montague mock Lord and Lady Capulet. The involvement of these couples add to the sense that Romeo and Juliet’s love will be hopeless as this prepares the audience for the immense struggle for love that Romeo and Juliet will have and how difficult it will be for Romeo and Juliet to let their love blossom with such sheer hatred running through the two families. (E.O.P) The Montagues later discuss Romeo’s behaviour and his present state of depression. Shakespeare hints that this is caused by love sickness as Benvolio says that he has that morning seen Romeo walking, “underneath the grove of sycamore”. This pun demonstrates that Rome is under the influence of love sickness and unhappy because of love, as “amore” is French for love and “syc” is supposed...
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