Minor Characters

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“Minor” characters do play big roles in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet Renata Thiago Pontes1 Abstract: This study aims at showing the real importance of the “minor characters” in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Mercutio, Escales, Friar Laurence and Juliet’s Nurse are responsible for important events that lead Romeo and Juliet to their fate.

Key words: English literature, minor characters, identity.

Introduction

According to F. T. Prince the period of the great tragedies is bridged by two tragedies of love, Romeo and Juliet and Antony and Cleopatra. The first one being apparently simple, and the second one being obviously complex. The effect of Romeo and Juliet depends very largely on concentration, the direction and presentation of the story. Shakespeare did not invent this story but gave to it a reality undreamt of in his sources. It is difficult to categorize Romeo and Juliet according to the Aristotelian categories which are still applied to tragedy, but the play succeeds completely in isolating and fixing the quintessential experience of love (PRINCE, 1964, 329-333). Romeo an Juliet is the first authentic tragedy written by Shakespeare. In this play we have the triumph of dramatic lyricism and a dramatic ending which overwhelms the audience. According to Harold Bloom, Romeo and Juliet is incomparable in the world literature as a view of a reciprocal and unconditional love that is destroyed by its own idealism and intensity (BLOOM, 2000, 126). This work aims at analyzing four usually considered “minor” characters in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; Escales, Mercutio, Friar Laurence and Juliet’s nurse; in a

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Mestre em Letras (Literaturas de Língua Inglesa) pela Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro no primeiro semestre de 2008. Bacharel e licenciada em Letras (Inglês e Literaturas) pela Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro nos primeiros semestres de 2006 e 2007 respectivamente. Bacharel e licenciada em História pela Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro no primeiro semestre de 2006.

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way to show that these characters are crucial to the development of the lovers’s story. Usually considered “minor” characters, these characters, when closely observed, are essential to understand the events that lead to the couple’s death. Without them we could say that there would be no play, or that it would have to develop in a different way. In fact, these characters are intriguing to us, since we do not know much about their lives, except when they are in contact or performing actions connected to Romeo and Juliet. Maybe that is why some considered “minor” characters of Shakespeare’s plays have achieved the position of protagonists in postmodern rewritings.

Escales, Prince of Verona: the State is him

Romeo and Juliet’s love, in the play, inaugurates a new world. This world is inhabited by a new conception of relations between subjects and society. It illustrates the end of Feudalism and the beginning of the Modern State. It highlights a new hierarchy of values, social relations and power. Barbara Heliodora states that it is “a sermon against the damages of civil war, against the injuries caused to the community by the ones that place their personal interests above common well”2 (HELIODORA, 1997, 77). In the play, Escales, Prince of Verona, although having power of life and death in relation to his subjects, has his authority and public peace threatened by the struggle between two important noble families of the city: the Capulets and the Montagues. Escales’s relative, Paris, wants to marry Juliet, the only daughter of the head of Capulet family. On the other hand, Mercutio, also Escales’s relative, is a close friend to Romeo, the son of the patriarch of the Montagues. The struggle between the two families is not a novelty and is strengthened after new incidents. The play portrays the last incidents is this dispute between these two families, ending with the peace between them...
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