The Formal Features of Romeo and Juliet

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What formal features of Romeo and Juliet might lead critics to categorise it as a tragedy? To analyse the formal tragic features of Romeo and Juliet which could lead to its critical classification as a tragedy first and foremost is the understanding of the formal definition of tragedy as given by Aristotle and the understanding of it with regards to Senecan tragedy which provided the model for Elizabethan tragedy, and the contemporary view of tragedy. Aristotle’s formal elements of tragedy are prologue, parados; alternation of episodes between the principal and secondary actors allowing for costume change and to allude to time passage, written in verse, a wide variety of meters which indicate changes in mood and subject, heightened rhetoric for specific purposes and the exodus. Senecan tragedy was written to be recited but set out the five-act play with a complex plot involving murder , revenge ,ghosts and mutilation and elaborate rhetoric .The Elizabethan understanding of tragedy, involves “great “ characters facing life or death , a play that begins in peace and ends sadly , historical events ,some comic relief, and the involving the view that life should be forfeited as opposed to comedy where life should be embraced. This view of tragedy is completely different to the contemporary view of tragedy with its little emphasis on fate , that evil is just evil, suffering being a key element and that even justice has cruel or little reward. Tragedy was first definitively written about by Aristotle (335BC) in Poetics. In describing the formal elements of ancient Greek tragedy Aristotle wrote that tragedy “is the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself.” The imitation in this case being the acting out of a plot with the characters being the means to carry forward the story. In Poetics Aristotle aimed to explain the differences in the poetic Arts, what defines tragedy in relation to comedy, Epic,...
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