The soliloquy is an important dramatic device which allows a character in a play to ‘step-out’ of the main action and engage directly with the audience, as if in a one to one confession about their thoughts and feelings, motives and decisions. As seen in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Othello’ the convention is a forceful and flexible tool for the dramalist since it places the audience in an omniscient position creating dramatic tension and irony. The audience is provided with an insight which other characters do not have, increasing the audiences perception on character development and breakdown.
Romeo’s final soliloquy takes place in act 5 scene 3. At this point in the play, Romeo is close to delusion as he looks at Juliet in the capulet crypt, wrongly believing her to be dead. The use of a soliloquy as a dramatic device works very effectively here; not only are we as the audience given insight into Romeo’s thoughts, feelings and his true love for Juliet it also allows Shakespeare to create deep feelings of empathy and pathos as we listen to Romeo’s disturbing stream of consciousness. Through his soliloquy Shakespeare presents us with an image of Romeo as a desperate man as he faces not only Juliet’s death but also his imminent suicide: “How oft men are at the point of death/Have they been merry! Which their keepers call/ a lightning before death O how may I/ call this a lightning?...” The theme of death is introduced immediately in the soliloquy as Romeo reflects on the relief of prisoners before their execution, reported by their wardens. However, what had been before nothing but a proverb to Romeo now becomes a tragic symbol of Juliets and his own death. On the other hand Romeo unlike the prisoners facing execution, feels no relief this highlighted in Shakespeare's Rhetorical question: “O how may I/call this a lightning?” The use of the word “lightning” is interesting in this quotation, at surface level it refers to the lightning of the spirits of the prisoners but we can also interpret it as an expression of Romeo’s shock as he looks at Juliet’s dead body at the point of his own death; the shock is so extreme it feels like a bolt of lightning. His sense of disbelief is conveyed in the following exclamations: “O my love! My wife!”; the repetition of the possessive pronoun “My” illustrates Romeo’s strong feelings for Juliet.
The theme of death continues as Shakespeare personifies it throughout the soliloquy o present it as a more threatening and sinister force, and a rival for Juliet’s love: “Shall i believe / That unsubstantial death is amorous/ And that the lean abhorred monster keeps/ Thee here in dark to be his paramour?” The negative language used to personify death here, ‘lean abhorred monster’ illustrates Romeo’s sense of disgust but more importantly, the fear that death has taken Juliet from him. Romeo’s fear is clearly expressed when Shakespeare writes: “For fear of that, i will stay here with thee...here, here will i remain”. The repetition of ‘here’ illustrates Romeo’s determination to stay with Juliet, to the extent that he will take his own life. Therefore we get the impression that Romeo feels that he must kill himself to preserve their love, a characteristic that makes him a true tragic hero.
Shakespeare expresses this idea more than once in the soliloquy: “O here/ will i set up my everlasting rest/And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars/From this world wearied flesh.” Through his suicide symbolised here by ‘everlasting rest’ Romeo is attempting to rid himself of his ill fate; inauspicious stars’. In Elizabethan times, people strongly believed in fate and the stars as controllers of fate; however, we know that the tragedy is fated from the start, where Romeo and Juliet are described as ‘Star cross’d lovers’ in the prologue and so we understand that Romeo too believes that this tragedy is inevitable. The reference to his flesh as ‘world -wearied’ emphasised by through the alliteration...
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