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Write About the Ways Love Is Explored in Two Soliloquies, One from Romeo and Juliet and One from Othello.

Topics: Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare / Pages: 7 (1698 words) / Published: Mar 27th, 2012
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, 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 illustrates that through suicide Romeo is able to escape the world that has oppressed his and Juliet’s love. The irony here is clear through as it is through their suicides that Romeo and Juliet change the world which would not allow their love into one which would allow them to love each other honestly.

Typical of love poems and songs from any era, Shakespeare uses the theme of beauty throughout the soliloquy to emphasise Romeo's love for Juliet but also to create dramatic irony as Romeo comments on the way she does not look dead: “Death.../Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty/Thom art not conquered: beauty ensign/ Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks”. In this section death is personified as a warrior batting with beauty which is reigning victorious. The colour ‘crimson’ is used as a symbol of health and life and as the audience we hope that these signs will enable Romeo to see the truth; that juliet is still alive. Further frustration for the audience is created as Romeo continues to question why she remains so beautiful: “Ah dear Juliet/ why art thou yet so fair?” The use of questions helps to create tension and suspense as we wonder whether Juliet will wake up and answer Romeo preventing the imminent tragedy.

In the final part of the soliloquy shakespeare uses imagery from the lexical field of law: “And lips o you/ The doors of breath seal with a rightous kiss/ A dateless bargain of engrossing death!”. The words ‘seal’ and ‘bargain’ illustrate the legal imagery used by Shakespeare to suggest that Romeo believes he has an everlasting contract with death that must be now fulfilled through his suicide. Through this idea of a contract , shakespeare again personifies death as an omnipotent and a frightening force that we have seen elsewhere in the soliloquy. However, at this point to Romeo death is something to be welcomed and is an extension of his love for Juliet; it represents the fulfilment of their love and is a part of it rather than being separate from it. Shakespeare also shows this through the metaphor describing his lips as “the doors of breath which are to be sealed with a righteous kiss”, drawing to the audiences attention the awful fact that once dead, he will breathe no more whilst at the same time the ‘righteous kiss’ being a symbol of love between Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare creates deep feelings of pathos at this point in the soliloquy as in the audience we empathise with Romeo’s delicate emotional state. Also the use of dramatic irony creates feelings of frustration as we will julie to wake up in time for Romeo to realise that she is in fact alive.

In the last few lines of the soliloquy Shakespeare uses an extended metaphor of Romeo’s life as a sea journey ending in disaster: “ Come bitter conduct, come unsavoury guide!/ Thou desperate pilot, now at once run on/ The dashing rocks thy sea sick weary bark!” , The ‘ bitter conduct’ and ‘ unsavoury guide’ are interpreted as the poison Romeo is about to swallow as it will exactly guide Rome to his own death. At this point we can see that the poison is symbolic of society's tendency to poison good things and make them lethal; for example it is the feud between the Montagues and Capulets that has turned Romeo and Juliet’s love into something mortal. The use of the word ‘ Bark ‘ is used as a metaphor which is ‘ Sea-sick ‘ this demonstrating Romeo’s inner turmoil. The use of all the negative language creates a feeling of despair in the audiences mind, this emphasising the horrific drama of Romeo’s last few moments of his life. The final line “Here’s to my love!” acts as a dramatic toast as he drinks the poison , by using short sentences this draws to the audiences attention the finality of Romeo’s act. Through Romeo’s suicide we realise that his love for Juliet, which at the beginning of the play seemed more typical of the Elizabethan convention, courtly love this particularly in the way he straight away forgets about Rosaline when he meets Juliet, is most certainly true love.

Othello’s final soliloquy follows his resolution in Act 5: 1 that Desdemona is ‘ infidelity’ must be punished by death; “ Thy bed, last stained, shall with lusts blood be spotted”. Immediately we see the strong links between this and Romeo’s final soliloquy: both are put at the same point of the plays, this being moments before death, both also feature love as central themes; just as Romeo is delusional in Act 5: 3, so is Othello in wrongly believing Desdemona had been unfaithful. The use of using the soliloquy as a dramatic device is very powerful at this point in the play, providing the audience with a great insight into the conflict inside Othello’s mind intensifies the audience as we know that Othello’s ‘logic’ (that Desdemona “Must die, else she’ll betray more men”) is based on the lie that Othello had been unfaithful with Cassio. Just like Romeo was resigned to do what he must do so is Othello, speaking about the act with disturbing and mournful but poetic language.

Othello begins the soliloquy by using his own soul as a way of justifying the action he is going to undertake, almost as though it is a cleansing process. Shakespeare use of iambic pentameter and free verse in the opening lines of the soliloquy which effectively and immediately shows us Othello’s mood and decision; “It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul”. The repetition of ‘the cause’ emphasises the inevitability of his action, yet he cannot bring himself to name the cause which is Desdemona’s adultery, he cannot say the words because it is too distressing and painful to him. The harsh and almost cutting consonant sound of ‘cause’, stresses both the cold and clinical action he is going to perform, and the pain it will cause for Othello. He clearly believes that he is killing Desdemona for a justified reason, sacrificing her to an ideal rather than murdering in vengeful hatred.

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