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Romeo And Juliet Essay

1771 words - 8 pages

Romeo and Juliet Essay - Critical Commentary
Critical Commentary

Opening Prologue: The first act prologue not only reveals what will happen during the course of the play, but also some of the major dichotomies. The opening line shows us that the Capulet and Montague houses are, although at odds, equal in their aristocratic status. It was considered "fashionable" in the Renaissance for aristocratic families to have feuds, but they were not to engage in public fighting, a taboo which is broken by the Capulets and the Montagues. However, line 4 indicates that these equal families are in an ungoverned situation where no rules will be obeyed, which ...view middle of the document...

Even the Prince has very little control of the situation, which is evident in line 81 when fighting continues despite the fact that he has ordered them to stop. Escalus' weakness as ruler is revealed in his speech, where he notes that this is the third time that public fighting has erupted between the two families. His threat to execute any member of either family in lines 94-95 is fairly meaningless because he has done little to prevent their previous outbreaks, and Escalus does indeed fail to make good on his threat in Act III, scene 1. This lack of order in Verona contributes to the violence that occurs.
In the next section of the scene, we see Montague, Lady Montague, and Benvolio discussing Romeo, whose depression has attracted their attention. The Montagues have asked Romeo why he is so sad, but have gotten no response. This is typical for the Renaissance—as aristocrats, the Montagues are not really expected to have much to do with his upbringing, and therefore do not understand him much. However, the fact that Romeo keeps so much from his parents will lead to his death because he is not accustomed to confiding in the Montagues. Romeo does, however, confide in Benvolio in the third section of the scene. Romeo has been pining away for Rosaline, whose desire to lead a chaste life leads him to associate her with the moon goddess Diana in line 207. This association is important, as he will call Juliet the sun in Act II, scene 2. This comparison illustrates the dichotomy of light and dark that will run throughout the play. We also see one of Romeo's major character traits in this scene through his depression. Romeo is the embodiment of the Renaissance ideal of courtly love—he is fully consumed by love, and is devastated by Rosaline's rejection of it. This leads him to keep to the shadows and avoid the sun (note the light/dark theme at work). Romeo's plethora of oxymorons ("brawling love," "loving hate," "heavy lightness," etc.) are a reflection of his mastery of this concept. Despite this, however, Benvolio (who is no courtly lover) promises to snap Romeo out of his depression, which Benvolio will accomplish by showing Romeo other women. Benvolio's statement at the end of the scene, "I'll pay that doctrine, or else die in debt," is...
Act II
Prologue: This prologue lists the consequences of the newfound passion of Romeo and Juliet. In the first four lines, the Chorus reminds us that although Romeo was once completely enamored of Rosaline, his once-invulnerable attraction has been vanquished by his love for Juliet, which is much more "fair." The prologue goes on to state that there is immense danger in this relationship, even going so far as to compare Juliet to a fish attracted to the bait of a fishing hook. Although Romeo and Juliet cannot conduct their relationship in the typical Renaissance England manner (as Paris attempts to do by approaching Capulet instead of Juliet), the combination of the strength of their love and "good" timing...

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