Romeo and Juliet is a romantic tragedy written in early career of William Shakespeare about two “star cross’d lovers”. The plot of Romeo and Juliet is based on an Italian tale, translated into verses. The play begins with a 14-line prologue in the form of Shakespearean sonnet. He has also used different opposites and drama skills through the story and that is the reason that “Romeo and Juliet” has often been described as a play of opposites. Shakespeare used prologue to prepare the audience that “Romeo and Juliet” is a play of opposites by hinting these oxymoron: Love and hate, Dignity and Shame, Parents and Children, Fate and Freewill and Life and Death. He has used the language to express these themes which are fundamental and universal, that everyone can understand all over the world no matter if they read it in a different language or era.
In this essay I am going to look at three of the opposites from the prologue play and. Which are Fate and Freewill, Parents and Children and Dignity and Shame.
Fate, as a dominating force is evident from the very beginning of the play. As the Chorus declares; “A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life” which signifies that Romeo and Juliet’s lifes are going to be’ controlled by fate. “Star-cross’d” implies a pair of lovers who are destined to die “take their life” this informs the readers that the lovers are destined to die tragically. The word “star-crossed” is referring to fate. Destiny forces Romeo and Juliet to fall in love with each other and “take their lives” takes us to the very end of the book where Romeo drinks a dram of poison because He believes that Juliet has died, when Juliet sees Romeo’s death body, she stabs herself with Romeo’s dagger. Declaring the fate of Romeo and Juliet at the beginning of the play creates anxiety and it makes the reader think that the play is tragic. In Victorian times the society was controlled by rich and high status people, family feuds were quite acceptable in society. Montagues and Capulets being the cause of their children’s death signifies that they didn’t thought about their own children as well as other member of society. Shakespeare indentifies this fact as an oxymoron in his play to clarify that fate was much more dominant than freewill in Victorian times.
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In prologue, the Chorus also suggests that Romeo and Juliet are lovers who had the misfortune to be born into warring families: “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes (the Montague and the Capulet). This quotation suggests that two unlucky children of these enemy families (Capulet and Montague) become lovers and commit suicide because of the feud that is taking place between these two families something dreadful will happen. At this point Shakespeare identifies fate as the cause of Romeo and Juliet’s death. He illustrates that Romeo and Juliet committed suicide because they had bad luck to born into two opposite families. Shakespeare expresses that freewill was weak against fate which lead Romeo and Juliet to commit suicide because they had bad luck according to their fate. Even though Romeo and Juliet were true lovers they could not live together because they were destined to commit suicide. He uses the prologue to identify fate and freewill to prepare the audience that Romeo and Juliet is a play of opposites.
The prologue does not illustrate the characters freewill but Shakespeare has clearly shown Fate and the Freewill throughout the play. In (act one scene two) Romeo hesitates to go to ball with his friends because he had a bad dream “Some consequences yet hanging in the star…..By some vile forfeit of untimely death”. The quotation suggests that Romeo believes; His destiny star is going to be set in motion tonight and he thinks it will end up badly. This refers to prologue when Shakespeare discovers Romeo and Juliet as “star cross’d lover”. Romeo strongly believes in fate which encourages him to accept that he cannot live which his lover (Juliet) and leads him to commit suicide. At this point, Shakespeare clearly expresses that fate is a dominant theme throughout the play as the main characters are strongly influenced by their fate rather than their freewill. In eighteenth century people’s lifes were control by their fate more than their freedom. They did not fight against their destiny as they were encouraged to accept their fates by society’s expectations.
Romeo and Juliet’s death was partially because of freewill. Juliet determined to take Friar Laurence’s advice in inhaling a potion “A thing like death to chide away this shame, the cop’st with Death himself to scape from it”. After taking this potion she would go to sleep for 42 hours and that will make people assume she is died but will awake in 42 hours prior to when she took it. Friar Lawrence is giving Juliet an idea to avoid the shame of marring Paris by pretending to be death but the poison is dangerous. She knows that she will be in risk if she took the poison but “O bid me leap, rather than marry Paris” she accepts to get the poison rather than marrying Paris. At this point Shakespeare illustrates the freedom of choice which leads Romeo and Juliet to commit suicide. This demotes to prologue when Romeo and Juliet were identified as “star cross’d lover”, at this point Shakespeare clarifies that Romeo and Juliet’s death was not just because of their bad luck (fate) but their freedom also lead them to take risk. As in Victorian times fate was dominant, in here Shakespeare shows that freedom was also a factor which assisted people to make important decisions in life. He uses the prologue to foreshadow fate and he identifies freewill later on in play to illustrate that the character’s freedom of choice was authorised by their fate.
Romeo and Juliet’s death was partially because of their freewill. Shakespeare had innumerable occasions where he could have saved Romeo and Juliet, but he didn’t. He gives the reader a little hope that Romeo and Juliet will survive, but with each event the hope is squashed. Although they did not had to kill him but they choose to die so after death they can be together. When Romeo hears from Balthasar that Juliet is dead (she’s not but everyone thinks she is because she drank Friar Laurence’s poison), he declares “I defy you, stars!” Romeo rejects the stars that have decided to separate Juliet and him. He will be with Juliet despite their plans so he kills himself. When Juliet sees Romeo dead, she also kills herself. In here, Romeo does not conform to the expectation of society; he refuses to accept his destiny as he did before he was in love with Juliet. This helps the reader to discover more about fate and freewill in Romeo and Juliet and in Shakespeare’s time.
Love and Hate is another leading opposite through the play. Love is naturally the play’s most important theme. In Romeo and Juliet love is a violent, powerful emotion that captures them against their world, at times, against themselves. The play contrasts Romeo and Juliet’s love against their families hate as illustrated by the feud. In prologue, Love and Hate is clearly shown; as we are told that Romeo and Juliet’s love is stronger than the hatred of feud. Both lovers finish their parent’s conflict with their death “Do with their death bury their parents’ strife”. Romeo and Juliet’s death ends their parent’s feud which signifies that love is much more stronger than hate as it ended up Montagues and Capulet’s disagreements which was on for years. At this point Shakespeare wants to give the reader a hint about the society on that time. As family fights were very popular in Victorian era and had a major influence on everyone in society. In most cases those disagreements were on for years. Socially it was a problem but it was accepted by people because they were used to it. Shakespeare depicts how two young lovers end up their families’. He uses the oxymoron of love and hate to prepare the audience that Romeo and Juliet was a play of opposite.
When Juliet finds out from her nurse that Romeo is the son of her “great enemy” she doesn’t change her mind: “My only sprung from my only hate. Too early seen unknown, and known too late”. Juliet discovers that Romeo is the member of her enemy’s family and she realises that it’s too late because she has already fallen in love with him. Even though she knows that Romeo is a Montague she decides to go against her family and love a Montague. At this point the reader understands the importance of love in Romeo and Juliet’s love. Shakespeare develops the idea of love stronger than hate throughout the play. He states how Romeo and Juliet fell in love to illustrate that their love was powerful even though they were young and “star cross’d lover” they finished their parent’s hatred. Shakespeare identifies Love and Hate in prologue to express that Romeo and Juliet is a play of opposite.
At the very beginning of prologue the Chorus declare that over the course of play “two households” in Verona are going to have a feud or “ancient grudge”, not only that but things are going to get “blood[y]” when their children “fatal loins” fall in love and later on “take their life”. This indicates the two main opposites of the play; Love and hate and it signifies how string the hatred is between those two families. Montagues and Capulet hated each other but their children fall in love this is an opposite of what was normally seen between these two families at that time. In my opinion Shakespeare has identified main opposites at the beginning of the prologue to give’ the reader a hint about the general ideas in play and the major facts in society at that time which was conflicts between two high status families. The purpose of this is to clarify what was going on in society which encourages the reader to understand the main themes (love and hate).
Not only the members of each family hate each other but their friends hated each other too. When Tybalt (Juliet’s cousin) discovers that Romeo has crashed the Capulet’s party, his first response is to start a fight. Tybalt who is not even a member of Capulet’s family has strong judgments for them. He thinks that: “strike him dead, I hold it not a sin” any insult by Montague’s should be punished. Shakespeare uses Tybalt’s character to illustrate how dominion hatred is between Montagues and Capulets. This helps the reader to understand that Romeo and Juliet did not die just because of usual hatred but their hatred was strong and powerful which lead their children to commit suicide. This shows that Romeo and Juliet is a play of opposite where they are many opposite facts to stop them from living together.
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The Price implies that Montague’s and Capulet’s hatred doesn’t seem to have any rational cause- it is simply the result of passions they refuse to restrain. When Prince calls them a bunch of “beast”, we also notice that there is never any real explanation of what caused the feud. The only thing that the readers know is that there have been three big street fights that have “disturn’d the quite of streets” in Verona. Shakespeare clarifies that to help the reader to understand that this type of feuds were typical at that time, it wasn’t just Montagues between Capulets in Verona. Shakespeare states the fact that Romeo and Juliet die because of their parents feud which was without any reason to express that most people didn’t know the circumstances of their behaviour because the norms and values of society did not stop them from having fights. Street fights and disagreements between two rich families or organisations were common in eighteenth century; Shakespeare wants the reader to learn that their bad facts can have significant circumstances over other people’s life just like Capulets and Montagues feud lead Romeo and Juliet to commit suicide. This shows that Romeo and Juliet is a play of opposites and Shakespeare has developed this idea throughout the play by clarifying the main opposites. Love and Hate.
The last oxymoron that I am going to look at is Dignity and Shame.
In prologue Shakespeare states that Capulet’s and Montague’s are two families “alike in dignity”. They live in Verona and they are like each other but they have different opinions and they are respected people in society. The word dignity indicates that these two families were esteemed. As Shakespeare identifies Capulets and Montagues the main cause of Romeo and Juliet’s death during the play it encourages he reader to hate them but by referring to the first few lines of the opening prologue we discover that they were dignified which mean that they were respected people in society. The only fact which prevented them from being helpful to their children was that they did not recognise the impacts of the actions. Shakespeare uses the prologue to prepare the audience that Romeo and Juliet is a play of opposite by hinting dignity and shame and by develops this throughout the play he encourages the reader to read more.
At the very beginning of the play there is a street fight between Capulet’s and Montague’s servants which shows that their feud has encouraged their servants to have street fights. Sampson declares “I will bite my thumb at them, which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it.” Thumb biting which involves biting and then flicking one’s thumb from behind the upper teeth is seen as a sign of insult. It tells the other person that I hate you and the only way you can regain my respect us to do something horrifying. He is basically looking to beat up trouble because Capulet’s are having feud with Montague’s. Sampson (Capulet’s servant) insults Montague’s dignity. Montague’s fight back for their dignity and Capulates can’t insult them. At this point, the writer creates tension because the play has just been started and the audience see a big fight between Capulet’s and Montague’s servants. Shakespeare has set that at the very beginning of the play to clarify the reader that that something bad is going to happen during the play which will be the effect of this sort of feuds.
In prologue Shakespeare hasn’t acknowledged Shame which is opposite of Dignity. At the end of the story Capulets and Montagues end up ashamed of their feud. When Romeo and Juliet committee suicide, Capulet’s and Montagues make peace “O brother Montague, give me thy hand” and swear to not fight back again. Montagues offer to make a “statue” of Juliet in “Gold”, so no one in Verona will surpass the true and faithful Juliet. They were those people who were fighting with each other for their dignity but their children’s love end up their hatred. Shakespeare makes both families ashamed of their actions to illustrate to the reader that having negative actions do not just affect the local society but sometimes it leads your own children to commit suicide because of your actions. At the end of the story it’s clear that love and hate is the strongest theme among the other oxymoron because at the end love win and hatred makes them ashamed of their actions.
Friar Lawrence is an important character in Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet. He is one of the most important central characters in Shakespeare’s play. Friar Lawrence believes that “violent delights” delight is the metaphor to describe Romeo and Juliet. He considers that Rome and Juliet’s love will “have violent ends”. He considers that Romeo and Juliet will end up Capulets and Montagues feud. He accepts to help Romeo and Juliet to get married because he thinks that their love will end up their parent’s hatred. Shakespeare used his characters to prepare the audience that Romeo and Juliet is a play of opposites. From this quote the readers understand that Romeo and Juliet are going to end up their parent’s feud with their deaths. It encourages the reader to read more and discover more about the story. The use of Friar Lawrence’s character shows that on that time most people used to get advice from religious people and they mainly concentrated in fate rather than freewill as they were authorised by their fates. Shakespeare uses Friar Lawrence’s character to illustrate that Romeo and Juliet is a play of opposites by developing love and hate through his speeches.
Shakespeare also uses Friar Lawrence’s character as a decision maker in play. Friar Lawrence warns Romeo to think about Juliet before getting married because “The sweetest honey is loathsome in its own deliciousness”. Basically, he is trying to warn Romeo that anything to rash and reckless by using metaphor; no matter how right or wrong its feels at that particular moment will probably carry the seeds of its own destruction. To give a really good idea about the honey analogy, try eating a jar of the stuff straight up. Before you get too far into it, you are going to hate the stuff. So Friar Lawrence is trying to declare is that don’t love Juliet so violently that you end up either hating her or losing her prematurely. This is a warning that Shakespeare uses to foreshadow the end of story and to express that Romeo’s decision to marry Juliet was his own freewill. This suggests that Shakespeare uses characters throughout the play to prepare the audience that Romeo and Juliet is a play of opposites. This helps the reader to understand the opposites of that time which were dominant over the society. Shakespeare uses Friar Lawrence’s character to express that Romeo and Juliet did not die just because of their fate but it was their own decisions too which lead them to commit suicide. This helps the reader to discover more about the oxymoron in Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet” because the writer develops each opposite cleverly to help the reader understand his message.
In conclusion, Shakespeare uses the prologue to prepare the audience that Romeo and Juliet is a play of opposite by hinting oxymoron such as Fate and Freewill, Love and Hate, Dignity and Shame, Parents and Children and Life and Death. He develops those ideas to illustrate that Romeo and Juliet is play of opposites by using the characters attitude’s and language. Shakespeare uses the’ typical oxymoron in society to explore that Romeo and Juliet is a play of opposite’s to encourage the reader to discover the’ characters beliefs and how they were influenced by their society to use’ their; freewill in life’.
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