And the range of fully imagined characters in Romeo and Juliet does not end with the young men. Taking your cue from Coleridge's emphasis on character, prepare a brief analysis of the characterization of each of the following, listing the lines or scenes you find most helpful in thinking about them: Paris, Old Capulet, Lady Capulet, Benvolio, Tybalt, Friar Lawrence, and (of course!) the Nurse. Think particularly of the attitudes each expresses towards love. You may find some gaps here (Tybalt, for example), but even if they do not express themselves on the subject directly, you can in most cases see what their attitude is by their actions, and their response to the young lovers. (I am thinking particularly of Capulet, the Nurse, and Paris.)
|Is there a similarity between Paris and the Romeo of the early scenes, still thinking he is in love with Rosalind?|
|Is the variety of characters and their approaches to love similar in effect to the kinds of enquiry stimulated by the "Blackforest cake" technique of A Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It?|
|Do you find the same kind of layering and variation in The Taming of the Shrew or Much Ado About Nothing?|
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|What distinctions in character can you make between the two young lovers?|
We already know Romeo quite well by the time he goes to the Capulet's ball, but Juliet has so far spoken only about half a dozen lines (1. 3), dutiful words spoken by an apparently characterless daughter. There is therefore a double shock when Romeo totally forgets Rosalind, and Juliet's "liking" is moved in a manner certainly contrary to her parents' "consent" (see 1. 3. 97-9).
The sonnet shared between Romeo and Juliet as they first speak to each other (1. 5. 95-108, with an extra quatrain, lines 109-112) is both warm and witty.
|What relationship is established between the two in these lines?|
Look particularly at the way Juliet takes the images Romeo uses (do you find them a little conventional, a little "courtly"?), and gives them further life.
Romeo: Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?
Juliet: Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
(1. 5. 103-4)
|What effect on this lyrical scene does the earlier verbal skirmish between Tybalt and Capulet have?|
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Juliet, her love known immediately, is able to be direct and frank in her avowal (see 2. 2. 85-9). Contrast the language Romeo uses, in his semi-soliloquy, with Juliet's.
|Is Romeo very different yet from the adolescent in love with Rosalind--or in love with love--that we saw in the earlier scenes, using conventional courtly figures of speech?|
|Does Juliet use any courtly images to describe her love?|
Look at the interchange, lines 62-73, where Juliet shows real concern for Romeo's safety, while Romeo responds with romantic (but quite impractical) images.
|How do you respond to Juliet's insistence that Romeo not swear to the extent of his love (107-20)?|
Work through the rest of the scene, and see if this difference between the two is further maintained.
|How would you stage this scene?|
(Again, if you have seen the Zeffirelli film, you will certainly remember the devastating effect of Mercutio's mockery and clowning suddenly turning to black comedy as those around realize belatedly that he really is hurt.)
The change in the play from light to dark is illustrated in the two scenes between Juliet and the Nurse (2. 5 and 3. 2). The first scene is wonderfully comic with the teasing Nurse delaying the good news, while Juliet tries to get her to the point; the second painful as the same garrulous indirection in the Nurse torments Juliet as she misunderstands the bad news. Look carefully at the passionate, loving soliloquy by Juliet which precedes this second scene between her and the Nurse. The irony here is powerful, because we already know the bad news the Nurse is about to bring.
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For Juliet, suffering begins immediately. She is besieged by her parents--who are organizing her into the marriage with Paris--even before she leaves the stage after her farewell to Romeo. Reasonably enough, she remarks "I wonder at this haste" (3. 5. 119), though the irony in her words is strong, given the haste with which both she and Romeo consummated their love. If there is a single moment when Juliet grows from girl to woman, it is surely at the end of this scene when she turns to the Nurse, her confidante, for help, and is rewarded by astonishingly amoral and insensitive advice (214-27); try reading Juliet's lines yourself to see the levels of self-assurance and conscious irony (unlike her earlier remark about haste) she puts into line 232 ("Well, thou hast comforted me marvellous much").
Suicide was of course condemned by the church as a mortal sin; and even today it is hardly regarded as a heroic or admirable act.
|Why is it that the deaths of Romeo and Juliet are so moving?|
It is painful to listen to and to read through the last scene again; but as you do so, notice how Romeo has grown. He is still passionate and hasty, as his duel with Paris shows, but he has abandoned fanciful imagery, and he has become more fully aware of his own nature, such that he can warn Paris of the danger of provoking "a desp'rate man" (5. 3. 59). A death speech over the body of a still beautiful woman might have been the occasion for some fine courtly rhetoric, but Romeo's language is controlled, his images graphic and economical.
The speed of the play increases, and Juliet has but a few moments of restored life before she joins Romeo in death; we have seen her growth to maturity earlier, and we are scarcely surprised by her courage and resolution.
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