LITERARY TREND AND AUTHOR CANON
- His plays are masterpieces of psychological realism and depth in drama;
- Believable characters that show the rich diversity of humanity;
- Was influenced by classical and Renaissance ideas about the importance of reason and human individualism;
- Progressed from the attitude of classical (Greek and Latin) tragedies to romances and dramas which hold a humanistic message;
- The plays are infused with folklore-inspired supernatural elements;
- Characters are not driven by religious motivations, but by humanistic ones;
- Presents attitudes that are remote from the conventional Christianity of his time;
- Characters act out of their free will, they are not fatalistically predestined to a certain fate;
- Main themes: love, death, immortality (not in a metaphysical sense).
Romeo and Juliet (1597)
The play follows the tragic love story of two “star-crossed lovers” who belong to antagonising families. Although it begins in a light, comedy-like tone, things unravel after Mercutio’s death and events take a tragic turn, made more painful by the initial comedic nature of the play.
- Verona, Italy;
- The streets of the city, the Capulet house, Friar Laurence’s cell.
Main theme: Love
“Romeo and Juliet” is the most famous love story in the English literary tradition. The romantic love between the two main characters is intense, passionate, violent, ecstatic, and overpowering. Love is stronger than any other value or loyalty and it makes the characters defy their social world, families, and ultimately take their own lives.
Two feuding families live in Verona, the Capulets and the Montagues. On a summer day, the young men of the two families fight in the streets, until the Prince of Verona threatens to banish them. The Montague boys and their friends crash the Capulet party that night, as Montague’s son, Romeo, hopes to see his beloved Rosalie. Instead, he falls instantly in love with Juliet, Capulet’s daughter. Although she is supposed to marry Paris (a young Count) Juliet falls in love with Romeo. As the Montague boys leave the party, because Tybalt (Juliet’s cousin) recognises them, Romeo and Juliet realise that they belong to rival families.
Romeo refuses to leave the Capulet house and hopes to speak to Juliet when she appears in her window. In the balcony scene, they declare their love for each other and decide to marry the next day when Juliet goes for confession at the Friar Laurence’s cell. They get married in secret.
Tybalt challenges Romeo to a duel, but Romeo refuses to fight. Mercutio (Romeo’s friend) is angered by Romeo’s humiliation and fights Tybalt. Mercutio dies accidentally just as Romeo intervenes to stop the fight, then Romeo chases Tybalt and kills him in retribution for Mercutio’s death. The Prince banishes Romeo from Verona. Juliet learns about the tragic events, but Friar Laurence arranges for Romeo and Juliet to spend the night together just before Romeo leaves for Mantua. In the meantime, Lord Capulet decides to marry his daughter to Paris the next day. She refuses, making her parents angry.
Friar Laurence provides Juliet with a sleeping draught that makes her seem dead. The family believes her to be actually dead and prepares her for the funeral. Although Friar Laurence tries to warn Romeo of the turn of events, his message is delayed because of the plague. Romeo finds out about Juliet’s death from his servant, buys poison, and returns to Verona. At Juliet’s tomb, he kills Paris, then drinks the poison and dies. When Juliet wakes up from her coma, she finds out about the tragic events and then stabs herself. The Montagues and the Capulets decide to make peace and promise to erect a monument in their children’s memory.
Characters presented in the analysis of the literary fragment should be adapted to the fragment itself.
- Romeo – the son and heir of Lord Montague. He is about 16, handsome, intelligent, and very sensitive. He is also impulsive and immature, but likable because of his idealism and passion. Although he lives in the middle of the conflict between the Montagues and the Capulets, he is not interested in fighting. At the beginning of the play, he is in love with Rosaline but forgets about her when he lays eyes on Juliet. His impulsive instinct is sustained by the extreme actions he makes to prove that this love is reals: the secret marriage, the refusal to fight Tybalt, and, ultimately, his decision to die rather than live without her.
- Juliet – the daughter of Lord and Lady Capulet. She is 13 years old, beautiful, naïve, and with little knowledge of love and marriage. When falling in love with Romeo, she grows up and becomes a young, sensitive woman. She has none of the freedoms that Romeo has, but shows a lot of courage in trusting him and defying her family. She refuses to believe that he has done any harm (Tybalt’s killing). Her closest friend is the nurse, but when she turns against Romeo, Juliet refuses to listen to her, too.
- Friar Laurence – A Franciscan friar, friend to both Romeo and Juliet. He is kind and always advocates for moderation. He is the one who always comes up with a plan, trying to help the young lovers. He secretly marries them in hope that their union will end the feud between the two houses and bring peace to the city. He is both a Catholic holy man and an expert in the use of mystical potions and herbs.
POINT OF VIEW
- The point of view in theatre is usually objective;
- It is defined by
- The characters’ speech;
- The characters’ gestures and pantomimic movements.
***DO NOT CONFUSE: dramatic point of view is a feature of prose, in which a narrator reports the events of a scene without revealing a character’s thoughts and feelings.
- In theatre, the tone can belong to:
- The author – present in stage directions;
- The characters – present in the characters’ lines.
- Author’s tone:
- Sympathetic. The author has a realistic and benevolent attitude towards the two main characters and their story. The play involves the often kissing of the two main characters, in a time when the audiences were not used to public displays of affection on stage. Also, the language of the play is filled with sexual innuendo, which has the purpose of presenting sexuality as something natural. Thus, the characters become more likable and relatable.
- The nobles talk in unrhymed iambic pentameter (blank verse) – every second syllable is accented in the five iambs rhythmic pattern;
- Ordinary people (the Nurse, the Musicians) talk in prose. When they speak of serious topics, they use verse (the Nurse uses verse when she speaks of Juliet’s childhood, which omens her tragic fate);
- When he is especially provocative, Mercutio uses prose (encounter with Tybalt).
- The rhymes are based on pairs, showing that this is an important concept in the play’s structure;
- The rhymes include sonnet structures (prologue, the lover’s first meeting). The sonnet emphasizes that the play is about romantic ideals. But the form of the sonnet is updated, as Romeo and Juliet share the sonnet, becoming equals in the relationship. Thus, the style elevates the love of the characters and modernises a traditional form of poetry.
- Astronomical imagery to imply the fact the love of the characters is nothing ordinary, but also to show that their love is inscribed by a tragic fate
“Juliet is the sun” (metaphor);
Juliet’s eyes are “[t]wo of the fairest stars in all the heaven” (metaphor);
- Mercutio’s language is filled with provocative puns and wordplays.