The Lamentable Feelings in the Audience
Posted On March 8, 2017
Unlike many other plays, Shakespeare has a prologue in the beginning, telling the readers what will happen in the story. Yet, the readers feel sad when the tragedy of the play unfolds. In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare uses a mixture of diction, false hope, and foreshadowing to get the audience to experience the tragedy of the characters??? fates.
The way the characters talk and respond to each other causes the plot to be more dramatic. For example, when Romeo just receives news from Friar Lawrence that he is banished from Verona , he says, ???Thou canst not speak of that thou dost not feel. / Wert thou as young as I, Juliet thy love, / An hour but married, Tybalt murdered, / Doting like me, and like me banished, / Then mightst thou speak, then mightst thou tear thy hair / And fall upon the ground as I do now??? (3.3.67-73). Romeo tells Friar Lawrence that he shouldn??™t talk to him about his situation. Romeo thinks that if Friar Lawrence were he, Friar Lawrence would do the same as him and break down crying. The way Romeo talks shows that he loves Juliet dearly and is very upset that he got banished from Verona. The way the Romeo is phrasing the words together makes the readers visualize what is currently happening and makes the scene more dramatic. The act of throwing oneself to the ground is a dramatic action that shows desperation. Likewise, as soon as she receives news about her upcoming marriage to Paris, Juliet tells Friar Lawrence, ???Tell me not, Friar, that thou hearst of this, / Unless thou tell me how I may prevent it. / If in thy wisdom thou canst give no help, / Do thou but call my resolution wise, / And with this knife I??™ll help it presently??? (4.1.51-55). Juliet is telling Friar Lawrence that if he can??™t help her avoid being married to Paris, she will take matters to her own hands and kill herself right then and there. Juliet shows desperation through her words. She is desperate because she is threatening Friar Lawrence to help her steer clear of the marriage to Paris or witness her commit suicide. When someone is as desperate as Juliet, that person will threaten people left and right to avoid something or get something, in this case avoid marriage.
Furthermore, Shakespeare helps create a sense of tragedy for the reader by giving them false hope and then shattering it. For example, when Romeo leaves Juliet after spending the night with her, Juliet asks Romeo if they are going to meet again. He answers the question, ???I doubt it not, and all these woes shall serve / For sweet discourses in our times to come??? (3.5.52-53). Romeo thinks that one day he and Juliet will meet again and that, when they meet, the woes of now will be put behind them, and in the future they will be together again. Because Romeo is thinking positively while bad things continually happen, the readers becomes hopeful that something good may happen next, despite what they already know from the prologue. The readers may begin to expect a ???happily ever after??™ scene at the end of the play. Similarly, Friar Lawrence??™s plan produces a false hope that the lovers??™ happy ending may indeed come true. Soon after she receives news that she will be married off to Paris, Juliet seeks help from Friar Lawrence and he devises a plan so ???when the bridegroom in the morning comes / To rouse thee from thy bed, there art thou dead??? (4.1.109-110) and so ???Romeo by my letters know our drift, / And hither shall he come, and he and I / Will watch thy waking, and that very night / Shall Romeo bear thee hence to Mantua??? (4.1.116-119). Friar Lawrence??™s plan is to give Juliet a vial that will make her seem dead to everyone. When Paris comes to wake her, Juliet will be ???dead??™ so Juliet will avoid marrying him. Later, Friar Lawrence will write Romeo a letter telling him about this plan. As soon as she wakes up, Romeo will take Juliet to Mantua with him. Juliet believes that the plan devised by Friar Lawrence will succeed or else she wouldn??™t follow through with the plan Since Juliet believes the plan will work, the readers also believe it will work. If the plan goes well, Juliet will be with Romeo and they will live in Mantua happily. Of course, it??™s not going to happen since they both die in the end of the play.
Finally, Shakespeare uses foreshadowing by building suspense for the readers making them nervous about what will happen to the characters. For example, after Mercutio is slain, Romeo says, ???This day??™s black fate on more days doth depend. / This but begins the woe others must end??? (3.1.124-125). Romeo is trying to say is that whatever happens today will help determine what will happen on the days that follow. Whatever happens today will bring sorrow that other people must end. This foreshadows Romeo??™s killing Tybalt, which leads to his banishment from Verona. All this happens after Juliet and he get married. When a couple gets married, the people who hear about the wedding are happy for the couple. Because Romeo and Juliet got married, the readers are happy for them. However, this foreshadow just crushes the happy feeling in the readers. When Romeo starts to leave her, Juliet says, ???Methinks I see thee now thou art so low, / As one dead in the bottom of a tomb. / Either my eyesight fails or thou lookest pale??? (3.5.55-57). Juliet thinks that Romeo looks pale and seems to appear as if he was going into a tomb. This foreshadows Romeo??™s death in the Capulet tomb with Juliet. This makes the readers feel sad because it foreshadow the eventual death of the two main characters, Romeo and Juliet. Although Romeo and Juliet are merely fictional characters, their death still evokes sorrow in the audience.
In the beginning of the play, Shakespeare uses a prologue to warn the audience about the tragic ends of Romeo and Juliet. The ironic thing is that the audience already knows that the play is sad and yet is surprised at the end when Romeo and Juliet die. The surprise of the deaths are probably the result of the vague summary of the play in the prologue. When readers get to the ending, they are surprised not by the fact that Romeo and Juliet die, which is expected, but by the manner in which they die. Either it was the element of surprise or the details of the death scenes that creates sorrow, Romeo and Juliet is the most romantic and memorable tragic play.
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