‘Romeo and Juliet’ was written in 1598, by William Shakespeare. During the Elizabethan times, when the play was written, entertainment was scarce, which was why the popularity of theatres blossomed. Although, Puritans believed theatres caused a lot of controversy, due to the crowds they attracted and activities that went on such as sexual acts and violence. However, Queen Elizabeth disagreed and enjoyed attending private performances that were done for her. Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ explores themes such as excitement, romance and danger and each of his characters introduces these themes.
The key characters being: Romeo, Juliet, Tybalt and Capulet. They play a significant part in making the themes noticeable. Romeo and Juliet are of importance in all of the themes. Their excitable, romantic and dangerous forbidden relationship would have been intriguing to an audience of the Elizabethan times as most would have not experienced such emotions on stage before. Tybalt is portrayed as a fiery character, which would excite the audience and lead them into thinking there may be dangerous scenes ahead.
Capulet’s character has a link to all three themes. His relationship with other key characters is crucial in the play, as he allows certain events to follow. Shakespeare’s play also takes place over five days. It is constructed in this way as it enhances the key themes, therefore ensuring the audience won’t lose interest, or become confused. The Capulets hold an extravagant masquerade ball. At the beginning of Act One Scene Five, the excitement and importance of the party scene is highlighted by the actions of the servants.
Capulet is ordering them around and everything is very hectic and fast-paced, maybe giving the audience a clue as to how the party will run, and how the events will take place during the ball. The Montague’s and Capulets also create an exciting atmosphere before the scene as their ongoing family feud becomes more intense. The tension rises when Romeo and his friends gate-crash the Capulets’ masquerade ball. Romeo wished him and his friends to attend the ball so that he could show Mercutio how beautiful Rosaline is, as she would be there. Romeo tells Mercutio about a dream he has had.
He explains how he is wary about attending the party, although Mercutio declares that dreams are only trivial fantasies and gate-crashes the party despite Romeo’s concerns. The dreams may make the audience question whether there will be any exciting events involving Romeo during the ball. It may also be a sign of danger about to occur and further capture the audiences’ attention. The masquerade ball would have intrigued the audience of the Elizabethan times as they may not have experienced one before. Also, the idea of wearing masks gives a mysterious, exciting edge to the ball.
Especially as the actors, as well as the audience would not have recognised the other actors on stage. At the beginning of the party scene Capulet greets his guests in a way that reveals a lot about his character. He says “Welcome, Gentlemen! ” The exclamation mark at the end suggests he’s shouting and drawing attention to himself as he is proud to be the host. By calling his guests ‘Gentlemen’, he shows he respects and values them as guests. It reveals he’s welcoming, confident and friendly. Capulet later says “I have seen the day that I have worn a visor and could tell a whispering tale in a fair lady’s ear”.
This hints to the audience that he is older than his guests and is a little disappointed by this as he is reminiscing about his youthful past. This also suggests Capulet is a flirtatious character and feels he is getting too old for parties. His reminiscing over the past may also suggest that he feels tied down by marriage and wants to lead a single life once again. Later on in this scene, Tybalt reacts aggressively towards Romeo. This emphasises his fiery character and his strong hatred for the Montagues: “Now by the stock and honour of my kin, to strike him dead I hold it not a sin”.
This shows Tybalt’s short-tempered character; he is so outraged by Romeo that he feels if he were to kill him it would not be a sin, but instead in honour of his family which would shock the audience but also give them more of an insight to how powerful the family feud has become. Capulets reaction to seeing Romeo at the ball is very different to Tybalt’s. Their views and hatred for Romeo and his family vary too.
When Tybalt declares that he will kill Romeo Capulet defends him by saying “Verona brags of him to be a virtuous and well-governed youth. He explains that is isn’t necessary to fight with Romeo as Verona’s people say he is a good man, that he can control himself and that he is full of virtue. Tybalt then claims he will not put up with Romeo because he is an enemy: “It fits when such a villain is a guest: I’ll not endure him. ” He is shocked that Capulet is defending Romeo and not agreeing with his opinion. By this point in the scene, the audience is involved in the excitement and are wondering what will happen next as they are expecting danger from Tybalt due to his past actions in the play.
Capulet is angry that Tybalt has defied him and orders that “He shall be endured. ” Tybalt’s response is “I shall withdraw but this intrusion shall, now seeming sweet, convert to bitt’rest gall. ” This is a very obvious clue to the audience that there will be danger ahead as he has promised bitter revenge on Romeo. In Act One, Scene Five, if the exchange between Tybalt and Capulet was to be acted out on stage, the actor playing Tybalt should contemplate the fiery character of Tybalt.
Whilst saying the words “Now by the stock and honour of my kin, to strike him dead I hold it not a sin”, he should be pushing guests out of the way. This would show how short-tempered he is, his lack of respect for the guests and show that his main priority is to reach Romeo. When saying this, the actor should say the words ‘strike’ and ‘dead’ in a more aggressive, deep tone of voice to emphasise the actions and to warn the audience and Capulet that he is taking this very seriously and is outraged by Romeo’s intrusion.
The actor should also use facial expressions to express Tybalt’s anger at this point. The actor should, when first seeing Romeo, drop his jaw slightly to show he is shocked to see him. Romeo should be on the other side of the room, surrounded by guests at this point, oblivious to Tybalt as he mingles with other guests. Then, Tybalts face should be screwed up as he talks, as if he’s confused as to why Romeo would even try to get away with gate-crashing his families party.
Then, after Tybalt says “I’ll not endure him”, the actor playing Capulet should shield, with his body, Tybalt into a corner. This would appear a threatening and powerful position to the audience and clearly show that Capulet is superior to Tybalt. Tybalt should then try and get away by pushing Capulet a little, making the scene appear more dramatic to the audience. At this point Capulet should gesture, with his hands for Tybalt to step back, as Tybalt does this Capulet is shown to have control over Tybalt again.
The actor playing Capulet’s character should then smile slightly- smug looking as he says “He shall be endured”, to show that he’s glad Tybalt understands he’s in charge and is confident in what he says. He should emphasise the word “shall” by saying it louder and by getting closer to Tybalt’s face to anger him and to show he’s serious and expects Tybalt to listen as it would be bad for the family’s reputation if a fight broke out at their party. The audiences’ response to this exchange would be shock, they would also be interested to learn more about the two characters.
Romeo and Juliet first meet during the party scene. When Romeo first sees Juliet he is so love struck that he forgets all about his previous love, Rosaline. When he says “For I never saw true beauty till this night,” his true character is exposed. He seems to change his mind a lot and it seems he knows little about love. He believes Juliet is truly beautiful and has forgotten that he once thought this about Rosaline too. He also seems fickle: “Did my heart ever love till now? “. This shows he’s indecisive and doubts whether he was ever truly in love with Rosaline.
Also, that he has strong feelings of love for Juliet. After seeing Juliet, Romeo approaches her and says “If I profane with my unworthiest hand this holy shrine, the gentle sin is this, my lips two blushing pilgrims, ready to stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss. ” Romeo flatters Juliet by referring to her as a ‘holy shrine’, suggesting they are both religious and believe it to be a good thing. He also talks passionately about her as if he knows her. Although, Juliet doesn’t respond in the same manner and is a little shocked at Romeo for being so forward as to would the audience be.
She also sounds a little wary of him and says “Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much”. Romeo, being so forward, would have excited the audience also and lead them to believe that romance was ahead leaving them in a state of anticipation. When talking to each other Romeo and Juliet speak in the form of a sonnet. The effect of this is it sounds romantic and intimate and is explanatory of their feeling for one another. The fact they finish of each others sentences suggests they have a connection with one another. This would be made immediately clear to the audience and intrigue them as it is the beginning of romance throughout the play.
When Romeo and Juliet discover that their families are enemies, after already falling in love with one another, this creates an exciting atmosphere within the audience and tension between Romeo and Juliet. Romeo reacts by questioning what he has heard in disbelief. He is shocked and says “Is she a Capulet? O dear account! My life is my foe’s debt”. Juliet’s response to hearing this is “My only love sprung from my only hate… That I must love a loathed enemy. ” Her words express her disappointment and disbelief that someone she loved could be born from someone her family hate so much.
The audience knowing about Romeo and Juliet’s forbidden relationship gives them an idea that it is dangerous. Also when Juliet says “Go ask his name. If he be married my grave is likely to be my wedding bed. ” This implies to the audience that Juliet may die later on in the play, maybe because of their planned wedding and possibly on their wedding day. If the exchange between Romeo and Juliet were to be performed on stage, the actors should consider emphasising certain words, movements, gestures, facial expressions and tone of voice.
To emphasise Romeo and Juliet’s intimacy throughout their first conversation, whilst the actor playing Romeo says these words: “Then move not while my prayer’s effect I take. Thus from my lips, by thine my sin is purged”, he should move closer towards Juliet and touch her face to show his affection for her. The actress playing the part of Juliet should at this point look into Romeos eyes to emphasise a connection between them whilst saying “Then have my lips the sin that they have took. ” Her eye contact with Romeo portrays the acceptance of Romeo’s request.
Also, that she is completely focused on him and the audience will recognise that they are oblivious to their surroundings which adds an exciting feel to the scene. Romeo should then lean in to kiss Juliet. This is the start of their romance and therefore must appear very romantic. This could be shown by both characters actions. Juliet should gently touch Romeo’s cheek, move in towards him and close her eyes. Romeo should do the same. This early portrayal of love would shock the audience as most people would not act so quickly or fall in love so easily, which dramatises their relationship.
There are many reasons why ‘Romeo and Juliet’ would have entertained an audience of the Elizabethan times. The themes introduced into the scenes are exciting and each scene is filled with dramatic events, although they are still easy to understand as the scenes are not too long. The characters are powerful and their main characteristics are highlighted by there actions and words. This allows the audience to relate to the characters and feel more involved in the play.