In this essay, I am going to analyse scenes from Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ – a tragedy written early in Shakespeare’s career, between 1591 and 1595 – and explore how Shakespeare develops Romeo and Juliet’s relationship in 2 scenes: Act I, Scene V and Act II, Scene II. In the beginning of Act I, Scene V, there is a contrast of light and dark where Romeo sees Juliet for the first time – “O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night.
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!”.
The use of the contrast shows that, to Romeo, Juliet is standing out of the crowd at the Capulet’s ball. This also shows us that he has fallen in love with Juliet at first sight. Romeo is expressing his love for Juliet, saying that she is ‘like a rich jewel’ and too precious for the earth. He could also be suggesting that she is of importance and irreplaceable. At the same time, ‘Beauty too rich for us, for earth too dear’ could be interpreted as Romeo implying that Juliet is too precious to live and too glorious for her ‘mortal coil’. At the end of Act I, Scene V, there is use of possessive determiners, where Juliet finds out that Romeo is part of the Montague family –
“My only love sprung from my only hate!
Too early seen unknown, and known too late!”
The use of the possessive determiners could suggest that Juliet is fixated with Romeo after the first time they meet. From this quote I can see that Juliet is very upset by the fact that he is from the House of Montague, since she knows her parents would disapprove of her being in a relationship with Romeo if they knew anything about it. This could be seen as an example of forbidden love, since Romeo and Juliet aren’t supposed to be together in reality as their families have a longstanding grudge against one another. Both Romeo and Juliet defy this and fall in love. We also see contrast as well as exclaimatives and juxtaposition in Act II, Scene II, where Romeo has crept into the Capulet’s orchard and is secretly listening to Juliet day-dream – “O, speak again, bright angel! for thou art
As glorious to this night, o’er my head
As is a winged messenger of heaven”.
The use of the exclaimative here is to signify how strong Romeo’s love is for Juliet. Romeo speaks of Juliet as if she were ‘a winged messenger of heaven’. Romeo is idolising Juliet, since he’s fallen in love with her so quickly and his description of her as an angel demonstrates his infatuation with her. A few lines later, Juliet confesses that she is prepared to give up everything to be with Romeo. Unbeknown to her, Romeo is secretly listening in the orchard. – “Oh Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love.
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet”.
Juliet is willing to sacrifice her name – and all that it carries with it, the prestige and reputation of the Capulet household – to be with Romeo because she has fallen in love with him. She is prepared to sacrifice her name since she thinks that Romeo won’t love her because of her Capulet heritage. In Shakespeare’s time, great honour and prestige came with a family name – to forgo it was an immense sacrifice. A different interpretation of this is that she is wishing to sacrifice her name in marriage to Romeo and defy her father’s wishes to marry Paris.
In the middle of Act II, Scene II, there is use of love/hate juxtaposition where Juliet is worried that Romeo may be killed by guards if he is found in the Capulet Orchard. Romeo states that he is safe since it is night –
“I have night’s cloak to hide me from their sight;
And but thou love me, let them find me here:
My life were better ended by their hate,
Than death prorogued, wanting of thy love.”
This means that Romeo would rather be killed by Capulet guards than live
without Juliet’s love. This demonstrates that Romeo shares Juliet’s wish of sacrificing something significant to be together – risking his life for her. This is an example of ultimate unconditional love; doing something for the one you love.
The use of light and dark is used to express love and hate, an example being where Romeo is in the Capulet’s orchard in Act II, Scene II – “It is the east and Juliet is the sun.
Arise fair sun, and kill the envious moon.”
Here, Juliet is the light as well as being the object of love to Romeo, while the dark could be the feuding families who hate each other. Having Juliet (as the sun) ‘killing’ the envious moon (the feuding families), it shows that Romeo doesn’t care what the families might say, just as long as he has Juliet to love. He believes that their love can overcome the historical feud. In conclusion, although the love between Romeo and Juliet may seem impulsive, Shakespeare has developed their relationship and love through the use of language. Shakespeare presents the development of love in Act I, Scene II and Act II, Scene V of Romeo and Juliet progressively. Running themes in these two scenes are light, dark, possessive determiners, juxtaposition and exclaimatives. All these themes and language techniques utilised together shows the development of Romeo and Juliet’s love in two scenes.