Romeo and Juliet is a play full of irony. The story started out as a romantic comedy of two young people belonging to households of two mortal enemies, both having a certain expectation towards the society to meet. Romeo, the son of Montague, is expected to find himself a woman and Juliet, the daughter of Capulet, a young girl waiting to get married off by her parents to a suitable household of their choice.
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The characters in the play have very distinct characteristics and beliefs that make a strong impression on the audience. But, as we proceed in the play, we come across the disingenuous behavior of the characters which seems to be the main culprit of the tragic end of the love story of the protagonists Romeo and Juliet. It is, in fact, the immaturity shown by the characters in the first two ACTs that builds up to the ACT 2 scene 4 and ACT 3 scene 1 making the whole play pivot on it (Shapiro,498) and leading to an unfortunate death of the two star-crossed lovers. The comic brawl that opened the play has been transformed by death (Shapiro, 498). The play begins on a light note, with episodes of humor that deceive the audience into believing that the play will have a happy ending. In ACT 1 scene 2 when the serving man asks Romeo if he can read he replies Ay, mine own fortune in my misery. (Romeo and Juliet,1.2,66) which shows how sad Romeo is because he is madly in love with a girl named Rosalina who has sworn to never lose her virginity. It is clear that Romeo is in love with the idea of love which is evident when he says Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs; Being purged, a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes; Being vexed, a sea nourished with loving tears. What is it else? A madness most discreet, A choking gall, and a preserving sweet. (Romeo and Juliet, 1.1.197-201).
While waiting outside Capulet’s party, Mercutio slowly begins to mock Romeo for his love for Rosalina who has rejected him. He makes witty puns and introduces sexual humor when he associates sexuality with the Queen Mab (Romeo and Juliet, 1.4) that visits people in their dreams. When asked to dance, Romeo refuses and Mercutio again takes this opportunity to mock Romeo by suggesting that he should borrow cupid’s wings and soar with them above a common bound. (Romeo and Juliet, 1.4,17-18). More humor comes from the Nurse in act 1 scene 3 when she is talking about Juliet’s age and how her husband made a lewd joke when Juliet fell Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit (Romeo and Juliet, 1.3, 46). This shows that before ACT 2 scene 4 and ACT 3 scene 1 the play is filled with light humor and the audience can easily fall prey to the happy ending that comes when Romeo and Juliet get married. As the end of ACT 2 approaches, we observe a shift in the characters of the play. As Shapiro points out Friar Lawrence despite is counsel of moderation is forced to make short work of the marriage of Romeo and Juliet (Shapiro,498) which refers to the unusual haste that is observed in Friar Lawrence’s character. This creates a sense of anticipation in the audience and creates the feeling of the calm before the storm . ACT 3 begins with yet another brawl between the two families. Mercutio, though belonging to neither of the two families, makes his intentions clear when he responds to Tybalt’s a word with one of you with make it a word and a blow (Shapiro, 498). Though Romeo shows signs of peace by saying Villain I am none.
Therefore farewell. I see thou knowest me not. (Romeo and Juliet,3.1,65-66) the brawl leads to Tybalt stabbing Mercutio. The audience then notices a sudden shift in Romeo’s temper. He blames himself for his best friend’s death and cries O sweet Juliet, thy beauty hath made me effeminate. And in my temper softened valor’s steel. (Romeo and Juliet, 3.1,118-120) He then ends up killing Tybalt and hence once again Romeo has advised one thing and enacted its opposite (Shapiro, 499) which results in him being sentenced to the punishment of banishment. ACT 3 scene 2 begins with Juliet longing for the night to come so that Romeo could Leap to these arms, untalked of and unseen. Lovers can see to do their amorous rites by their own beauties, or, if love be blind, it best agrees with night. (Romeo and Juliet,3.2,7-10). Juliet ‘s anticipation is peaked when she sees the nurse coming in. O here comes the nurse, and she brings new, and every tongue that speaks But Romeo’s name speaks heavenly eloquence (Romeo and Juliet,3.2,34-36) However, Juliet’s anticipation is then passed on to the audience when the nurse gives vague information by saying Ah weraday, he’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead (Romeo and Juliet, 3.2,42). When Juliet finally learns that Romeo has killed her cousin, her first instinct is to doubt her husband. She questions the kind of person Romeo is and expresses her doubts by saying O serpent heart hid with flowe’ring face! Did ever dragon keep so fair a cave? (Romeo and Juliet,3.2,79-80) which again shows Juliet’s immaturity as she so quickly doubts the love that she was ready to die for a few moments ago. As we go deeper into ACT 3 the play seems to get more and more chaotic because of the choices that the characters make. Both Romeo and Juliet in great despair want to end their lives because they cannot be together.
This shows how fickle minded the two are and how they resort to death when they cannot find a way out of their problem. When Friar Lawrence comes up with an escape plan for Juliet to stop her from marrying Paris, he somehow forgets to send the message across to Romeo which shows lack of planning and the hastiness of the decision. This confusion finally leads to the tragic death of not only Romeo and Juliet but Paris who is almost innocent in this situation. While Romeo and Juliet could not be together in true sense, the series of events that took a sharp turn in ACTs 2 and 3 did give birth to a new relationship between the two families that had been mortal enemies for a long time. What started as a humorous plot, quickly turned into an appalling story due to a series of poor choices. In Shapiro’s words The comic brawl that opened the play has been transformed by death (Shapiro, 498).
Shakespeare, William, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet , Ed. Barbara A. Mowat, Paul Werstine, and Gail Kern. New York, Paster, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2011. Print. Shapiro, Stephen A. Romeo and Juliet: Reversals, Contraries, Transformations, and Ambivalence . Rev. of The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, William.College English 25.7 April 1964 (498-501)
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