In my essay, I shall write about certain features of the performance “Romeo and Juliet” by the distinguished dramatist William Shakespeare. “Romeo and Juliet” falls into one of three main categories of Shakespeare’s plays, as it is a tragedy. A tragedy is a play with an unhappy ending usually due to a fatal flaw in the main character(s). This in turn leads to a final catastrophe, which brings the tragedy to an end. In particular, I shall focus on Act 4 Scene 3, which is a very dramatic and emotional scene.
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I shall state the ways in which this is achieved and the ways in which the play is effective as a tragedy. Additionally, I shall cross-reference this scene with other events in the play to show how they contribute to the emotion and drama of Act 4 Scene 3 and in doing so I shall write about the ways in which this scene fits in with the rest of the play. Lastly, I shall try and direct Act 4 Scene 3 with the intention of showing the ways in which this scene is emotional and dramatic and attempt to make it even more gripping for any potential audience.
The first thing to understand when writing my essay is the actual plot of “Romeo and Juliet.” “Romeo and Juliet” takes place in the Italian City of Verona, where two star-crossed lovers meet. Romeo and his friends gatecrash at Capulet’s feast, where Romeo and Juliet meet. They are prevented from being together by the fact that they belong to two quarrelling families; Juliet is a Capulet whereas Romeo is a Montague.
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Romeo and Juliet, however, decide to get secretly married.Juliet confides in her faithful nurse and Romeo in Friar Laurence, the marriage performer. Their married bliss is cut short when on the same day, Romeo’s friend Mercutio is slain in a challenge by Juliet’s cousin Tybalt. Full of grief and anger, Romeo seeks vengeance and goes after Tybalt subsequently killing him. The Prince of Verona punishes Romeo by banishing him to Mantua. Juliet is pushed to the limit with the death of her beloved cousin and the banishment of her newly wedded husband.Furthermore, her father is adamant she marries an honourable nobleman, Paris. Juliet visits the Friar where she is presented with a potion, which will make her appear dead. That evening, after great deliberation, Juliet consumes the potion and is discovered the next morning as ‘dead.’ Romeo hears of Juliet’s ‘death,’ unaware of the Friar’s plan. He purchases some poison from a local apothecary and heads for Verona where he vows to kill himself by his wife’s grave. Romeo encounters Paris by Juliet’s tomb and kills him. Next, Romeo swallows the poison, killing himself. Juliet awakens and discovers that Romeo is dead, and so she commits suicide with Romeo’s dagger. Friar Laurence, the Prince and Romeo and Juliet’s parents arrive on the scene greeted with terrible commotion. The Friar explains everything that had happened in the past few days. Capulet and Montague reunite, aware of the high price they have had to pay in order to gain this.The events immediately before Act 4 Scene 3 were very tense. Without Romeo by her side, Juliet was put under immense emotional strain. Previously, the audience learn of the plan the Friar has devised to prevent Juliet being forced to wed Paris. During Act 4 Scene 1, the friar presents Juliet with a “distilled liquor.” He tells Juliet to “go home, be merry” and “give consent to marry Paris.”That evening, she is to go to sleep, making sure that the nurse is not present and she is to then consume the potion. This potion will make Juliet appear “cold and drowsy” with “no warmth” and “no breath.” The potion will deprive her of any “supple government.” (I.e. she will not be moving). The friar explains that she will remain in this state for “two and forty hours.” (42 hours). On appearing dead, a funeral will be organised and she will be placed in the family vault. Juliet is to sleep until Romeo arrives from Mantua to rescue her.Then, on awakening, Romeo will take Juliet to reside in Mantua in secret. The friar, however, also warns that his plan is not foolproof and it is quite possible that things could still go wrong. When Juliet returns home, she puts the plan into action. She approaches her father and begs for forgiveness. She uses several exaggerated phrases including “henceforth I am ever rul’d by you” and “beg your pardon. Pardon, I beseech you!”. Juliet attempts to assure her father she will be obedient and puts on a very convincing performance. This is known as dramatic irony and indicates that the audience is more aware of the real situation in comparison to other characters; Juliet says she will marry Paris but the audience is aware of the friar’s plan whereas the other characters are not. This is not the first time Juliet has made use of dramatic irony.Previously, when conversing with her mother on Romeo’s banishment, Juliet stated that she rather marry Romeo than marry Paris, which is ironic, as that is exactly what has happened. Ironically, Juliet is so convincing, Lord Capulet arranges for have the wedding to be bought forward by one day to the next day, Wednesday, since he thinks Juliet is genuinely in love with Paris. Due to the fact that the wedding has been bought forward, it gives Juliet less time to consider what she is going to put herself through. This means that the next scene, (Act 4 Scene 3) will be emotional and dramatic as Juliet has less time to think everything through.It is important to make clear the amount Juliet has been through in such a small period of time. Juliet has encountered love, experienced her marriage ceremony, grieved for her deceased cousin and has had to chose between loyalty to her husband and loyalty to her family. She had been tested numerously and has had to find the courage to do all this. Juliet realises she is playing with her future. On top of this, she is still only 13 years old and this, in consideration with other factors puts her in a very distressed emotional state.During the opening of Act 4 scene 3, Juliet informs the nurse and her mother that she is preparing to go to sleep. She asks them to leave by stating that she needs to pray. Juliet also tells her mother that she has selected everything for the wedding the next day. This is a further example of dramatic irony, as Juliet knows there will be no wedding. Lady Capulet is preparing for a wedding, when in reality, she ought to be preparing for a funeral. Juliet carries on pretending to be an obedient child by using flattering phrases such as “gentle nurse” and ” For I am sure you have your hands full.” This gives the impression that Juliet has no doubts and is actually excited about the wedding taking place.The fact that Juliet had not confided in her nurse about the friar’s scheme implies that their close relationship has deteriorated considerably compared to previous situations. Previously, Juliet had always told her nurse everything as the nurse was like a surrogate mother to her. A good example of this is in Act 1 Scene 3. This is the first time that the nurse is introduced to the audience. The nurse speaks of Juliet in a very endearing manner and mother-like manner. We also discover that the nurse’s own daughter, Susan, died and so this makes her even more devoted to Juliet. As well as Juliet and the nurse’s closeness, another characteristic of the nurse’s personality is that she is very comical. She uses very humorous language but it can also be rude and quite crude. Shakespeare breaks up the tension of the play by introducing speech from the nurse and therefore most of the performance’s entertainment derives from the nurse.This makes Act 4 scene 3 more dramatic as the audience are aware of the fact that this is the first time that Juliet has not confided in her nurse. Juliet’s relationship with her mother has essentially remained the same – Juliet still has not felt as though she can confide in her. For instance, the first time Juliet’s mother is introduced to the audience, her language suggests her awkwardness in the situation. She uses phrases such as “we must talk in secret” to suggest that she is fearful of what the nurse will think of her as a mother as Juliet’s mother has not always played the role of the mother well. Their relationship has got slightly closer as during Act 4 Scene 3, Juliet and her mother speak in a very civilised manner, however this is only because Juliet is lying to her. This deception adds to the drama and emotion, as the audience is uncertain as to whether Juliet will get caught out.Following the exit of Juliet’s mother and nurse, Juliet is alone on stage and commences her long speech. This speech is known as a soliloquy as she is the only person present on stage. A soliloquy is a device, which allows any individual to speak their private thoughts out loud. The character can tell their secrets and true feelings about the situation out loud hence allowing the audience to be in a better position to judge in comparison to other characters. This particular speech is written in blank verse, which means it does not rhyme and makes use of several emotive words and phrases. Juliet expresses her terror using long incomplete sentences. The inclusion of incomplete sentences makes the speech more believable as nobody in Juliet’s situation would speak in verse and so this difference creates a dramatic effect. This speech consists mainly of rhetorical questions to which she has no convincing answers and focuses on her response and feelings.Juliet opens her speech in a very moving way with a passionate outburst. All alone, she cries out: “God knows when we shall meet again/ I have a faint cold fear thrills through my veins.” Juliet says this since she will be with Romeo and it may be sometime before she meets everyone again. This makes her scared and hence it “freezes up the heat of life.” She feels afraid of being alone and this makes her very emotional. She feels unable to cope without her nurse there to assist her and she contemplates calling her back again to “comfort” her. She then, however, realises that her situation is “dismal” and even with the nurse present things cannot be improved. She believes that from now on, she cannot trust the nurse as she was very hypocritical before. The nurse told Juliet to consider marriage to Paris as Paris is a superior gentleman compared to Romeo, and being in Mantua, Romeo is of no use to her. Juliet felt betrayed as the nurse had praised Romeo many times before and she was now putting him down. Juliet feels that she must remain on her own.This scene is made more dramatic because Juliet is in possession of a dagger. She decides that if the plan should go wrong, and she has to marry Paris, the dagger “shall forbid it.” – Juliet is prepared to kill herself rather than to commit bigamy and destroy Romeo’s trust and loyalty.By now, the seriousness of the circumstances she got herself into has struck her considerably. Juliet starts to feel increasingly nervous and frightened. She begins to question everyone’s motive, even the Friar, whom she has never doubted before. Juliet is concerned that the potion is actually a poison which the Friar “subtly hath minister’d” to kill her. She believes this is because if the friar has Juliet killed, he will not have to marry Juliet and Paris since this is bigamy and is therefore against all religious standards.She answers her own question as to whether the friar has given her poison instead of a potion intentionally. She replies “I fear it is.” She comforts herself by telling herself that the friar could not do such a thing as he is a “holy man” and he is true to his word. Additionally, Juliet is petrified of the potential dangers she may encounter while imprisoned in the vault. She thinks she could be “stifled”, as there is no “healthsome” air to breath and she might “die strangled” before Romeo arrives.Juliet considers two possible scenarios she may face while in the tomb. She thinks that she can either suffocate, or will be scared to death as a result of the “terror of the place.” She is also aware that her ancient and “buried ancestors” will be present in the vault and that the vault will be “pack’d.” She knows that she will be trapped and crammed into a very small space. This creates a dark image of restriction and isolation. Shakespeare uses vocabulary such as “strangled,” “horrible,” “terror” and “pack’d” to build a sinister and dark image of the tomb. This in turn creates more tension and produces sympathy from the audience for Juliet.Juliet also reiterates the phrase “where” frequently (“where” refers to the tomb). Shakespeare uses it to emphasise the tomb and secure the image in the audience’s minds. An image of death and horror is built up and thus creates a lot of drama and tension. She is frightened that Romeo will arrive before she awakens. She remembers that “bloody Tybalt” will be present in the tomb and that he had only been placed in the tomb recently. The usage of the word “bloody” depicts a very deathly location. Juliet knows that Tybalt’s body will be rotting, smelling and “festering in his shroud.” As well as this, his body will be in full view, as it is not fully buried, merely covered in a “shroud.” Another factor that alarms Juliet is the stories, which Juliet has heard about. She has heard that there are “spirits” which reside in the tomb that apparently come out “at some hours in the night.” This frightens her considerably.Juliet expects that if she wakes too soon, the “loathsome smells” will make Juliet “shriek like mandrakes.” (Mandrakes were plants which when pulled out of the earth, screamed and it was thought that if a human heard these screams, they would lose their senses). This section of the play is very sensory, as there are numerous references to sight, smell and now, sound. Shakespeare does this to appeal to the audience’s senses. Shakespeare wants to draw out emotions and for the audience to sympathise with Juliet in her dire situation.This reinforces the fact that the plan is a desperate one and that Juliet is prepared to go through a lot for Romeo. Juliet declares that she will be “distraught” if she wakes up to early. She will be feeling stressed, depressed and in a bad state of mind. Juliet considers what she may do to herself in a fit of madness. She pictures herself playing with her “forefathers’ joints” (bones) and in her “rage,” she may use one as a “club” and “dash out” her “desperate brains.” Many violent images are displayed and therefore creates a sense of drama and emotion.In her moment of madness, Juliet hallucinates and imagines seeing her “cousin’s ghost.” (Tybalt). She can see him “seeking out Romeo,” looking for revenge as Romeo arrives at the tomb for Juliet. She calls out to Romeo, as if she is in the tomb, trying to protect him from Tybalt. This makes Juliet become hysterical. This creates substantial drama as the audience know that with all the factors taken into consideration, (Juliet’s hallucinating and hysteria), Juliet may do something foolish that she may end up regretting, or fail to follow the plan accurately.Ultimately, she toasts Romeo and consumes the potion. This line is ironic as later on, when Romeo himself commits suicide, he toasts Juliet. The scene concludes with Juliet falling upon her bed within the curtains.If I were to direct this particular scene, there are many things that I would do in order to try to create an increased feeling of drama and emotion. The first thing I would consider is the appearance of the stage. I would set the stage as Juliet’s bedroom using a variety of techniques. Firstly, I would decide on the props which I would make use of. I would lay an old-fashioned bed at the end of the stage with the end of the bed slightly off stage. The bed should possess a lavish bedspread and pillow to reflect the family’s wealth and high status in society.Adjacent to the bed, I would place a small, finely carved, brown wooden table with three large lit candles. I would do this because it is night so some lighting is required and, during the time in which the play was written, there was no electricity. Three candles however, would not be appropriate to light an entire stage so, off stage, I would make use of a few murky, white lights. These would be placed so that it gave the appearance of light flickering through a window. Additionally, to show Juliet’s wealth, I would place a shelf on the wall with finely carved ornaments and trinkets, which had been constructed using gold. Juliet should also have some clothes scattered across a solid wooden table in the foreground to indicate to the audience that Juliet has been treated well.The clothes should be mainly black, gold, purple and red, as these colours are usually associated with royalty and a higher class of people. Furthermore, the clothes should be made of a delicate material, such as silk, with small stitching and extravagant designs. Additionally, there should be four chairs dispersed around the room to create suitable seating areas for the characters. Finally, I would place entrance/exit on the stage. This would be at the top-left of the stage and there would only be one as a bedroom has usually only one entrance/exit.I would cast three actresses to enact the roles in this scene. There should be an older woman of about 35 to play the nurse, a slightly younger one of about 30 to play Juliet’s mother and a girl of about 13 to play Juliet herself. The mother has to be quite young as, in the play, Juliet’s mother clearly states that she was a mother at Juliet’s age (13). Juliet’s mother should be dressed in a stylish, red gown to display her wealth and to show that she is superior to Juliet and the nurse. The nurse ought to be wearing a simple light brown dress, protected by a dirty white apron and a black bonnet. This is to give the impression that she is not that wealthy and that she is a nurse. Juliet herself should be dressed in a navy-blue dress with two pockets to conceal the dagger and the vial. Her hair should be styled in two plaits to show that she is still quite youthful.I would have some gentle classical music being played in the background and have the nurse and Juliet enter, with the nurse carrying a pile of Juliet’s clothes. Juliet should say her lines using a confident speaking tone to show that she has nothing to worry about but as she is lying to the nurse, she should also avoid any direct eye contact with the nurse. When Lady Capulet enters, she should enter at a brisk speed to indicate she has a lot to do in a short space of time. Whilst Juliet and her mother are talking, the nurse should be arranging Juliet’s clothes on the tables and should be folding them. Juliet should request for her nurse and mother to leave using a tender tone of voice. She can do this whilst saying the lines “so please you, let me now be left alone” and “I am sure you have your hands full.” When Juliet’s nurse and mother do finally depart, they should also leave using a normal walking pace, to show that they are following Juliet’s wishes.The opening lines to Juliet’s soliloquy, “Farewell! God knows when we shall meet again.” should be spoken in a passionate tone of voice. Juliet should use gestures such as showing two open arms to suggest she wants someone to come to her. This also ties in when she says, “I’ll call them back to comfort me.” She should say “come vial” in a slow but certain tone of voice. The vial should be taken out from her dress pocket along with the dagger and the bottle should be green as green is associated with the unnatural.The dagger should have a rusting metal blade and handle. The line “this shall forbid it” Should also be said in a slow but certain tone of voice. And the dagger should be placed slowly onto the table. Prior to continuing her speech, she should glance around to make sure that no one is eavesdropping, and she should have an uncertain facial expression.Then, Juliet should continue her speech, using gestures such as having her hand on her heart. The words “poison,” “minister’d” and “dishonour’d” should be emphasised as these are dramatic words which will grab the audience’ attention. She should pause slightly before carrying on with her speech to show that she in thinking about the answer to her question. (If the friar is trying to poison her or not). “I fear it is” should be spoken whilst shaking her head and also a disbelieving tone should be used to give the impression that Juliet is not sure of anything anymore. Juliet should use movement such as walking around her room in a slow yet uncertain manner while she is answering her own question.The next thing to deliberate, is the way in which Juliet would respond while she thinks about waking up before Romeo arrives to escort her to Mantua. She should modify her movements by shifting to the front of the stage to be nearer to the audience. To add more drama, Juliet should halt whilst facing the audience, with a look of disbelief on her face to give the impression that she has just had a terrible thought. She should say, “How if, when I am laid into the tomb, I wake before the time that Romeo Come to redeem me?” in a slow and nervous fashion.Then, she should say the next few lines progressively getting faster, louder and more passionate. The music should stop now to create a petrifying silence and, the lights should also fade slightly. Again, words like “stifled,” “foul,” “strangled,” “horrible,” “conceit” and “terror” should be emphasised as these are very moving words. She should sound distressed as she says “where bloody Tybalt, yet but green in earth” to show that she still cares for her recently deceased cousin. Once more, she should start to get louder and almost hysterical as she talks about the “mandrakes” being “torn out of the earth” and her concern that she may “dash out” her “desperate brains” with her “forefathers’ joints.”When she imagines seeing Tybalt’s ghost, she should move back to imply she is running away from something and she should also put her arm out to suggest she trying to prevent someone from coming towards her. Gradually, she should move back and huddle down on the floor just in front of the bed whilst excitably screaming “stay, Tybalt, stay!” and “Romeo, I come.” She should then be frantically trying to open the vial and then as she is getting up, she should drink the potion and fall upon the part of her bed, which is out of view to the audience. Juliet should drop the vial so it lands under the bed to make sure that when she is discovered, the vial is not found and so does not cause any suspicion. The lights should gradually fade to darkness to indicate that the scene had concluded.In conclusion, there are many ways in which “Romeo and Juliet” is emotional and dramatic, especially Act 4 Scene 3. A great deal took place and there are many ways in which this scene fits in with the rest of the play.