How does Shakespeare use language to create dramatic effect in Act 1, Scene 5 of Romeo and Juliet?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Shakespeare especially uses language to create drama in the exchange between Lord Capulet and Tybalt in Act 1, Scene 5. The drama serves to characterize both Capulet and Tybalt as well as foreshadow the events soon to come.

One language, or rhetorical, device that Shakespeare uses to create drama is repetition. Repetition can be seen when Capulet frequently tells Tybalt to "Go to!," which is an exclamatory similar to today's expression of "What the h--!" We see "Go to!" repeated in lines 81, 82, and 87, and then the word "go!" appears by itself in 91 in which Capulet is now just telling Tybalt to go away. The repeated exclamatory helps to characterize Capulet's shock at Tybalt's reaction to Romeo's presence at the ball. Capulet well sees that Tybalt is clearly overreacting and that there is no need to feel insulted by Romeo as he is behaving like a "portly gentleman," meaning a "stately," or "dignified" gentleman (I.v.69, Random House Dictionary). Capulet's shock at Tybalt's reaction also serves to help characterize Tybalt as an aggressive, irrational person with a hot temper, which also creates drama by foreshadowing the disasters that are soon to come.

Another language technique Shakespeare uses to portray Capulet's shock and anger at Tybalt's response is repeating punctuation marks. Capulet ends many of his lines in both question marks and exclamations. The question marks serve to portray these questions he is asking Tybalt as rhetorical questions--questions that don't expect any answer and are intended to express shock. We especially hear Capulet's shock in the question, "What, goodman boy?," meaning, "What, good lord, boy!," and again in, "Am I the master here, or you?" (eNotes, I.v.81, 82). Again, Capulet's shock serves to portray Tybalt as very rash and aggressive, plus foreshadow the deaths to come, thereby creating drama.

muddy-mettled's profile pic

muddy-mettled | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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One example is also an issue that editors must deal with.  It is in Romeo's first speech to Juliet("If I profane......"):  " the gentle sin is this."  Some editors substitute "fine"(penalty) in place of "sin."  Others prefer "gentler sin" and suggest that kissing Juliet is a "mild transgression"(Levenson).  I think that the author implied that Romeo meant to say "fine" and says "sin" inadvertently because he had heard Tybalt say, just moments before:  "To strike him dead I hold it not a sin"(line 172 or so).  

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