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

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

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Shakespeare's choice of diction particularly creates dramatic effect in Act 1, Scene 6 of Romeo and Juliet. We especially see some interesting diction choices when Tybalt first recognizes Romeo.

For starters, Shakespeare chooses to have Tybalt refer to Romeo, the son of a lord, as a slave. The word slave can be used to refer to both someone who belongs to someone else in servitude, or even to someone who is completely under someone else's influence (Random House Dictionary). It's the later definition that actually perfectly characterizes Romeo. Not only is he present at the ball due to Benvolio and Mercutio's influence, Romeo's fate is completely influenced by the choices of his family. Portraying Romeo in this light helps to build up tension and also foreshadow what is soon to come.

A second interesting diction choice in Tybalt's speech is the word antic in his line, "What, dares the slave / Come hither, cover'd with an antic face?" (I.v.57-58). The word antic can be translated as "comic" and refers to the mask Romeo is wearing, as the ball is a masquerade (eNotes). However, antic can also be translated to refer to a prank. If we translate it as prank, it stands in great contrast with the word solemnity in the next line, [t]o fleer and scorn at our solemnity" (59). Solemnity can be translated as referring to their festivity, or ball, but it can also be translated to refer to a very serious ceremony (Random House Dictionary). Pulling a prank at a ceremony would certainly be a poor thing to do and shows us just how much Tybalt is judging Romeo and angry with him, which serves to build up the tension leading up to what soon follows, thereby building up the drama.

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