In Romeo and Juliet, how is interest sustained with structure and dramatic features even though the outcome of the play is foretold in the Prologue?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Replete with the beauty of Shakespeare's language and fast-moving action, Romeo and Juliet captivates almost any audience.

Poetic Devices

  • There are 3 sonnets in this play:  the two Prologues, and the first meeting of Romeo and Juliet in Act I, Scene 5 in which each speaks 7 lines.
  • The entire play is written in blank verse, unrhymed iambic pentameter with scenes ending with a rhyming couplet.
  • Romeo often speaks in the verse of courtly love.

It is my lady; O, it is my love!
O that she knew she were!
She speaks, yet she says nothing. What of that?
Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold; 'tis not to me she speaks.
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return. (2.2.10-16)

  • Beautiful figurative language is used throughout the drama
  • Light/Dark imagery serves throughout the play to enhance the beauty of the verse as well as the motif that Romeo and Juliet are safer in the night than in the day.

Plot

  • The play begins with immediate action as the servants of the rival households engage in conflict which draws Lords Capulet and Montague into the fray.
  • Act III's confrontation between Mercutio and Tybalt is high action.
  • The humor of Mercutio as he teases the Nurse is entertaining.
  • The action involving Romeo and Juliet is whirlwind, occurring all within only 3 days.
  • Twists of fate create suspense, such as the quarantine of Mantua which prevents Romeo from receiving the all-important message of Friar Laurence that Juliet is still alive.
  • The play is a masterfully executed tragedy as creative and significant imagery and symbolism is employed as well as humor which adds a further dimension to the sad events.

Characterization

  • The development of characters such as the fiery Tybalt, the impetuous and passionate Romeo, and the mercurial Mercutio and silly Nurse are interesting and entertaining.
  • Friar Laurence as a counselor, whose soliloquies are poetic, adds beauty and interest to the play
  • The tragic flaws of Romeo and Juliet lend suspense and pathos to the play

 

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akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The dramatic structure of the play is evident in the Prologue to Romeo and Juliet.  Seeing how the structure of the Prologue parallels that of the drama is a way in which interest is maintained.  The initial setting of the "two households" in "fair Verona" is the exposition of the Prologue and of the drama.  The "civil blood" making "hands unclean" helps to bring light to the schism between both.  Out of this, the fruit of "fatal loins" is where the protagonists are evident.  The structure has moved from exposition to rising action and both in the drama and the Prologue, this is where audience interest is evident.  It becomes critical to include this because Shakespeare understands that this collision between values is where conflict arises, thus maintaining interest.  At the same time, I think that the Prologue's mention of the death of the "star crossed lovers" bringing about the "bury of their parents' strife" helps to bring about the pinnacle of conflict and the decline in action into resolution.  The structure of the Prologue mirrors that of the drama.  The dramatic structure is revealed in the Prologue, allowing the audience to fully appreciate what is about to be seen.  This priming of the audience enables them to completely grasp what is going to be seen.  It is here where I think that structure plays a vital role in maintaining interest both in the Prologue and that which is to follow.

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