Sunday, January 23, 2011

External Degree -GAQ 16.01.2011-Bhiksu University-Anuradhapura

Romeo and Juliet

William Shakespeare

The play takes place in the town of Verona.

Background information
The Montagues and Capulets are two rivalry families.They are involved in a family feud that goes back years before any of the members were born.Yet the feud still continues due to the fact that neither family is ready to forgive and forget the past. Even the townspeople are involved because the families do not keep the feud in the privacy of their own home but have been seen fighting in the public streets and displaying violence. They disrupt the peace of Verona and even Prince Escalus personally had to break up a fight, where the family members were heavily fined. They were also given a warning that another public fight could result in death. While this is occurring Romeo, the main character, is getting over his last love, Rosaline, and was very upset. Juliet of the Capulet household has just been introduced to a wealthy young man, Paris, who her parents wish her to marry. Yet she does not love him.
• Romeo is a Montague. He falls in love with Juliet and proceeds to marry her. He is a tragic character. He is characterized as hasty and emotional. He is young.
• Juliet- She is a Capulet. She falls in love with Romeo. She believes marriage should be for love. She is also characterized as hasty. She is young
• Lord Capulet- He is Juliet's father. He is strict, harsh, not understanding. He wants her to marry Paris.
• Lady Montague-She is Romeo's mother. She is very busy and strict.
• Lord Montague-He is Romeo' father. He is stubborn and not willing to forgive.
• County Paris- He is kinsman of Prince. He cares about Juliet and wishes to marry her.
• Prince Escalus- He is Prince of Verona. He wants to call a truce and end the family feud.
• Friar Lawrence- He is the Priest in Verona. He weds Romeo and Juliet hoping it will unite both families. Instead it causes fighting. He later gives Juliet sleeping potion. He helps Romeo out.
• Friar John-He was supposed to deliver a letter to Romeo about Juliet, but Romeo did not get it.
• The Nurse- She cared for Juliet during childhood. She wants Juliet to be happy. She is very talkative.
• Mercutio-He is a good friend of Romeo
• Balthasar-He is a servant amd a friend of Romeo.
• Benvolio- He is a friend of Romeo
• Tybalt- He is a nephew of Lady Capulet. He has a bad temper.
• Samson- He is a Capulet servant
• Gregory-He is a Capulet servant
Plot summary
Romeo (Montague), who is in love with Rosaline, goes to a party in an effort to forget her or to ease his broken heart. At this party he met Juliet, and immediately fell in love with her. He later finds out that she is a Capulet, the rival family of the Montagues. He decides that he loves her anyway and they confess their love for each other during the very famous "balcony scene" in which they agree to secretly marry the next day. Friar Lawrence agrees to marry them in an effort to end the feuding between the families. Unfortunately, the fighting gets worse and Mercutio (Montague) , a good friend of Romeo's, ends up in a fight with Tybalt (Capulet), Juliet's cousin. Tybalt kills Mercutio, which causes Romeo to kill Tybalt in an angry rage. For this, Romeo is banished from Verona.
At the same time, the Capulet's are planning Juliet's marriage to Paris. Juliet does not want to marry this man so she arranges with Friar Lawrence to fake her own death with a sleeping potion that will make everyone think that she is dead. Friar Lawrence promises to send word to Romeo to meet her when the potion wears off and to rescue her to Mantua, where Romeo is currently staying. There they would live happily ever after. Unfortunately, Romeo does not receive this message on time and upon hearing of her "death" goes to Juliet's tomb where he drinks poison and dies. When Juliet's potion wears off, she awaken's to find her lover's corpse. She then proceeds to stab herself with Romeo's dagger. The two families find the bodies and their shared sorrow, finally make peace with each other.
• Hastiness- Romeo is hasty to fall in and out of love. The two are too hasty to get married; they never thought about what could go wrong.
• Infatuation- Romeo and Juliet, in all probability, were not really in love. They were infatuated with each other. They were in love with the idea that they were in love. They could not have fallen so deeply in love with only one conversation.
• Selfishness- Everyone in this play (except Benvolio) acts selfishly. Juliet never told her parents about Romeo and did the selfish act of faking her death, which greatly upset them. The Capulets were selfish for making Juliet marry a man that she did not love. Both of the families were selfish for continuing the fighting. Friar Lawrence ran away when they saw the two families go into the tomb. He wanted to prevent himself from getting in trouble. Tybalt was selfish for killing Mercutio. Romeo was not thinking of Juliet as he killed her cousin.
Key Issues
• Feuding- The feuding of the families was the whole reason for the tragedy. They should have reconciled their differences years ago. They didn't even know what they were fighting about.
• Stereotypes-Some members of the Capulets and Montagues have never even met and yet they hate each other. Why? Because of a person's last name.
• Dreams- The whole story had occurred in a dream which foretold their fate . This was a warning for Romeo yet he chose to ignore it.
• Decisions- Many difficult decisions had to be made. Friar's decision to marry them was difficult. He could have told their parents. He risked taking the responsibility for marrying them knowing it might cause upheaval. Juliet had the difficult decision of how to get out of marrying Paris. She was also confronted with the dilemma of whether to appease her parents and follow their wishes which would mean marrying Paris or follow her heart and marry Romeo. The families made the decision to end their feud to prevent any more unnecessary deaths.
• Sacrifices- Romeo and Juliet were willing to sacrifice their relationship with their families in order to be together.
• Fate- It was considered fate that they would meet and fall in love and then die for each other. Fate brought them together as well as ended their lives. It was in the stars.
Moral lessons
There is more to love than lust. Romeo and Juliet did not take the time to get to know each other and form a deep intimate relationship. They rushed into their relationship. They were also very young to be experiencing love . Even people much older than them do not know what love means. It may have really been true love that was mutually felt by both of them though.
Labels mean nothing- Their last name was a label. Their names were what almost kept them apart. . But love saw through that. They saw each other in secrecy and soon fell madly in love. Love sees no barriers.
Listen to advice-If the families had listened to the Prince of Verona and made peace, then Mercutio and Tybalt would not have died. If Romeo and Juliet would have listened to the advice given to them by the Friar then they would not have died so young. The Friar cautioned them about acting hasty and irrational. But instead the star-crossed lovers meet the fate of death.
Don't seek revenge-The families sought revenge for things that did not even involve them and happened years ago. They needed to forgive and forget. Yet when both parties are stubborn it takes the death of two young lovers for them to realize that their actions were wrong. . Tybalt called Romeo a villain and dared him to fight. With his refusal Mercutio began to fight Tybalt to defend the family name. Romeo tries to stop them, but it is too late when Tybalt kills Mercutio. In anger and guilt Romeo than retaliates and catches Tybalt. In Romeo's rashness Tybalt dies.
Don't act hastily- This involves the manner in which Romeo and Juliet acted. They should have thought things through first before they jumped into matrimony. Matrimony is a lifetime thing and not just a teenage phase.

D.N. Aloysius

Lecturer in English

Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities

Rajarata University of Sri Lanka


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