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Satire and Irony in a Tragic Love Story "Romeo and Juliet"

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Satire and Irony In a Tragic Love Story “Romeo and Juliet”

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In 15th century England the idea of a satire was just getting its wings in the royal theater. With predecessors like Aesop’s fables and Jonathan Swift many did not see the “modern” satire as fit for English theater ideals; However, when Shakespeare appeared on to the scene, he was able to modernize the ideas of a satire expanding its limits to a tragic love story, “Romeo and Juliet”. The tragedy explores social and gender norms within the tale of two star crossed lovers form feuding families. Many debate the fact that the play is a satire because of its sad demeanor and serious tone. “Romeo and Juliet” is a satire the because of its setting in high society and the reflection of this with in play which shows his own feelings in a derisive way.

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First of all, Shakespeare’s childhood and coming to fame plays a major role in his views on the superimposed principals. While many records of his life have been lost due to the time period he lived, some information as either been stitched together or thought to be true. William Shakespeare was born on the 26th of April in 1564. He was born to catholic parents in Stratford England. At this time in England the monarchy was protestant under the church of England created by Henry IIV. Because of this young William was forced to follow not only the strict rules of this church but also was subjected to the preadjust that came along with his fading faith. As far as his schooling goes it was most likely minimal. Many schools do not have records of this time, but it is widely accepted that he merely went to a local grammar school. This humble education would play a role too because will most play writes of the time went to university, he was simply genius and had ideas not imposed on him by highly regarded professors or schools. While his schooling ended early, his marriage started early too. He was married to Anne Hathaway at the meager age of 18 while she was only 16. This marriage was forced because Anne was pregnant with his child and because of his strict faith the only option was for them to get married and raise the child together. When he eventually did become a play write the first plays, he wrote where comedies. The first play he wrote around 1590 was a jab at Henry IIV, most likely because of the fact the he headed the new protestant church of England. One big influence would be his debatable sexuality. During this time women did not play women on stage, the roles where played by men. So, it was rumored at the time that Shakespeare did cheat on his wife but with man. This is further demonstrated in his sonnets. He often uses male pronouns when addressing the love of the sonnet and often talks about forbidden love. In sonnet 116 he talks about his forbidden love. In the poem he refers to true love as non-tempting and everlasting. This could be him referring to his forbidden love and the fact that it wasn’t his wife. He goes on later to say that your love should not help you pass mere hours or days but should stay with you till eternity. He even addresses the fixed mindset of the time by saying it is not just normal marriage that is worth the while but the marriage with obstacles that is worth the climb (W. Shakespeare). All of this impacted his writing and his views on society and is in fact reflected in Romeo and Juliet.

In the play, Romeo and Juliet there are 2 houses. The two houses are the Montague’s the house of Romeo, and Capulet’s, the house of Juliet. While these houses are symbolic in their own way in the play, they also can represent happenings in Shakespeare’s life. The Montagues represent the life Shakespeare lives while the Capulets represent the life, he wishes he did in fact did live. Thorough the play Romeo is hated on for his outward emotions, he is seen as “girly” and told by his friends and even family to get over himself. His emotions are seen as a weakness not a strength and he is pressured by the people around his to be someone he is obviously not. This causes him to be emotionally damaged with in the process of his life and his love with Juliet; Which could be based on the fact that with marrying his enemy he is getting back at his family for this damage. Or it could have been a ruse in order to get over his previous heart break. Which was done by his first love, who might be a representation of his own Anne Hathaway. Because he did love her, but she broke his heart by her decisions. As well Romeo knew she would not be there for him, so he was forced to move on in less excepted ways. This is why he then throws himself into a relationship with Juliet. She is his forbidden love, because he cannot have it, he wants it more. He makes rash decisions and is not in the right place at the right time. Even his death is symbolic, he is killed by poison. Which at the time was considered a cowardly act, because if you die you shouldn’t die peacefully. Which then means he will die a coward no matter how many brave things he did. As well, the house of the Capulets is what he wants to be. Juliet is pure and has never been messed with. She is able to “fall in love” and marry whomever she wants. The fact that she is a woman is important too. She is marrying a man, which arguable since Shakespeare’s sexuality is a question could be a reason, he created her. She is able to get out of an arranged marriage with Paris and die with and or for her true love. Furthermore, both Romeo and Juliet die in the tragic final scene. Which is symbolic, one cannot live without the other; When one parish they both parishes. When it comes to Shakespeare. He will never have just one life he will always have the one he wishes he lived and reality. Thus, the reason that they both die whenever he dies it could lead to something more symbolically in Romeo And Juliet it was the reuniting of the families. However, he might be talking about a different situation in his life, his discontent. For him to be happy something must go.

While it is well established as a satire some debate this fact. Some say that the reason Romeo and Juliet is not a satire is because it is not funny. When compared to its light-hearted counterparts it has much more dissonance. While this is true not all satires are funny. The definition of a satire according to Webster’s Dictionary is,” The use of the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues”. The integral word in the definition is or. While it does say humor it also stats irony as well as exaggeration, which this play has. It is an obvious exaggeration depicting the first meeting of 2 teens and their death within for days, but this exaggeration is the irony. He used this drama filled story to depict his feelings on normal life. The contrast is sharp form his time in Elizabethan England to the rolling hills of Verona led by the mob rile of two families. He used teen love and heart break to depict his discontent in his marriage. He used two lovers’ deaths to show what needed to happen metaphorically for his happiness. Although Romeo and Juliet are not exactly a comedy it does have comedic relief. Mercutio, Romeo’s dear friend, is a character simply for this purpose. In some of his lines he is caught poking jabs at social order or even the plague, which was ripping through England at the time. As well, for a character from this time he is very sexually enlightened. He is not hiding the fact that sex is in fact present in their little community. Making references to queen mab, a slang term of the time, and the fact that sex is a conquest. While this would just seem like a normal sit com today. Then it was improper to even mention it. So, it is in fact involved with some humor. This only proves the fact that Rome and Juliet are a satire.

As well as addressing his personal issues, he also addresses many gender ones. The gender normality or the time is demonstrated by Rome ad Juliet’s Experiences. While they are going through the same emotions and situations they are told to act completely differently. Thorough the play Romeo is told to keep his emotions to himself. In the beginning when he is morning the loss of his first love, he is told one thing, find another girl and get over yourself. He is constantly told to detach himself from his emotions and “man” up. Even when he is married to Juliet people do not take him seriously. In the fight between Tybalt and Mercutio he tries to break them up, ignoring his efforts Tybalt kills his friend Mercutio. In the scene we see Romeo truly get hurt. Which eventually lead to his killing Tybalt himself. This reflect he fact that men should be manly and not show their emotions which leads Romeo it be emotionally troubled leading into his death. When this is compared to Juliet’s it causes a juxtaposition. She is told the show her emotions and be more lady like, her being so young she agrees. She is so lost into the fact that it is her social duty to get married she ends up losing herself in the relationship. This loss leads to her death because she only sees life with him in to. This dependency eventually makes her commit suicide because of his death. This is representing the need for women to be domestic and nothing else. That is what Juliet was raised to do and that is what she did she found a man and became emotionally dependent and could not handle his death. As well if she did live, she was going to have to marry Paris which is exactly what she didn’t want to do. Again, this just adds more reasoning why the gender norms in society were toxic. This could imply Shakespeare had a very modern view of women. As well with the exaggeration of the ill-fated love he is able to demonstrate another wrong in his society.

In conclusion, “Romeo and Juliet” is a satire due to its irony and exaggerations based on his time period. When you consider his back story and analyze his writing you can fully see all the aspects of a satire including humor, irony, exaggeration, and ridicule. Shakespeare was able to modernize the satire in order to fit the societal ideals of Elizabethan England all while making fun of it.  

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