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Summary: Romeo and Juliet as a Play Dealing with Tragic Events

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According to Oxford Dictionaries, a tragedy is defined as “a play dealing with tragic events”, “concerning the downfall of the main character”. In Shakespeare’s tragedy, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Romeo is the main character, and therefore it is interesting to consider how the events leading up to his tragic downfall, could be used as evidence to suggest that Paris is the better match.

 Throughout ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Shakespeare’s presentation of Romeo seems rather ambivalent. On the one hand, the fact that he is in love with a Capulet, could suggest that he is irresponsible. This is supported by how Shakespeare refers to the conflict between the Capulet and the Montague families as an “ancient grudge”, to illustrate the intensity of the feud between them. Considering this, it is clear that neither Juliet nor Romeo’s parents would ever approve of their marriage, therefore illustrating the unsuitability of them as a married couple. On the other hand, the fact that he is initially in love with another woman, could suggest that he is fickle. Romeo refers to Rosaline as “rich in beauty” and appears to have tried to buy her with his reference to her refusal to “ope her lap in saint-seducing gold”. The fact that he is solely interested in her physical beauty, suggests that he is only acting the part of a courtly lover. This point is further emphasised by how Shakespeare uses elaborate, melodramatic and contradictory metaphors, to describe Romeo’s impressions of being in love: “a choking gall, and a preserving sweet”. The use of these oxymorons suggest Romeo’s feelings for Rosaline are merely a temporary infatuation, and to me suggest that Romeo hasn’t experienced true love yet. Furthermore, Shakespeare also presents Romeo as impulsive when he kills Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin. Upon hearing this, Juliet refers to Romeo as “a damned saint” and “an honourable villain”. This is significant because the use of the oxymorons suggest that Romeo’s impetuous actions have left Juliet in utter torment. As a result, Paris may be considered as a more suitable husband for Juliet, than Romeo. Shakespeare presents Paris in a positive light when he asks for Juliet’s hand in marriage: “my lord, what say you to my suit?”. 

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According to British Library, “daughters of respectable families…could expect their fathers to have a significant involvement” in their marriage. Therefore, the fact that Paris approached Capulet first to discuss Juliet’s marriage, would suggest that he is respectful of her family, and would also contrast with Romeo, as he did not seek permission to marry Juliet. In addition to this, Capulet also appears to like Paris as he refers to him as “a noble earl”, indicating that they are a good match in terms of status. Furthermore, Paris is also presented as understanding as he tells Capulet that “times of woe afford no time to woo”, when they are discussing Juliet’s marriage. This dignified response implies that he is appreciative of the fact that Juliet is mourning, and that she is in no position to get married. Lastly, when Paris is dying, his last words are: “lay me with Juliet”. This is significant because it suggests that his feelings for Juliet were genuine as he stayed devoted to her, up until his last moments. However, as the play progresses, Shakespeare makes it clear that Paris is an unsuitable match for Juliet. This is evident when Juliet is informed about her marriage:“he shall not make me a joyful bride”. Juliet’s response implies that she is horrified at the thought of marrying Paris, and suggests that she truly does not want to marry him. In addition to this, Paris also appears to be presumptuous of honourship as he refers to Juliet as “my lady and my wife” and says:“thy face is mine” Juliet’s retort is significant: “for it is not mine own”, as her bitterness illustrates the status of women and how they were expected to be – according to Alex Gilbertson in “Women in Elizabethan Society”-“completely subservient”. 

Lastly, when Paris learns of Juliet’s death he mentions how he has been “beguil’d” by death. This implies that he feels like he has been deceived by Juliet, and also suggests that he is blaming her. But despite all of the negative evidence against Romeo, the overwhelming consideration is that Juliet truly loves him. Throughout the play, Shakespeare creates the impression that Romeo and Juliet are equally matched in their love for each other. This is supported by how both Romeo and Juliet use religious imagery when confessing their love: “this holy shrine” and “good pilgrim”. The shared religious imagery between them creates the sense that they are equally matched and harmonious in their love. This point is further emphasised by how Juliet says that she will “no longer be a capulet”. This illustrates the equality between them, and shows how she is prepared to sacrifice her own family. In addition to this, Romeo refers to Juliet as the “sun”, which has connotations of life, and contrasts with how he used to refer to his love for Rosaline as “clouds”. This suggests that his love for Juliet seems illuminated. Juliet also mentions how she is “drunk” by her love for Romeo. The metaphorical use of the word “drunk” suggests that she sustained by his love. However, it is also clear that Romeo also loves her deeply, as he refers to their love as “devouring death”. The use of the alliteration emphasises the intensity of their love. 

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