It’s your turn to read in class, you’re reading Shakespeare and your thirty lines of monologue is coming up. You take a deep breath, read, and then its over. However, you don’t even understand what you just read! Staring at difficult sonnets can confuse an abundance of people, but who would’ve known that Shakespeare’s hard-to-understand language, actually holds so much influential meaning? Shakespeare uses poetry in The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet to appeal and engage the audience and further develop the plot. He does this by foreshadowing events, developing characters, and establish conflict throughout the play.
William Shakespeare uses foreshadowing as a brilliant technique to build anticipation into his audience for this drama. For instance, very early in the plot, Benvolio foreshadows the death of Romeo when he says, “Take thou some new infection to thy eye, / And the rank poison of the old will die.” Benvolio’s comparison of love to poison when talking to Romeo foreshadows Romeo’s suicide from drinking poison. Shakespeare incorporated this in as a hidden clue that foreshadows at the main conflict, the death of Romeo and Juliet. This leaves readers wanting to read on, knowing (from the prologue) what’s to come. Shakespeare also incorporates foreshadowing through Juliet, when she thinks she sees Romeo dead. Looking at him, she says, “Methinks I see thee, now thou art so low, / As one dead in the bottom of a tomb.” This is Juliet foretelling not only Romeos death, but hers as well. This takes place shortly before she finds Romeo dead next to her, in her family’s tomb. This is the second time Shakespeare hints the same outcome to the audience. The foretelling of their death helps make the story more anticipated to the audience, it slowly plays it out, and leaves readers reading on. Friar even foretells Romeo’s fate, when he warns Romeo about passionate love. He says, “These violent delights have violent ends / And which their triumph die, like fire and powder,”. The Friar expresses his fears for the future to Romeo, saying that if he continues down this path, the outcome will not end well. This lets the audience know that something more is in store for this plot. Shakespeare cleverly places clues in his writing to warn us of events to come in order to build tension in the story, which further engages the audience.
Shakespeare blatantly uses language to effectively develop characters within the play. One character he does this to, is Romeo. He depicts him as a character who loves easy. When Romeo first sees Juliet, he declared, “Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! / For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night” . Romeo is wondering how he has ever loved before, because he has never seen anyone as beautiful as Juliet. After seeing her, he completely forgets about Rosaline and his devotion towards her. This shows the audience that Romeo is not a loyal lover and that he just loves to be in love. In addition, he also made Romeo a tender lover. “O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! / It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night / As a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear– / Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear! / So shows a snowy dove trooping with crows”. When Romeo isn’t off switching partners, Shakespeare wrote him as a very adoring, even obsessive at times, lover. Here, he is saying how Juliet’s beauty is too good for this earth and that someone should beautiful never die! Shakespeare’s skillful use of oxymorons displays Romeo’s dramatic affection towards Juliet. Comic relief was also something Shakespeare often included in his writing, usually with the Nurse, in order to relieve some tension. An example of this is when the nurse jokes to Juliet about her husband saying, “The pretty wretch left crying and said, ‘Ay.’ / To see now how a jest shall come about! / I warrant, and I should live a thousand years, / I never should forget it. ‘Wilt thou not, Jule?’ gouth he, / And, pretty fool, it stinted and said” . Our very first introduction of the nurse, is her telling a dirty joke to a child. This helps the audience and/or readers know that she is not a very earnest character, and more of a character meant for comic relief. However, towards the end of the play, Shakespeare begins writing nurse as more of a serious character, showing character development. The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is filled with language that contributes to the development of characteristics of the characters.
Shakespeare uses language to establish conflict in his writing. The warring between the two houses of Montague and Capulets in one of the biggest themes of conflict in the whole story. From the first thing we read, the prologue, it states, “Two households, both alike in dignity, / In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, / From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, / Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. / From forth the fatal loins of these two foes / A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life; / Whose misadventured piteous overthrows / Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.” Shakespeare beings this drama by explaining the history of grudges and violence behind the two families. When Romeo and Juliet fall in love, they’re kept apart, due to their families strife, which eventually causes them to end up taking their life. Another conflict in this play is the feud between Tybalt and Romeo, which has been an ongoing one and is a major factor in the plot. When Tybalt sees Romeo at the Capulet party, he is filled with anger and says, “Patience perforce with willful choler meeting / Makes my flesh tremble in their different greeting. / I will withdraw; but this intrusion shall, / Now seeming sweet, convert to bitt’rest gall.” Tybalt says this to Capulet after he commands Tybalt not to fight Romeo. He is taken aback, but does not fight. However, this anger still remains inside him and it grows more and more. Another conflict is Juliet’s refusal to marry Paris. Old Capulet argues with Juliet, yelling, “How, how, how, how chopped-logic? What is this? / ‘Proud’ –and ‘I thank you’ –and ‘I thank you not’– / And yet ‘not proud’? Mistress minion you, / Thank me no thankings, nor proud me no prouds, / But fettle your fine joints ‘gainst Thursday next / To go with Paris to Saint Peter’s Church, / Or I will drag thee on a hurdle thither. / Out, you green sickness carrion! Out, you baggage! / You tallow-face!”. When Juliet refuses to marry Paris, because of her engagement to Romeo, Old Capulet becomes furious with her. He yells in fits of rage and threatens to disown her. Readers can infer that he might have been physically and/or mentally abusing her. Shakespeare’s use of language structures the plot, establishing not only one conflict, but many, in his writing.
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is filled with language and poetic devices which contribute to the appeal of the audience by keeping them engaged into the development of the plot and its characters. It turns out that these tricky stanzas are actually building blocks that contribute to creating an entire story. Without Shakespeare’s genius writing, there would be no Romeo and Juliet.