A) Write a critical commentary on key aspects of either Act 2 Scene 2 or Act 3 Scene 5.
B) Indicate briefly how you would read this extract using one of the approaches studied so far in Peter Barry’s Beginning Theory other than the liberal humanist approach.
ACT 2 SCENE 2
Act Two, Scene Two of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a romantic and poetically lavish scene. This emotionally abundant section of the play contains the love passages and fanciful imaginings of the young lovers. But while it is eloquent and delightful, it is also essential in detailing certain character developments, drawing attention to recurring themes and setting the tone of the remaining play.
Throughout Act One the characters of Romeo and Juliet reflect their ignorance about love and the union of marriage. Their immaturity is clearly depicted by Shakespeare, perhaps so Act Two would prove a greater contrast. In juxtaposing Act One with Act Two we are made aware of the changes that have occurred between the main characters.
While Romeo retains his flowery and romantic eloquence during Act Two he sheds his moody adolescent behaviour. Romeo comes to express his complete devotion to Juliet in Act Two Scene Two thus presenting the audience with a more mature, emotionally honest main character. Romeo demands ‘Th’exchange of thy love’s faithful vow for mine’ (2.2.127), declaring his intention to be wed to Juliet and henceforth eternally committed.
Juliet also undergoes a change in character, far removing herself from the naïve fourteen year old of Act One, she becomes increasingly strong and practical (Spencer 67). At the beginning of the play Juliet talks of marriage as ‘an honour that I dream not of’ (1.3.67) but by Act Two Scene Two it is Juliet who brings about the subject of marriage, encouraging Romeo to arrange their wedding. Romeo may have insisted on declaring their love for each other but Juliet takes it a step further ‘thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow’ (2.2.144).
The haste in which Romeo and Juliet declare their love for one another and begin to arrange their marriage sets the tone for the remaining play. The sudden urgency that they must marry and be together brings about their downfall. Constantly ignoring warnings by the Friar that they should not rush but go ‘wisely and slow/They stumble that run fast’ (2.3.90), Romeo and Juliet become victims of their own doing.
During this Act Juliet herself expresses a warning that their love and impending marriage ‘is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden’ (2.2.118). Hence, Shakespeare intends to advise his audience that something is amiss. The balcony scene, although one of the most romantic within the play may well be the reason the two lovers are unable to marry without disaster. If Romeo had not heard Juliet’s declaration of love they may not have been propelled to wed so quickly.
It is during Act Two Scene Two that the drama truly begins, from this part of the play onwards Romeo and Juliet spiral...