Act One immediately engages the audience. Do you agree with this
statement? How does Shakespeare achieve this?
Act One of 'Romeo and Juliet' by William Shakespeare does indeed
immediately engage the audience. Shakespeare does this by using
several language techniques to create an interesting opening scene.
Shakespeare uses humour, action and romance all in Act One and it is
this variation that keeps the audience's attention.
The play begins with a prologue that is written in the form of a
sonnet. The Prologue gives a summary of the play but does not give
away too much of the plot, in order to keep the suspense. Shakespeare
tells of the great tragedy that will follow. The sonnet form is used
because it is more interesting when performed on stage than simple
prose. Shakespeare uses clever language in the Prologue to build
suspense. For example, on line four he writes, 'From ancient grudge
break new mutiny.' 'Ancient grudge' suggests that the disagreement
between the Montague and Capulet families has been going on for a very
long time and the mutual hatred between them has grown stronger and
stronger. The word 'mutiny' is used to mean a sudden outburst of
violence, which suggests there will be an exciting, action-packed
scene somewhere in the play. Then, on lines six and seven, Shakespeare
writes about the 'misadventured piteous overthrows' of the 'pair of
star-crossed lovers'. He uses this to suggest there will be several
unfortunate tragic accidents involving Romeo and Juliet throughout the
play. Furthermore, on line twelve of the sonnet, Shakespeare writes
that the play will be 'the two hours' traffic of our stage', meaning
that the play will last two hours which will not be long enough to
bore the audience. Finally Shakespeare then adds that the actors will
try to make up for any faults with the play by writing, 'What here
shall miss, our toil will strive to mend.'
The play itself begins with a conversation between two servants of the
Capulet household called Sampson and Gregory. They are usually dressed
in bright, colourful costume, they walk jauntily and they talk
jovially between themselves to create an immediate light-hearted,
happy air. The two servants poke fun at each other and use sexual
innuendo to create an immediate sense of humour in the play. They
begin by using wordplay to create humour on the first four lines and
then move on to boasting to one another about their fighting skills.
Sampson says, 'I strike quickly, being moved' to mean that he is quick
to fight when he is angry. From line ten, the servants begin to use
words with two meanings, one of which is sexual. Words like 'thrust',
'stir' (to have sex), 'stand' (have an erection) and 'maidenheads'
(virginity) are used. Sampson and Gregory continue to use sexual
innuendo to insult each other's manhood and brag about their own
virility. Sampson says that ''t is known I [he] is a pretty piece of
flesh' to mean he is an attractive...