Dramatic Effect of Act 1 Scene 5 of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
'Romeo and Juliet' is a tragic story about love and hate; nowhere is
this more apparent than in Act 1, scene 5. Up to this point in the
story we have been introduced to the entire cast and their specific
characteristics and difficulties. In this scene they all come together
for the first time at the Capulet mansion for a great party, which
leads us to the real plot behind the story, the audience are now
expecting Romeo and Juliet to fall in love finally, they have been
waiting for almost a whole Act for the moment both characters will
meet, and both Romeo and Juliet will fulfil their destiny as depicted
by the Prologue.
This climactic end of Act 1 is coupled with the tension of having a
masked party, because now it is difficult for guests to guess whom
each other are. We know that to be the case because we hear Capulet
say "how long is't now since last yourself and I were in a mask?". It
is especially tense because the audience knows Romeo and Juliet will
meet, and they also know that they will not realise who they have
fallen in love with.
The first part of the scene involves some servant characters talking
about their work, "he shift a trencher? He scrape a trencher?" This
conversation appears unimportant to the audience, but it is very
important in setting the scene, and setting the party atmosphere. They
speak in prose not verse so that people in Shakespeare's time would
have known it was not important to the plot.
Next, in comes Capulet. He makes a grand entrance into the great hall;
we can just imagine his voice resounding heavily. He tells all the
women that if he does not see them dancing he will assume they have
corns on their feet:
"Ladies that have their toes
Unplagued with corns will walk with you", it seems as no one really
gets on the dance floor because he then tries to get people to dance
"Which you all
Will now deny a dance?" he asks this question to the whole of the
great hall, asking who will not dance, he says this in a friendly way,
joking with his guests. His speech to the guests continues with much
the same tone. The speech is light and fun, adding to our imagining of
an eclectic party.
The one thing that stands out about his speech is the difference in
his character from the rest of the play. He goes from being
authoritarian and menacing, to a very jovial character, it could well
be the atmosphere Shakespeare has created that changes his character.
Even in this very scene we see the difference in his character when he
speaks to Tybalt about Romeo.
The next part shows Romeo talking to a serving man, enquiring as to
the name of a certain lady. We do not find out this lady's name,
building suspense because we already believe we know whom it is....