Language in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet was written in the late 16th century by William
Shakespeare, a time when the language was very different to the
English we speak today.
I have seen several different productions of Romeo and Juliet:
Firstly, Baz Luhrmann's modern film, which I really enjoyed and easily
understood. This was because Luhrmann's version transposed the action
into the 21st century, with drugs, alcohol, car, firearms and a modern
set, so that I could easily identify and relate to it. Zefferili's
old-fashioned film is probably more how Shakespeare imagined his play
to be, as it is portrayed with a set and costumes from the 16th
century. Finally I saw a theatrical production in Warwick which helped
Shakespeare's words come to life, and gave me a clearer idea of each
character's role in the play.
Gregory and Sampson
In 'Romeo and Juliet,' the opening scene involves two of Capulet's
servants, Gregory and Sampson, who are armed with swords and bucklers.
This straight away gives the impression that they are aggressive and
ready for a fight.
Both men are chatting together, very crudely, about sex and women.
Like typical men they are boasting about their sexual prowess, turning
everything into crude jokes, using word-play such as 'stand',
'thrust', 'maidenheads', 'tool' and 'weapon'.
They are very sexist referring to women as being the 'weaker vessels'.
They think that they can over-power women and that women look up to
them as superiors. As Sampson says; 'Me they shall feel while I am
able to stand' and 'tis known I am a pretty piece of flesh.'
This vulgar and crude talk about sex, is very different to the love
Romeo and Juliet share for each other later on in the play. Their love
is pure and true, and is much more than just 'sex!'
Luhrmann captures this crude boastful talk about sex very well, and it
isn't over stated, so you can get the full affect about what they are
talking about, shown when one of the characters licks his nipple! The
Arts production was effective too, with Gregory and Sampson using
vulgar movements to go with their crude jokes, for example, when
Sampson pretended to urinate against the wall!
Further into their conversation, Sampson and Gregory boast that they
are superior to the Montagues, 'A dog of that house shall move me to
stand: I will take the wall of any man or maid of Montague's', Which
means if one of those 'dogs' (Montagues) stirs them into a temper,
Gregory and Sampson will stand their ground. This illustrates the
characters' nature showing that they are rough and ready for a fight.
This opening scene in Romeo and Juliet is important, as it is such a
contrast to Romeo and Juliet's love.
The play starts in prose to reflect the casual,...