Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
In the opening scene of William Shakespeare's play, 'Romeo and Juliet'
he introduces us to the Italian walled city of Verona in the north of
Italy that is being ripped apart by two powerful noble families in a
ancient feud. Such things were common in the days when Italy was ruled
by independent city-states and principalities.
Shakespeare does not specify an exact date and so most people take it
as being set in the late medieval - early renaissance.
In the text the play opens with an unseen narrator giving a short
description of the plays background and inviting the audience to
watch. Such things were common in the writers' day as there was little
or no scenery and props so descriptions were incorporated into the
actors' dialogue. Shakespear very cleverly puts this description into
a verse that both gives an overview of the story but still keeps an
air of mystery around the play.
He uses many references to 'fate', the 'star's and the 'heavens'. All
these are symbols of mystery and incite you to want to know more.
Shakespeare lived in a very superstitious time and many people would
believe in the stars guiding peoples fates. Shakespeare even called
Romeo and Juliet,
'A pair of star-crossed lovers'
This tells the audience that no matter what happens the fate of them
both is sealed in the stars.
Verona is a city torn apart by a conflict between two of the noble
families both equal in power and stubbornness. The Capulets and the
Scene I is set in one of the numerous public places (piazzas) that are
still a major feature of modern Italian cities. Walking through the
square are two Capulets, Sampson and Gregory. They are characters
peripheral to the play and are mainly included to convey some humour
and wit that Shakespeare so often uses. They are walking through the
square making jokes and witty puns. Although these are humorous the
subjects they are discussing are quite serious and behind the humour
is a darker aspect of the play.
As these two are walking through the square they see some of their
enemies the Montagues, they insult them with a rude gesture and start
a conflict. The humour in the dialogue of the Capulets and Montagues
adds to the suspense of the scene. Will the Montague see it as a joke
and ignore it or will he attack the Capulets for being rude? The
mocking leads to a fight in which both families get heavily involved.
In this scene the plays main protagonists are introduced, Benvolio
Montague - a peaceful man but not afraid to stand for his family.
Tybalt Capulet - a hot headed swordsman with a unfaltering hate for
the Mont agues. Old Capulet and Old Montague - the patriarchs of each
household. Also in the later part of this scene we meet Romeo for the
Benvolio tries to...