Shakespeare's Focus of Attention on Romeo and Juliet in Act 1 Scene 5
This scene is set at a party hosted by Lord Capulet. Romeo and his
friends sneak into the party, but because it is a masked party they
are not recognised. Tybalt, however, hears Romeo's voice and realises
who it is. He complains to Lord Capulet, who orders Tybalt to let the
subject drop because he has heard that Romeo is a very respectable
youth, but also because he does not wish to appear to be inhospitable
in his own home. Tybalt complies, but swears revenge.
This is also the scene where Romeo first sees and then meets Juliet.
This is the main event of the scene, and one of the most important
events of the play, because it sets up the rest of the story.
In this essay I will discuss how Shakespeare uses language to contrast
his characters and bring emphasis on the more important characters and
events. I will also discuss the way I would direct this play and
organise the stage design. To help with this I will refer to the Baz
Luhrman and Franco Zeffirelli films, although I do appreciate the
important difference between a film and a play.
The scene previous to this one ends with Romeo's gloomy premonition
that no good would come of his going to the Capulet's party, "Some
consequence yet hanging in the stars...", and in contrast to this,
this scene begins with the preparations for the party to come and the
accompanying air of excitement and anticipation. The characters are
behaving cheerfully and are looking forward to the party to come.
The servants who are talking at the beginning of this scene are the
only characters throughout the scene to speak in prose, rather than
the blank verse used by the rest of the characters. This shows the low
status of the servants in comparison with the rest of characters in
After the servants lines Lord Capulet speaks to greet his guests. Lord
Capulet behaves with almost childlike excitement about the party to
come, encouraging his guests enthusiastically to take part in the
dancing, although he himself claims to be too old to dance, and talks
regretfully about his younger days when he would have taken part in
the dancing. In contrast with the servants, Lord Capulet speaks in
Iambic Pentameter, or blank verse. This shows his superior status to
The Luhrman production shows the beginning of this scene in a flurry
of camera angles. While this is effective on camera, anything like
this is utterly impossible to show on stage.
The Zeffirelli film is more useful for inspiration on this point,
although it is not a part of the scene which particularly lends itself
to creative stage direction. The film simply shows Capulet standing in
front of the doors greeting his guests as they arrive. This would be
how I would stage it, although I would have to...