“Romeo & Juliet” is a play that especially shows the hatred of two Italian households. In this essay, I will write about the contrasts and oppositions in the play. The essay will mainly be based on the contrasts of love versus hate, light versus dark, night versus day and true love versus courtly love. The contrast between love and hate is crucial to the whole play. If there had been no feud between Romeo and Juliet’s families their love affair might have run smoothly and not ended in bloodshed. The tale of these two lovers would have been very different.
The play is set in the Middle Ages and is about a love affair between two people from two feudings, upper-class families. Both families were wealthy and influential in their society. The hatred between the households of Montague and Capulet has lasted for many years but Shakespeare does not mention or hint at what the grudge is based on. It is suggested that neither of the two families remembers why they are at war with each other! The hatred is even spoken of by the servants of the families. This shows how deeply established the spite has become. Lord Montague, Lady Montague, Lord Capulet and Lady Capulet show their hatred in many different forms.
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The play begins with a fight between Sampson and Gregory (from the house of Capulet) and Abram and another servant (from the house of Montague). Later on in the fight, Benvolio comes and joins with his household (Montague) and Tybalt joins his family’s side (Capulet).
Romeo discovers from a servant who could not read that Lord Capulet is throwing a masked ball and that his love, Rosaline, will be there. Benvolio gives him the idea to “gatecrash” the party to prove to him that there are beautiful girls in the world and that Rosaline is not the only one. Romeo goes to the ball purely with the intention of seeing the object of his obsession known as Rosaline.
However, at the ball Lady Capulet’s nephew, Tybalt recognizes Romeo and wants to fight with him, despite knowing Prince Escalus’s threat against the brawlers of Fair Verona at the beginning of the play. This shows just how much hatred flows through Tybalt’s veins
There are numerous examples of the intensity of the hatred between these two families. The love between Romeo and Juliet is as strong as the hatred between the Montagues and the Capulets. While the hatred between their families is intense, the love between Romeo and Juliet is equally intense.
Juliet’s speech in Act 3, scene 2 on hearing the news that Romeo has killed her cousin Tybalt is full of contrasts and oppositions as she expresses horror that the man she loves could murder her cousin.
‘ O serpent heart hid with a flowering face! …
Beautiful tyrant, fiend angelical!
Dove-feathered raven, wolfish-ravening lamb!’
She goes on to call Romeo ‘A damned saint, an honourable villain.’
However, when the nurse says attacks Romeo, saying “Shame come to Romeo”, Juliet jumps to his defence, saying to her nurse “Blistered be thou tongue for such a wish! He was not born to shame.”
Shakespeare also organizes the scenes to contrast each other. Act 3, scene 5 begins happily and ends sadly. Romeo and Juliet have just spent their first night together are joyfully happy. However, by the end of this scene, Juliet is distraught at being ordered to marry Paris by her parents who are unaware of her marriage to Romeo.
There are also oppositions and contrasts among some of the characters from the opposing families. For example, Mercutio, Romeo’s friend, and Tybalt are both fiery characters and both sets of parents share the same views on love and marriage. I think if they were not feuding they might get along quite well!
Then there are contrasts between the roles of the younger characters (Romeo, Juliet, Benvolio, Mercutio and Tybalt) and the roles of the older characters (Lord and Lady Montague, Lord and Lady Capulet, the Friar and the nurse). This contrast highlights the generation gap that exists and also helps to demonstrate how a feud can be passed on through the children.
The contrast in the relationships between Juliet and her mother compared with her relationship with her nurse is also striking. The nurse loves Juliet more than her own mother (and indeed her father) seem to, but the relationship between Juliet and her real mother appears to be very cold.
It is interesting the way Shakespeare wrote happy events occurring at night and sadder ones during the day. It is usually the other way around. For example, The Capulets’ dance and the scene when Romeo & Juliet meet at the balcony both take place at night but the deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt, Romeo’s banishment and Romeo and Juliet’s funerals all take place during the day.
Shakespeare uses contrasts and oppositions in a similar way to the use of light and shade (or dark) on stage to highlight a character or part of a scene and focus the audience’s attention where it is wanted and detract it away from other activities not meant to be seen, such as the movement of characters or props in the background.
Light and dark reflect many other opposites and contrasts as well; night and day, love and hate, good and evil, happiness and sadness, hope and despair, warmth and cold. All of these contrasts in the play are illustrated by the following.
The feud underlying the plot is a reflection of darkness. Everyone is so overwhelmed with hatred that it clouds their dealings with the opposite side. Romeo and Juliet’s love for each other is a reflection of light. Romeo refers to Juliet’s eyes as stars, he refers to her as the sun, as the brightness, like daylight, and as if she was the best thing in all the heavens when he says in Act 2, scene 2 “Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven.”
The idea of courtly love (a European tradition from the Middle Ages) was really a set of rules and expectations about the way lovers from the upper classes should behave. There was no room here for the expression of passionate emotions. Romeo’s love for Rosaline is a courtly love that is unrequited and he is heartbroken because he knows his situation with Rosaline is hopeless.
The idea of true love however is understood as the one and only love between two people who, like Romeo and Juliet, both discover they want only each other and no one else. Their true love takes over them completely so that nothing else matters. They would do anything and bear anything to be together.
In conclusion, the intensity of the love between R and J and the equally intense hatred between the houses of Montague and Capulet is the main contrast in the play. The numerous oppositions and contrasts in the play serve to highlight and reflect different aspects of the story and characters and this increases the dramatic effect of the play.
There are many contradictions in Romeo & Juliet and they serve to captivate and entertain the audience. The portrayal of Romeo and Juliet shows how their love changed both their characters and their lives
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