Romeo and Juliet
During the first scene of the play we are introduced to several character and the setting for the play. The story is set in the Italian city of ‘Verona’. Italy was regarded as a wealthy and romantic country where extravagant love affairs took place. Verona is a town that was popular with the rich and classical civilisation. This makes Verona an ideal setting for the tragic romance.
The play was written in the 16th Century (1595) and is about forbidden love. “A pair of star crossed lovers”, find themselves facing death due to their feuding families.
We are introduced to two different families with one major thing in common. They despise the other family. Both families will go to extreme lengths to out do the other. They will do anything from “biting” their “thumb” at each other, to fighting to the death. Both families take any opportunity to hurt/ destroy the other family.
Sampson and Gregory, Capulet servants, are roaming Verona looking for trouble. “We’ll not carry coals”. They come across Abraham and another servant from the Montague household. A fight breaks out; Benvolio one of the Montague family tries to stop the fight (“part fools”). Matters are made worst as Tybalt a Capulet arrives and sets on Benvolio. “…Talk of peace? I hate the word, as I hate hell, all Montague’s, and thee”. The fighting threatens to get out of hand as Lord and Lady Capulet and Montague arrive on the scene. Prince Escalus arrives and orders the families to stop or they will suffer a grave penalty. They are told to “throw” their “mistempered weapons to the ground”. The Capulets are ordered to leave. Lady Montague finds out from Benvolio what had happened and expressed her pleasure that Romeo was not there.
Benvolio describes Romeo’s recent strange behaviour and general sadness to Lord Montague. Benvolio discovers that Romeo is in love but that the women he loves has resolved to do nothing with men. Benvolio suggests that Romeo should forget her and “examine other beauties”. Romeo assures him this is impossible.
At the beginning of the scene Romeo is noticeably absent. We discover he is suffering from love sickness, the object of his unanswered devotions being Rosaline. This was the reason why Romeo’s fit of depression was brought on. He is adamant that there is no other woman for him. This accounts for the confusion that we see in his conversation with Benvolio. His speech is crammed with oxymorons and contradictions as he struggles to make sense of his predicament. Romeo’s love sounds very artificial, its not true its almost as though he is over reacting and being too false. He is acting very emotionally and in the opposite way to what a respectable young man should act.
We first see Benvolio in the market place trying to stop the fight. This shows Benvolio is the opposite of Tybalt and does not want to start a fight. Benvolio is a close and sensitive friend to Romeo able to judge “his affections” with his own. His response to Romeo’s dilemma is sympathetic and practical, “forget to think of her”. He addresses Romeo’s situation in a very masculine way. He tells Romeo to forget her and “examine other beauties”.
In contrast to Benvolio, Tybalt is hot tempered, vindictive and aggressive. He appears first when Benvolio is endeavouring to separate the aggressive parties. He goes for his sword rejecting Benvolio’s plea to “keep the peace”. His response sums up all you need to know about his part in the play: “What, drawn and talk of peace? I hate the word, as I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee”. He is obliged to withdraw by the entry and strong words of the Prince but his seething hatred for the Montagues are not eased. Tybalt’s first appearance establishes him as one who enjoys a fight and will never back down to a fight.
Lord Capulets first appearance is him rushing in wearing a night “gown” calling for his “long sword” to join the fight. This shows him to be a comic figure in the play (Shakespeare wanted his plays to be humorous and make the audience laugh and jeer) especially when his wife remarks he would be better off with ” a crutch”.
The Prince Escalus is a victim of circumstance; he is always just too late to do anything. He is plainly angered by the families feud yet lacks the strength to reconcile their differences. After the third “civil brawl” the prince threatens Capulet and Montague with their “lives”. The prince has no real power in the city and finds it hard to stop the families fighting. The families are becoming a major problem in the city and are disturbing everyday life, and injuring innocent people.
So far in the play we have been introduced to two rival families. Whose goals are to become the most important family in Verona and destroy the other family. The first family being the Montagues (Lord Montague, Lady Montague. Romeo, Abraham, Balthasar and Benvolio) and the other the Capulets (Lord Capulet, Lady Capulet, Juliet, Sampson, Gregory and Tybalt).