Romeo and Juliet is a famous play which was written by William Shakespeare in 1595.
It is set in Verona in 16th century Italy and is a Tragedy. The prologue sums up the play for the audience – it informs them that the play is a Tragedy and so will end in death. The audience will then know that Romeo and Juliet will die even before the play start and this makes the Balcony scene more poignant and sad. Romeo and Juliet’s lives are wasted unnecessarily – they were young and had their whole lives ahead of them to look forward to.The prologue also tells the audience about the feud between the two major families in the play. The families are so wrapped up in hating one another that they don’t even notice that Romeo and Juliet are in love and so their hatred wastes their lives. Juliet’s parents wanted Juliet to marry a rich man who was suitable for her social status, even if she didn’t love him; they were just intent on keeping up the family’s tradition and respect. It was not anything unusual in Shakespeare’s period for girls from aristocratic families to get married at thirteen and they grew up learning that they had to accept their parents’ judgements about who they should marry.
This is also part of the Tragedy, as the audience will realise that it is because of these restrictions that Juliet comes to her death. If her parents had let her decide who she wanted to marry then she wouldn’t have been forced to keep her relationship with Romeo secret; then Romeo would not have had to go and see what he thought was Juliet’s body and then kill himself from grief as they would have been able to see each other whenever they wanted to.The fact that the play is a Tragedy makes the Balcony scene much more poignant to the audience as Romeo and Juliet are young, in love and (in Shakespeare’s eyes) beautiful. Shakespeare thinks love is beautiful as it is romantic and natural and he feels it never stops no matter what happens. The audience will know that soon everything will be taken away from them as they will die at the end so this makes the scene much more sad and it should stand out in people’s memories more.
The preceding scenes to the Balcony scene are very different. The Balcony scene is very romantic and has a symbolic setting but the preceding scenes are very ‘loud’ and vulgar. Act 2 Scene 1 has a lot of vulgarity in it as Romeo, Benvolio and Mercutio are arguing in a light-hearted way very loudly but when it cuts to Act 2 Scene 2 the atmosphere is very quiet, gentle, romantic and sincere. This immediately lets the audience know that this scene is going to be very different to the past scenes and is likely to be an important aspect to the plot. Also, the language is romantic, gentle and lyrical in this scene which is a big contrast with the scenes before it as in those scenes the language is very vulgar and violent at times.
The other main difference between the preceding scenes and the Balcony scene is that there are lots of characters involved in the previous scenes whereas in the Balcony scene there are just two; therefore there is lots of action in the earlier scenes and peace and tranquillity in the Balcony scene. The scenes before the Balcony scene are very open but when it cuts to the Balcony scene the setting changes to a very private and secluded garden. This makes the scene more romantic as romance is usually associated with dark, secluded places rather than an open public square.I think Shakespeare did these things to emphasise the romantic element of the Balcony scene and show the audience that true love should be kept between the two lovers, not with lots of other people around them expressing their views. Romeo’s friend Mercutio would not appreciate that Romeo has stopped being a ‘lad’ if he walked in on the Balcony scene and he would probably have laughed when Romeo expressed his deepest feelings for Juliet because he has a very cynical view of love and thinks sex is just a joke. Mercutio taunts Romeo about being in love in the scenes before the Balcony scene which, in my opinion, is partly why Romeo says such intimate things to Juliet in the Balcony scene – he wants to prove to himself that Mercutio is wrong and that love means than Mercutio thinks of it.
The Balcony scene takes place in a private, secluded garden which is surrounded by walls. These walls are symbolic as they represent the barriers between Romeo and Juliet and they are high which represents the dangers they are facing by seeing each other against their families’ wishes. As the setting for this scene is private and cut off from the rest of the world this makes the scene very romantic and Romeo obviously feels he is able to express his true feelings for Juliet without anyone taunting him which is why he says such intimate things.There is obviously an orchard in Juliet’s garden as she mentions that it’s walls are very high; this implies that her family is very high in social status and very rich as usually orchards are associated with upper class, well-to-do people.
The walls of the orchard are also symbolic as as they are so high, it emphasises Romeo and Juliet’s smallness and stresses the fact that even though Romeo and Juliet are so young they have overcome some of the biggest barriers between them possible with ‘love’s light wings’ as Romeo describes it. The feud between the two families is also symbolic because it represents hatred which is destructive. Romeo and Juliet died as a result of the hatred between their families which makes their love even more poignant, innocent and sad when it is put to an end.Shakespeare uses a lot of imagery in the Balcony scene. Now I will look at how he uses it to develop the characters of Romeo and Juliet.At the very beginning of this scene there is an image of Cupid.
Cupid is blind and this symbolises that Romeo thinks he has been struck with Cupid’s arrow and has been turned blind with love for Juliet. This suggests that Romeo thinks thoughts which are not usual of boys of his young age and implies that he is much more mature than his 16 years. Romeo also compares Juliet to the sun, which signifies that he thinks she is bright, magnificent, beautiful, natural, pure and out of reach. He looks up to and respects her but feels that he will never be able to marry her without being brought back down to earth and stopped. He is obviously feeling very romantic and thinks Juliet is idealistic. Romeo also tells Juliet he will swear his love to her by the moon which is symbolic, as the goddess of the moon, Diana, was a virgin and so he feels Juliet should be one too so that she is pure and unblemished the for first time he has sex with her.I think Shakespeare wanted the audience to feel that Romeo’s thoughts were perfectly acceptable and that he should be allowed to do what he wanted as he was so young, and then learn from his mistakes.
I think the audience would probably react as Shakespeare intended them to because they would already know that Romeo was going to die before the end of the play so they would feel sorry for him and think his words were touching, sad and extremely loving. This might make the audience feel that young love is valuable as it does not usually last.Juliet also uses a lot of imagery. At about line one hundred and twenty-one Juliet refers to their love as a bud which will have blossomed into a beautiful flower by the next time they meet. This symbolises that their love is young, delicate, natural and needs care to meet its full potential. Shakespeare evidently thinks this their love is good and should be encouraged, otherwise he wouldn’t have put that image into Juliet’s mouth.
This also represents that Juliet thinks their love needs care and consideration before they leap in and get married, in many ways she is still a child and feels marriage is a big step. However, Juliet also describes her love for Romeo as ‘as deep as the sea’ which implies that her love for Romeo goes to the bottom of her heart and will last forever unless it she is forcibly stopped.