How does Shakespeare use dramatic devices?

November 1, 2017 September 1st, 2019 Free Essays Online for College Students

Romeo and Juliet is one the famous plays in the world. It was written by the revolutionary writer, William Shakespeare who changed the image of English. The play is about youth, love, honour, pride, disparity, humour and sorrow. It contains all these elements which make it very unique and extraordinary than any other. The author, Shakespeare uses different devices, brings contrast and uses emotion very skilfully to make the story very exciting, thrilling and anxious. The story is set in Verona in Italy. The story is about two lovers who love each other so much and will continue till the end of their lives. But they both from two strong opposite aristocratic families who oppose each other till the bitter end. Even the townspeople are involved in their feuds in the public. The atmosphere is tense, anxious and apprehensive because everyone knows that the relationship between the Montague and Capulet is very volatile and an enormous brawl could erupt any minute.

“From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,

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Where the civil blood makes civil hands unclean”

The presence of their civil unrest is present form the start mentioned in the chorus and this shows that this has a major influence in the tragic genre of the play.

Romeo a Montague and Juliet a Capulet are lovers who will continue to love each other even till death even with fierce rivalry present between their families. Friar Lawrence is another significant character because he controls the strings of the play. After Romeo and Juliet have married, the tragedy of the play starts to envelope as Tybalt slain Mercutio and then Romeo slain Tybalt. This we will be the scene that we are going to investigate. This causes Romeo to be banished. The Capulet decide to marry Juliet with the aristocratic Paris, whom Juliet does not love. The lovers can not live without each other and this cause Friar Lawrence to arrange plans which will unite Romeo and Juliet once and for all. But Romeo sees Juliet dead and kills himself only not to know that she was alive due Friar Lawrence plans and then she decides to kills herself.

The play consists of various themes which makes it unique, exciting and extra ordinary. The play not only incorporates tragedy as the main theme, but consisting of many other themes. It consists of humour which is creating interest in the readers mind and its lies along with tragedy giving the play a multi dimensional image. He has incorporated this technique in his other plays as well such as Macbeth, King Lear and many more. There is also the presence light vs. dark imagery, light representing good and dark representing evil. There are some parts of the scene where a lot of irony is present especially in the scene that we are going to analyse. The inevitability of fate is a major theme in the play, the horrible series of accidents that ruin Friar Lawrence’s seemingly well-intentioned plans at the end of the play; and the tragic timing of Romeo’s suicide and Juliet’s awakening. These various themes give altogether a multi-dimensional image of the play and make it more exciting and unpredictable.

There are some questions to the social and historical background of Romeo and Juliet to why it was placed in Italy. The answers might have been that the era when Shakespeare wrote the drama was the reformation which was the splitting of the Catholic Church. Verona seems a dangerous place due catholic conviction and division. Also Catholism shows very strict marriage strictness which is shown in the play. There is also presentation of some social aspects. There is a definite hierarchy of classes present during the sixteenth century and this is extrapolated in the play such as the Montague and Capulet at the top of the hierarchy table and their servants below. There were larger families present at that time due to high infant mortality. The idea of feuding to challenge some was very alive during that era.

Romeo and Juliet, the drama was written in the period of Renaissance, a period of birth and revival in the interest of ancient Greek and Roman literature. This was a period where everyone questioned ‘why’ and ‘how’ and this led to the reformation which was the splitting of the Catholic Church. This process was mainly taking place in England.

This scene compromises of tragedy. But what is tragedy? The English dictionary explains tragedy as a sad event, a calamity. In my opinion tragedy means any event which brings destruction and eventually depression in the whole atmosphere. This play compromises of tragedy and thus creates a sorrow atmosphere, which makes this a remarkable play.

The scene which we are going to analyse is ACT3 Scene 1. We are trying to investigate how Shakespeare used dramatic devices in this scene in order to make it interesting, exciting and such an important scene. This scene is being laid upon on a public place on a hot summer’s day. This scene is very significant as it involves a brawl between the Capulets and Montagues which is very dramatic as it changes the whole story of the play from that point. This scene is focal point/pivot of story of the play. The beginning of the scene opens with Benevolio and Mercuitio. Shakespeare uses Benevolio as a device who gives the audience the indication that there might be a brawl.

“The day is hot, the Capels are abroad,

And if we meet we shall not escape a brawl”

This gives the image to the audience from the beginning that there is a possibility of the brawl. This creates curiosity and tension in the reader’s mind.

The involvement of Mercuitio gives us the image that there will be a definite brawl due to his volatile behaviour, his aggression and his pride to fight. His aggressive demeanour is used as a device to create the mood for the brawl,

“Come, Come, thou art as hot as Jack

thy mood as any in Italy”

“And thou yet tutor me from quarrelling”

This shows that his demeanour is very antagonistic to his normal manner which is very witty. This is used as a device to create the tense atmosphere and thus makes the scene very exhilarating.

The setting of the scene is in a public place as mentioned above and Shakespeare used the public scene in the brawl between Montagues and Capulets in the first scene and therefore increases the probability that there will be an eruption of another brawl as the scene is occurring in a public place. So Shakespeare has even used the setting as a dramatic device to create the atmosphere of a brawl thus creating excitement and suspense at the same time. Also Shakespeare has used the characters as devices by contrasting the demeanour of the characters such as Benvolio being very apprehensive but Mercuitio full of vigour and confidence, thus creating the anxious atmosphere of a brawl breaking out.

The entrance of Tybalt intensifies and darkens the scene (Baz Luhrmann). This shows that Shakespeare has used the settings as device. Shakespeare uses short phrases in the conversation between Tybalt which is a characteristic feature of suspense and anxiety. He uses intimidating language expressed by Mercuitio, who is again used as a device to aggravate Tybalt,

Tybalt: “Mercuitio, thou consortest with Romeo?”

Mercutio:- ” Consort? What, dost thou make us minstrels?”

This shows that Mercuitio deliberately misunderstood the meaning of Tybalt’s meaning, making a remark that would aggravate and agitate Tybalt. This creates tension excitement for the audience. Although this scene is filled with apprehension and hostility, there is still some presence of humour presented by some characters such as Mercuitio who is used as a device to express humour in this scene,

Benvolio:- “By my head, here comes the Capulets”

Mercuitio:- ” By my heals, I care not”

This brings a contrast to the tense atmosphere created and also creates excitement for the audience. Shakespeare use of language between the characters is also used to contributes in the build up to the brawl which is very controversial in the story of the play,

“Men’s eyes were made to look and let them gaze

I will not budge for no man’s pleasure, I”

This leads to creation of interest and excitement of the scene in the audience’s mind and makes this a very significant scene in the play.

Shakespeare has used another skill of contrasting and rhythm of scenes. The previous scene is filled with romance and brightness. Romeo and Juliet get married secretly because they know that their family will erupt into violence if they marry in public and cause the life of both the lovers. Friar Lawrence is a key character in this scene as he is the one who arranges the marriage. The previous scene is full of rejoice and zeal and zest. But Shakespeare brings a contrast in the story by changing the scene from rejoice and happiness to hatred and bitterness.

The entrance of Romeo is also used as a device by Shakespeare. The presence of Romeo makes this brawl completely inevitable and thus creating excitement and interest. But the most surprising device that Shakespeare implements is the ironic demeanour of Romeo. Every character in this scene and the audience expected Romeo to be defiant, survivor, a person who would protect his family’s honour and pride with all his will. But he is completely antagonistic as he states that he loves Tybalt but not even hate him and therefore he does not want to go against him,

“Tybalt the reason that I have to love thee,

Doth much excuse the appertaining rage?”

This shows the ironic demeanour of Romeo as he states his love to Tybalt. This surprises Tybalt and creates the unexpected/volatile changes in this scene which makes this a dramatic and exciting scene. It is dramatic and exciting in a sense that the audience are left guessing what dramatic changes Shakespeare is going to unfold. Tybalt’s confusion is another dramatic effect, creating interest in the audience’s mind and this is especially presented in the modern day film about Romeo and Juliet. But Tybalt’s fury, authority and lack of contrition is also a factor making this scene dramatic and thrilling,

“Boy this shall not excuse the injuries

That thou hast done me, therefore turn and draw”

This shows Tybalt’s feeling feelings towards Romeo, his revenge and aggravation clearly seen from the language Shakespeare has used. It also shows his patience that he has waited long to revenge the injuries that he received from Romeo especially at the Capulets party. Therefore Shakespeare has used the characters as a device to present irony vs. determination

The switching of demeanour creates curiosity and zest in the audience’s mind and therefore creating this a very dramatic scene. But Romeo still continues his ironic mood.

“I do protest I never injured thee,

But love thee better than thou canst ”

“And so good Capulet, which name I tender,

As clearly as mine own, be satisfied”

Romeo clearly is implementing the ironic mood to prevent duelling with Tybalt. He has just married Juliet and knows that by duelling with Tybalt the consequence could be the loss of his life and therefore never see his love Juliet again. This is a dramatic device which Shakespeare has used very skilfully and thus creating tension and excitement amongst the audience. But the brawl finally breaks out due to the contribution of Mercuitio. Mercuitio could not believe Romeo’s effeminate behaviour,

“O calm dishonourable vile submission”

This shows Mercuitio astonishment and aggravation. Again Shakespeare uses Mercuitio the first one to begin the brawl. Next, Shakespeare has used Romeo as a device to create peace and at the same time bring misery. He tries to creates peace by preventing Tybalt and Mercuitio slain each other but ends up giving the chance to Tybalt to strike Mercuitio under his arm. This effect creates misery and tragedy but at the same time bring excitement and exhilaration for the audience. The death of Mercuitio also thus causes the death of lightness, humour and joking he presented in the play. Therefore this is a dramatic event as this is the initial point where the tragic theme of the play starts to unfold.

After Mercuitio’s death, Romeo comes back to his sense, there is a burning desire in him for reprisal he recognises his pride and honour to fight and curses himself for being so effeminate which caused Mercuitio’s death.

“The beauty hath me effeminate

And in my temper softened valour steel”

This shows Romeo had lost his senses due to love for Juliet and this made him weak which caused the death of his best friend, Mercuitio. This has a very dramatic effect on the audience as Shakespeare has brought a significant contrast in Romeo’s behaviour form being very ironic and passive to anger and full of hostility. .

“Now, Tybalt take the villain again

That late thou gavest me, for Mercuitio’s soul”

This shows that he is back to senses rapidly, changing his mood from ironic behaviour, peaceful conduct with Tybalt as seen before, to avenging, aggravating, indignation and impatience to strike at Tybalt at any moment. So Shakespeare has not only used the death of Mercuitio and Tybalt to make this scene dramatic but change the whole story of the play.

Mercuitio repeat the phrase ” a plague to both your houses” which is also used as device as this shows that Mercuitio curses the Montagues and Capulets because their hatred and contentious behaviour has caused the life of Mercuitio and this is repeated in order to emphasize this point to the audience.

The entrances and exits of the characters especially after Mercuitio death, shows the fluctuations and rapidity of the play. It shows how quickly the image of the play has changed from just few intimidating words by the characters in the beginning of the scene to the death of two influential characters.

The use of a narrator is very effective in the description of an event. Narrator has a keen eye on the sequences of events. He is a neutral character who is not participating in the events but is very important to grasp the situation. He keeps the record of events alive and transfers the information to the audience and to the characters that were not present to witness that particular event. The use of a narrator is a short-cut technique to explain an event quickly and then continue on with the story line. Shakespeare has used the same technique by making Benvolio as a narrator after the death of Mercuitio and Tybalt. He is being used as a narrator to explain the situation to the Montagues, Capulets and Prince. He tells a fair account of events, supporting neither family in greater extent.

Overall this is a very dramatic and influential scene in the story of Romeo and Juliet. This scene sees the death two influential characters (Mercuitio and Tybalt) which deepens the hatred between the two families (Montagues and Capulets), causing the whole atmosphere and theme to change in the story. This scene is the pivot of the story of the play. It has turned the theme of youth, love and excitement to tragedy and misery. This is the turning point for Romeo and Juliet as Romeo is banished and Juliet is forced to marry Paris by her parents without knowing that she is already married to Romeo. This again creates tension and excitement and also shows the random nature of fate.

The Prince’s words at end of the scene were very dramatic indeed. He states Romeo is exiled but if he is found, he will be killed,

“Let Romeo hence in haste,

Else, when he is found, that hour is his last.”

This creates tension and suspense in the play and yet at the same time makes this play exhilarating.

This scene contains the tense atmosphere, demeanour, and the use of intimidating language, the switching of the mood from gentleness to absolute hostility and aggravation and to the bitter death of the characters. These are all the components that make this a very dramatic, exciting, thrilling and yet tragic scene towards the audience and causes their curiosity and interest to enhance further in the play. Overall in my view this is a very dramatic and important scene in the Romeo and Juliet because it comprises of various qualities e.g. excitement, thrilling etc, as mentioned above.


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