Posted at 01.02.2019
Keywords: romeo and juliet analysis, romeo and juliet prologue stylistic devices
Passage an example may be the prologue to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The prologue to Romeo and Juliet is a substantial little bit of text in the play as both its form and content introduces and gives a rather detailed insight to the viewer about events that are to follow in the play and essentially prepares and establishes the viewer/audience for the "two hours traffic on our stage" which is and gives meaning to the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.
The entire prologue is spoken by the Chorus to the intended audience and eludes the viewer to the issues that arise throughout the play, as well as acknowledges existing problems before the ones that will eventuate. The positioning of the scene is set up through the phrase "in fair Verona where we lay our scene", as well as indicates central themes to Romeo and Juliet by mentioning themes of anger and revenge through the ongoing feuds of the "two households, both alike in dignity" and the central theme of love and tragedy, through the mentioned "fatal loins of these two foes" and "star-crossed lovers" being Romeo and Juliet. The passage can also be viewed as significant as it depicts what will happen on the stage, building a somewhat cathartic sense, as pity becomes greater if the viewer knows of the tragic events that will eventually occur in the play. The very last lines of the prologue repeat the message that the lovers will die, and through this the feud is annulled.
Unlike most "traditional" prologues, the main one initiating Romeo and Juliet is by means of a sonnet. It contains 14 lines-following an essential aspect of this structure, ABAB rhyming pattern within the initial 3 quatrains and a CC couplet by the end allowing it to be in iambic pentameter. Unique in form, poetic techniques are used cleverly as the sonnet breaks usual conventions of any love poem. Perhaps because the play is centred on love, Shakespeare wrote the prologue in this form in order to emphasise this concept within the play as well as the intimate relationship between Romeo and Juliet.
In this sonnet, the 14 lines are divided up into 3 parts of 4 lines and the last section comprises of 2 lines. The sonnet uses 3 different ways to divide the sections from one another: punctuation, change of topic and the use of rhyming couplets. The first three sections get started and end as sentences lines 1-3 use commas then to close the section there is a full stop indicating the next. Once there is a full stop, the new sentence commences a fresh topic essentially guiding the audience through the plot to avoid confusion of the storyline. The ending pattern of the prologue, however, differs compared to other lines within the passage which in a few regards reflects the way the storyline of the play is structured. The two rhyming lines at the end of the prologue are typical of a normal sonnet and work examples of combining form and content together in a simple enough form for the audience to understand and get meaning from the prologue and indeed all of those other play.
When observing the prologue, it is evident where Shakespeare intended to put emphasis through the stressing of certain syllables such as "fair", and "star-crossed"- these two particularly because they are crucial to the central themes from the concept of love and marriage. The "cross'd" in "star-cross'd" refers to the fact that their love suppressed, frustrated and finally defeated. Such would be the love of Romeo and Juliet, because of the stars- implying that destiny causes the "misadventured piteous overthrows" within the play. It may also be noted that violent words aren't stressed throughout the duration of the prologue. Aggressive words such as "mutiny, "blood" and "rage" are unstressed in the sonnet possibly may because though it is a tale surrounding issues of conflict, it is love and Romeo and Juliet who are the central meaning behind the play.
Within lines seven and eight "Whose misadventured piteous overthrows Doth with the death bury their parent's strife" informs the audience which it required a tragedy to stop the families from feuding and also to make them realise what they had been doing. In line 8 of the prologue, there is certainly noticeable use of alliteration with the "d" and "th" sounds, which are repeated to make the line appear more noticeable and also includes its own rhyming section using 'doth with their death', using the 'th' sound to make it rhyme. Metaphors like the word "bury, " represents reconciliation between your Montagues and Capulets and that the burial with their past grudges has only come about due to the burial of their children. Meaning is established through these techniques as it poses the question to the audience of whether or not their ancient grudges and feuding are worth what will inevitably become the death of Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare also uses other literary devices within the prologue to draw the viewer/audience's attention through this sonnet. In line 4, it's important to notice the repetition of the term "civil" and its implications throughout the storyline. "Civil blood" can be seen as a paradox as the Montagues and Capulets engage constantly in civil wars which shed civil blood, which would not really occur if they were civil in the first place. As both sides share the grudge, in addition they share the guilt, both sides mutiny from the peace of the town, making their "civil hands unclean. "
Repetition of words throughout the prologue such as "civil", introduces alliteration to the text. Shakespeare decides to utilize the repetition of a particular sound within the next line, creating alliteration. Alliteration in line 5 has not only the repetition of f sounds but of bold words for example "from forth the fatal loins of these two foes" which contains words that get started with f as well as "forth" that tends to be used as a word of initiative where Shakespeare could be playing after the idea as mentioned previously that possibly, the storyline has already been set and must "go forth" as it is destined to happen. A line packed with harsh sounding f's and words of antagonism are pushed against line 6 and appear to become more woeful than harsh which tells the viewer/audience of the predictable death of the lovers who were initially supposed to be enemies. Finally, enjambment in the prologue embraces the nature of the play being conflict and violence paralleling with love and inevitable tragedy.
Form and content are significant aspects within any text as the combination of both inevitably produce the ultimate meaning of the written text. Meaning cannot be derived if there is no content in which to base a tale on and some literary techniques such as those present in the prologue of Romeo and Juliet, place an focus on this specific content in order to mention the underlying message that Shakespeare is presenting to the audience. In the case of Romeo and Juliet, it is evident that Shakespeare intended the play to be always a tragedy based on love, and the prologue spoken by the chorus depicts this clearly. The strong use of literary techniques engages the audience permitting them to become part of and understand the meaning of the storyline and allow empathy for what's happening on stage.