The history of the creation of the world-famous tragedy of Shakespeare is rooted in folk tales of two Italian lovers and their artwork appearing in the literature of Italy throughout the 16th century including:
- Luigi de Porto – The newly-discovered story of two noble lovers and their sad death that occurred in Verona during the time of Signor Bartolomeo della Scalo
- Matteo Bandello – Four books of short stories
- Luigi Groto – Adriana
The plot of the play was developed by the English playwright on the basis of the poem by Arthur Brooke The Tragic History of Romeus and Juliet. The original title of the work, dated 1593-1596 (the exact time of the birth of the play cannot be ascertained). It was listed as The most wonderful and saddest tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.”
This tragedy during the life of Shakespeare was published three or four times before it was included in the F (folio) of 1623. In view of the extreme brevity of the text of the first edition (2,232 lines instead of 3,007 lines of the second edition), it has long been thought that these are two successive versions of the play that belong to Shakespeare himself, who after 1597 altered his tragedy by expanding it. But then it was found out that the Q (quarto) of 1597 is thievish, severely mutilated and shortened edition, which Shakespeare had nothing to do with. Probably, the play originated a few years before its first edition. This is indicated by the unevenness of its style, the abundance of euphuisms, and a number of other stylistic signs pointing to Shakespeare’s early manner. There is no complete certainty here, but most critics date the play to 1595, or even earlier.
The popularity of the play in Shakespearean times is evidenced by the fact that in the folio of 1623, which was in the reading room of Oxford University, the corners of the pages containing this tragedy are most littered, and from them those where the night scene of the meeting is printed.
The story of the young love of two offspring of warring houses, ending tragically as a result of an accidental fatal misunderstanding, has been processed many times already in ancient literature, and this topic was well known to Shakespeare, at least in the history of Piram and Fisba, which he used amusingly in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But in this case, as the Italian shell of the tragedy shows, this topic was taken from the novels and dramas of the Italian Renaissance.
Depiction of Love in Essay on Romeo and Juliet
Love is represented here not abstractly, not as an isolated case, beyond any connection with struggling social forces, but as a product and expression of social conflicts of a given historical epoch.
In the Shakespearean tragedy, where the accident with the monk-envoy is perceived by the reader only as an external cause of the loss of lovers, whereas the true, root cause is in the atmosphere of enmity that surrounds them and forces them to resort all the time to save their love for the riskiest means from which if not this than that inevitably must lead to disaster. In the play, there is another concept that passed to Shakespeare from the modern theory of tragedy: the idea of fatal accident, vicissitudes, fatalities of man’s destiny, because of secret, incomprehensible reasons, elevating him to the peak of greatness and happiness or plunging disasters into the abyss. Traces of this concept can be seen in many places in the play, especially in the role of Romeo.
- Going to the ball to the Capulet, he languishes with a premonition of trouble
- When lovers tell they love each other, Juliet asks him not to swear, so that it does not turn out to be a bad omen
- Having killed Tybalt, Romeo exclaims that “Fate plays me”
- Looking at Romeo, Juliet says: “My soul is full of gloomy premonitions
- Lorenzo is afraid of the power of their passion: “Such passions end terribly, and their death awaits in the triumph”
Genre of the Play for an Essay on Romeo and Juliet
The genre of the work is tragedy. It is established in accordance with the literary traditions of the Renaissance and is determined by an unhappy end (the death of the main characters). The five-part play opens with a prologue, which summarizes the plot of Romeo and Juliet.
Composition of the Tragedy
The composition of the tragedy at the level of the plot has a symmetrical construction.
- In the first act, there is a clash between the servants of Capulet and Montague, then between the nephews of the latter – Tybalt and Benvolio, then the heads of warring families, Prince of Verona and Romeo, appear on the stage.
- In the third act, the clash between Capulet and Montague is repeated: this time, it is a fight between the prince’s relative and friend – Mercutio and Tybalt and then Tybalt and Romeo. The outcome of the first duel is the death of Mercutio, the outcome of the second is the death of Tybalt. The clash ends with the arrival of the spouses Capulet and Montague, and then the prince extinguishing the murderous Romeo decision to expel from Verona.
- The fifth act again returns the plot to the familiar dueling channel: this time the battle takes place between Paris and Romeo. Paris perishes at the hands of Romeo, Romeo kills himself with poison under the influence of insurmountable circumstances imposed on him by the will of Juliet’s father. The fifth action and the whole tragedy ends with the appearance of the spouses Capulet, Montague and the prince, the reconciliation of families and the posthumous reunion of Romeo and Juliet in the form of the golden statues standing next to one another.
The second and fourth acts of the play are devoted to the development of the love line.
- In the second act, Romeo and Juliet told that they love each other and prepare for the wedding.
- In the fourth act, trying to avoid a second marriage, Juliet is on the terrible path of reunification with her beloved husband.
The death of the girl at the end of the play looks natural from the point of view of historical norms, and from the standpoint of the passion that was characteristic of the young heroes of the tragedy: Juliet could not live without Romeo, Romeo was gone, Juliet was gone.
The death of Romeo and Juliet, continuers of the family traditions of Montague and Capulets, sets the decisive point in the conflict of the warring of Verona families both on the plot and moral level.
The Main Idea
The main idea of the tragedy is to affirm the new moral values inherent in the man of the Renaissance. Directed by the feelings of passion, the characters leave the tradition: Romeo decides to secretly marry, Juliet is not a shy lady, and both are willing to go against the will of parents and society to be together. The love of Romeo and Juliet has no barrier: they are not afraid of either life, nor death.
And yet, it is not the fate or the fateful nature of their feelings that are responsible for the death of Romeo and Juliet, but the environment in which they found themselves, the ancient hostility of their families, which created the impossible conditions that led to the death of these exceptional in strength and spiritual beauty people. When writing an essay on Romeo and Juliet, you should state that the entire composition of the play and all its leading characters indicate this.
The artistic image of Juliet is more evolutionary than the image of her lover. Unlike the twenty-year-old Romeo, who already knew passion in the face of the impregnable Rosalina, a fourteen-year-old Juliet progresses in her feelings, guided only by what her heart tells her. The girl is afraid of the expressed love confession, the wedding night, and a grim family grave. Learning about the death of her cousin Tybalt, she first accuses Romeo of this, but quickly takes herself in hand, ashamed of her instant betrayal and takes the side of her husband in this conflict.
Characteristic for the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, a special world view, combining Christian and pagan traditions, was reflected in the tragedy of Shakespeare in the artistic images of brother Lorenzo and his rites (confession, wedding, burial) and Mercutio, telling Romeo the story of the queen of fairies and elves. Religious asceticism and the pagan riot of life manifested itself in the sharp change in moods of the Capulets family – from the funeral, due to the death of Tybalt’s nephew before the wedding, in connection with the alleged wedding of Juliet. The girl’s father does not see anything wrong with marrying her daughter three days after the death of her cousin: for this period of history, such haste is normal, because it allows not to be too sad for the irreparable.
The Culture of the Tragedy for Essay on Romeo and Juliet
The cultural component of the epoch was expressed in descriptions of such customs as the arrival of uninvited guests who were not familiar to the master, guests in their masks (Romeo with friends at Capulet’s house), a challenge to a duel through the nail of a thumbnail (the image of Samson, one of the servants of Capulet), the arrival of the groom in the house of the bride on the day of the wedding (the entrance of Paris to the house of the Capulets).