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Like Romeo, Juliet believes that the only solution is committing suicide, but the Friar tells her of a secret potion, a drug that will make her only appear dead for almost two days. The Friar tells Juliet to take it the night before her wedding. Meanwhile, he will send a note to Romeo to tell him about this secret plan. For Juliet, this appears to be the only plan that could work, that is why she decides to accept it no matter what happens. "I wake before the time that Romeo / Come to redeem me? there's a fearful point! / Shall I not, then, be stifled in the vault, / to whose foul mouth no health some air breathes in, / and there die strangled ere my Romeo comes? / or, if I live, is it not very like, / the horrible conceit of death and night, / Together with the terror of the place" (the Complete Works of William Shakespeare." (http://www-tech.mit.edu/Shakespeare/)
Yet, the plan proves to fail, as Romeo never receives the note. This trick of destiny is very often met in Shakespeare's plays, and bears all the faults of tragedy. Some critics argued upon the subject of "Romeo and Juliet" and did not place it in the tragedy category. They say that "Romeo and Juliet is not a typical Shakespearean tragedy like Hamlet or King Lear," because at the end, all the atrocities are not caused by human beings, but by the immanent fate. Moreover, the play has also a moral ending. After the two young lovers die in an eternal embrace, their families, rival for ages, come to terms. Therefore, Romeo and Juliet's sacrifice did not happen in vain. Their death meant peace between enemies. To a larger extend, it was love which healed the wounds of hate of the two families; love which led to death. (Campell, Lily B. (Shakespeare's Tragic Heroes: Slaves of Passion. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1973)
Romeo and Juliet" appears to be a comedy, then turns out in a tragedy and bears the traits of drama. It is, thus, a mixture of genres, which may be difficult to set on. It would always exist the danger of failing to express the real meanings of love sacrifice, or it might be ridiculously superficial, focused only on the story itself, and not on the multitude of meanings emerged from it.
The essence of this play should not be given by the decorum, or plot. The most important aspect of it should lie in the words uttered or spoken up, and in the characters' attitude. Shakespeare put in his play all the necessary resources a character needs in order to make his/her performance extraordinary and impress the audience.
Before understanding a Shakespearean character, we should firstly imagine ourselves acting in her place. If I were an actor and should represent Juliet, for example, I would follow all her steps along the play. I would use all the character's traits imagined by the writer and by the other characters, especially by her mirror character, Romeo. I would understand her woman sensitivity not as a proof of weakness; on the contrary, as a sense of woman power. Because, a stone heart is not more powerful than a heart filled with pain, sorrow and sensitivity. Torments and inner feelings make a person stronger, not more fragile.
At the beginning of the play, Juliet appears to be fragile and naive. Nevertheless, these aspects change along the play. Still, as a character, Juliet has to be able to make the audience feel she has something to say and prove. Even from the beginning she should reveal her strong will. If the actress playing Juliet fails to reveal these aspects, the character is compromised; the play loses all its beauty and meanings. "From the first timidly bold declaration and modest return of love, hurry on to unlimited passion, to an irrevocable union; and then hasten, amid alternating storms of rapture and despair, to the fate of the two lovers" (Cole, Douglas. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Romeo and Juliet. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1970.) This quotation underlines the idea that Juliet's tones of voice change along the play. This happens because the truth about the characters is not revealed from the beginning. Had all the feeling burst from the first act, the play would not have existed. Shakespeare unleashes his characters' feelings step-by-step in order to preserve the mystery of the story. Anyway, these steps are very little and they come one after another in a more and more accelerate rhythm. The play does not have the "patience" to unfold easily in front of the audience's eyes. The characters, especially Juliet and Romeo, seem to hurry their death.
Juliet is tormented by only one thought; to release herself from the clutches of her arranged destiny, to escape the chains her parents put around her when they chose Paris as her husband. These torments have to be very well expressed by the actress who performs Juliet's role. Her tyrant father, the cruel mother, the treacherous nurse, all hurrying her into a fake marriage, might destroy her and lead her to a more dangerous death than the death itself; that is the spiritual death. Deprived of her love, Juliet would be just a mere shadow, a mirror of her happy memories of her true love, Romeo. She rejects everybody and chooses to deceive her parents. This scene brings out her character in its strongest and most beautiful relief. If the audience does not feel the climax of her feelings in this scene, than, the actress failed to be Shakespeare's Juliet.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare." http://www-tech.mit.edu/Shakespeare/
Cole, Douglas. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Romeo and Juliet. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1970.
Spurgeon, Caroline. Shakespeare's Imagery and What it Tells Us. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1935.
Berry, Ralph. Shakespeare in performance: castings and metamorphoses.
New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993.
David, Richard. Shakespeare in the theatre. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981.
Granville-Barker, Henry. Prefaces to Shakespeare. New York: Hill and Wang, 1970.
Campell, Lily B.
Shakespeare's Tragic Heroes:…[continue]
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