During the play Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare manages to effectively depict the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet’s relationship. One way he achieves this is by creating sympathy for Romeo and Juliet, which consequently affects the reader and audience of the play. Three ways in which Shakespeare is able to create sympathy for them is through the general setting and plot structure, the language used, and also the characterisation of Romeo and Juliet. From the very beginning of the play (in the prologue), Shakespeare begins to create a sense of sympathy for Romeo and Juliet.
Here, the audience is told that these two lovers are ‘star cross’d’ – meaning that their love goes against the stars and is therefore doomed to end in disaster. As a result, the audience watches the play with the expectation that Romeo and Juliet will both die, causing a sense of dramatic irony or foreshadowing. This subsequently makes the audience feel sympathy for Romeo and Juliet throughout the entire play, as they are in the knowledge that this hopeful relationship will end prematurely.
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In addition, Romeo and Juliet stand as two innocent figures amidst the violent feud between their two families. The audience sympathizes with the fact that Romeo and Juliet are separated by the feud in which they are mere bystanders in, and that it is the other members of the two families, such as Tybalt who are denying them of their chance to be together. In Act 2 Scene 2 (lines 40-44), Juliet laments over the fact that Romeo is a Montague, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. This phrase is an analogy showing how Juliet resents not being able to be with Romeo purely because of his name and the family he belongs to, even though she loves him solely for who he is. In addition, during the aftermath of Romeo and Juliet’s death, the audience gain sympathy for the couple All through this play, such coincidences and unfortunate plot twists are a key element in creating sympathy for Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare also makes the audience feel sympathy for Romeo and Juliet through the striking language that they both use ??? especially towards each other.
For example in scene 5 of act 1 (lines 100-103), Romeo and Juliet talk to each other as if they are reciting a poem ??? Juliet says ‘Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer’, to which Romeo replies ‘They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn into despair’. This exchange displays the chemistry and love Romeo and Juliet have for each other, thus making their expected demise all the more tragic and saddening for the audience. Shakespeare also uses this poetry during Romeo and Juliet’s first meeting.
In this meeting Romeo uses metaphor and describes Juliet as ‘a rich jewel’ and a ‘snowy dove trooping with crows’ (with reference to Juliet being so beautiful yet a member of the ‘crow’ like Capulet’s as well). Juliet then uses hyperbole and paradox to articulate her love to Romeo – ‘My bounty is as boundless as the sea, my love as deep ; the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite’. Once again, this helps demonstrate Romeo and Juliet’s love for each other, thus heightening the impact of there untimely death.
As characters, Romeo and Juliet intend on being peacemakers or at least pacifists in the feud between their two families. In terms of his affiliation with the feud, we initially think that Romeo seems to be ‘out of place’. From when we are first introduced to him, he acts in a sophisticated and articulate manner, allowing the audience immediately sees how he is clearly not the ‘evil’ figure that deserves to be hated to the extent he was by the Capulet’s.
In the first scene of the play, he bursts in to poetry, ‘Why then, O brawling love, O loving hate, O heavy lightness, serious vanity’. It is from this rhyming, oxymoronic phrase that the audience can gage how this soft spoken man was not a figure of hate in reality, but a loving man. Juliet’s character is also contrasted to the frosty nature of Tybalt and the rest of the Capulets – she epitomises the innocence of their relationship. From the start of Act 1 Scene 3, we learn from Lady Capulet that Juliet is still thirteen years old – ‘she’s not fourteen’.
From this, this audience can assume that she is still at that age of naivety and immaturity, again showing that she does not belong in such a violent feud. Due to her age, Juliet evidently is a vulnerable character and one that likely does not have the mental ability to make intelligent choices, such as the decisions against her father’s will to not marry Paris, but to secretly marry Romeo instead ??? a decision that was to become a key factor in both Romeo and Juliet’s death. In addition, Shakespeare creates sympathy for Juliet through her innocence and good will.
Her innocence and good will which is left worthless as she is left in a situation she cannot to anything about ??? a situation revealed in the prologue as being one that is fated to end tragically. Throughout the play, Shakespeare uses many different methods to enable the reader to feel sympathetic towards Romeo and Juliet. The various plot twists provide a dramatic platform to make the audience sympathize with them, whilst the language and writing techniques used by Shakespeare to display their affections for each other also increases the drama of their deaths.
This is what creates sympathy for them. However, most of the sympathy generated during the play is centred around the contrasts between the beauty and passion of Romeo and Juliet’s relationship, with the harsh and violent nature of the feud between their two families ??? a contrast made visible through the differing personalities of both Romeo and Juliet, and the other members of their respective families.