Romeo and Juliet

by

William Shakespeare

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Romeo and Juliet: Style 1 key example

Read our modern English translation.
Act 1, Scene 2
Explanation and Analysis:

Romeo and Juliet can be characterized as a mixture of styles, including both verse and prose, all of which give the play its unique texture and liveliness. Most of the characters' dialogue is written in iambic pentameter, either with rhyme (often in the form of rhyming couplets at the end of a long monologue) or without, in blank verse. However, several characters with lower social stations speak in prose instead of verse, including various unnamed servingmen, the musicians hired to play at Juliet and Paris's wedding, and Peter, the Nurse's servant. These distinctions help to show the differences in characters' class positions: for example, the Nurse speaks mostly in blank verse, indicating that she occupies a higher position than other non-nobles. 

These different poetic styles also function to reveal characters' personalities. Mercutio's use of blank verse, for example, allows him to play freely with puns and double meanings without the constraint of rhyme and thus show off his spirited demeanor. Additionally, Romeo's dialogue often takes the form of a Petrarchan lyric address, emphasizing his lovelorn persona. Though the poetry of Petrarch—an Italian Renaissance poet acclaimed for his love poems—typically took the form of a sonnet (or 14 lines of rhymed iambic pentameter), and Romeo often speaks in blank verse, his addresses closely mirror Petrarch's in content. When Romeo discusses Rosaline or Juliet, his two "lady loves," he describes them with elaborate similes, metaphors, and imagery, creating idealized versions of them.

While Petrarchan sonnets feature a male speaker venerating a female object of desire, the woman who is the subject of the address is never heard from or quoted. However, Juliet is allowed to respond—she has roughly the same amount of dialogue in the play as Romeo—and uses a similar kind of elevated, sometimes hyperbolic lyricism. This equivalence on the level of language demonstrates that Juliet can hold her own against her lover—though, as a man, he ranks higher in society than she does. It also underscores the play's radical depiction of female autonomy. Whereas other playwrights and writers of Shakespeare's era portrayed women as one-dimensional or passive, Shakespeare bestows agency and complexity upon a young female character whose life is otherwise narrowly circumscribed. 

Act 2, Scene 2
Explanation and Analysis:

Romeo and Juliet can be characterized as a mixture of styles, including both verse and prose, all of which give the play its unique texture and liveliness. Most of the characters' dialogue is written in iambic pentameter, either with rhyme (often in the form of rhyming couplets at the end of a long monologue) or without, in blank verse. However, several characters with lower social stations speak in prose instead of verse, including various unnamed servingmen, the musicians hired to play at Juliet and Paris's wedding, and Peter, the Nurse's servant. These distinctions help to show the differences in characters' class positions: for example, the Nurse speaks mostly in blank verse, indicating that she occupies a higher position than other non-nobles. 

These different poetic styles also function to reveal characters' personalities. Mercutio's use of blank verse, for example, allows him to play freely with puns and double meanings without the constraint of rhyme and thus show off his spirited demeanor. Additionally, Romeo's dialogue often takes the form of a Petrarchan lyric address, emphasizing his lovelorn persona. Though the poetry of Petrarch—an Italian Renaissance poet acclaimed for his love poems—typically took the form of a sonnet (or 14 lines of rhymed iambic pentameter), and Romeo often speaks in blank verse, his addresses closely mirror Petrarch's in content. When Romeo discusses Rosaline or Juliet, his two "lady loves," he describes them with elaborate similes, metaphors, and imagery, creating idealized versions of them.

While Petrarchan sonnets feature a male speaker venerating a female object of desire, the woman who is the subject of the address is never heard from or quoted. However, Juliet is allowed to respond—she has roughly the same amount of dialogue in the play as Romeo—and uses a similar kind of elevated, sometimes hyperbolic lyricism. This equivalence on the level of language demonstrates that Juliet can hold her own against her lover—though, as a man, he ranks higher in society than she does. It also underscores the play's radical depiction of female autonomy. Whereas other playwrights and writers of Shakespeare's era portrayed women as one-dimensional or passive, Shakespeare bestows agency and complexity upon a young female character whose life is otherwise narrowly circumscribed. 

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Act 2, Scene 6
Explanation and Analysis:

Romeo and Juliet can be characterized as a mixture of styles, including both verse and prose, all of which give the play its unique texture and liveliness. Most of the characters' dialogue is written in iambic pentameter, either with rhyme (often in the form of rhyming couplets at the end of a long monologue) or without, in blank verse. However, several characters with lower social stations speak in prose instead of verse, including various unnamed servingmen, the musicians hired to play at Juliet and Paris's wedding, and Peter, the Nurse's servant. These distinctions help to show the differences in characters' class positions: for example, the Nurse speaks mostly in blank verse, indicating that she occupies a higher position than other non-nobles. 

These different poetic styles also function to reveal characters' personalities. Mercutio's use of blank verse, for example, allows him to play freely with puns and double meanings without the constraint of rhyme and thus show off his spirited demeanor. Additionally, Romeo's dialogue often takes the form of a Petrarchan lyric address, emphasizing his lovelorn persona. Though the poetry of Petrarch—an Italian Renaissance poet acclaimed for his love poems—typically took the form of a sonnet (or 14 lines of rhymed iambic pentameter), and Romeo often speaks in blank verse, his addresses closely mirror Petrarch's in content. When Romeo discusses Rosaline or Juliet, his two "lady loves," he describes them with elaborate similes, metaphors, and imagery, creating idealized versions of them.

While Petrarchan sonnets feature a male speaker venerating a female object of desire, the woman who is the subject of the address is never heard from or quoted. However, Juliet is allowed to respond—she has roughly the same amount of dialogue in the play as Romeo—and uses a similar kind of elevated, sometimes hyperbolic lyricism. This equivalence on the level of language demonstrates that Juliet can hold her own against her lover—though, as a man, he ranks higher in society than she does. It also underscores the play's radical depiction of female autonomy. Whereas other playwrights and writers of Shakespeare's era portrayed women as one-dimensional or passive, Shakespeare bestows agency and complexity upon a young female character whose life is otherwise narrowly circumscribed. 

Unlock with LitCharts A+