Romeo and Juliet is a literary work which can easily be considered as one of the most popular of all time, and for incredibly good reason; there are so many different and yet equally valuable morals and lessons that are taught through this work, and so many issues that can be raised. For example, there is the matter of how Shakespeare structures the language of the characters of differing status in order to be able to properly convey differences of gender, class, political faction, or dramatic function; this is a question which can easily be discussed in regards to multiple different characters in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and the best way of answering such a question is by taking a definite position and supporting the answer by using references from the actual text of the literary work; this is what will be dissertated in the following.
It is actually surprising but for many people today, reading Shakespeare’s language can actually cause them quite a bit of confusion, and some people get truly frustrated at this because they want to be able to properly understand the works and the motives of Shakespeare in general, however, it should be known that this is an incredibly popular problem, and also that it is one which can be particularly easily fixed. Basically what needs to happen is that the readers of today’s world need to be able to develop the skills that are needed for untangling unusual sentence structure and problems of the like – these are actually not as much problems as they are facts; we have been taught to read and write a certain way and so when we go to read or look or convey something that is different – in this case older – than what we were taught with, then we obviously have troubles, but this should really be expected. Anyone and everyone can truly understand how to gain these necessary skills, however it is sure to take more time for some than for others. Also, remember that even those who are skilled with the reading of unusual sentence structures, even they may have trouble or some sort of difficulty with Shakespeare’s words.
In regards to the matter of how he structured the language of characters of differing status in order to be convey differences, such as differences in regards to gender, class, and political faction, for instance; there are actually many key points that need to be made in regards to how he structured the language of each character. Basically, the language of Shakespeare’s poems, like that of poetry as a whole in general, is typically both highly compressed and highly structured, and yet when you finally realize the true point that is being made, it can be surprisingly simple; for instance we can start with Scene One, where the act opens with some of the men of the Capulet clan who are meeting on the street with men of the Montague clan, and then a brawl erupts. During this brawl, citizens begin to join in and fight, and then the heads of the houses of both Capulet and Montague come upon the scene, and then finally the Prince of the City arrives. Basically, particularly in regards to the conversation in this scene, the dramatic purpose that was given by Shakespeare was to introduce the fact that the families are bound together by an ancient blood feud that has grown to a lethal hatred; the way in which he makes each family speak different shows how he purposely structures the language of the different characters in order to show their personal differences; we see from the way the Montague’s and the Capulet’s speak that they are different. The Montague’s are clearly considered as being of lower class and of lesser political faction and dramatic function, especially when compared in place to the Capulet’s.
As well, there is an enormous difference between the languages of the two genders in Romeo and Juliet; even without the prologue informing who of who is speaking at each time you would easily be able to tell who it was, and what their gender was; Shakespeare’s writing is incredibly and autonomous in that he never wavers with his judgment in his writing – everything is always the same; his language structure is consistent and therefore understandable. We can then go on to Scene Two, in which the Senior Capulet enters, and he mentions that of the ban on any further fighting, and as well he talks about the fact that it should be easy to uphold; we see later on that Capulet’s words here end up coming back to haunt him, and this is another great example of how Shakespeare uses language to enforce and incorporate ever so important parts of the literary work overall; this foreshadowing has a great influence on the story in general. As well during this scene, what happens is that Count Paris ends up making sure to remind Capulet of his desire to wed Juliet, and although Capulet lets it be known that he wants Juliet to be older before she marries, Paris continues to press on with his request. It is quite easy to notice how Shakespeare likes to begin a scene with dramatic tension and then quickly works to heighten that tension to a higher release point, whereas most writers struggle because they like to build up to a moment of dramatic tension and then cut away, and Shakespeare is quite different in this regards.
There is another part of this work in particular in which we can see the proof of how Shakespeare likes to structure the language different for each character, and Romeo is the character who is easiest to classify these opinions on; for instance, if we look at Scene Five, where Romeo takes Juliet’s hand and speaks to her, “If I profane with my unworthiest hand, This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this: My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.” (Romeo and Juliet, Act One, Scene Five). Then when we compare this to some of Juliet’s speech for example, such as in the same scene when she hears Romeo speak and is swayed by his passion, and she says to him, “Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hands too much, Which mannerly devotion shows in this; For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch, and palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.” Then Juliet ends up finding out about Romeo’s identity, and on the fact that their families have a past history, and she says “My only love sprung from my only hate! Too early seen unknown, and known too late! Prodigious birth it is to me that I must love a loathed enemy.” (Romeo and Juliet, Scene 1, Act Five).
Basically we see that in Scene One alone, all of the major elements are already put into place, and truly very little is withheld for some far off plot effect or revelation; as well, what is really important is that of the setting up and advancing of this story which has been presented in a clear and dramatic way with true poetic grace and wit. “Because Shakespeare had a clear sense of his story and how to escalate its drama, he doesn’t delay setting out the conflict that fuels it. In this story, if Shakespeare writes that one character doesn’t like another, one can surmise they will meet in either that scene or the next. Because of this arrangement of the story’s elements, the play’s audience develops a sense of trust the author won’t introduce characters for no clear dramatic purpose, introduce information but delay its import.” (Johnson, 2006). Shakespeare truly uses language and the structure of language as the key point in all of his works, especially so in this one, Romeo and Juliet, and as well, he writes every moment of every scene to bring out the very most that he possibly can, and he uses language as the key selective to do so; to bring out its drama, texture, and poetic richness, and for instance, if a character is angry, then Shakespeare will make sure that they speak of that, for another instance if they are lovesick then they will speak of their heavy heart; if they are vengeful then they will speak of the joys of their vengeance, and so on and so forth. Thus, it is incredibly easy to see how big of a role Shakespeare makes language and language structure play overall, and how the importance of what each character is speaking of, as well as their importance in the story overall, is related to by their language and text in the literary work. Truly, wordplay of all sorts is evident through this entire literary work, and much of the comic, and as well some of the serious, dialogue is truly thrust full of licentious puns and allusions, and it is principally by means of the incandescent brilliance of its language that Romeo and Juliet has earned its place as one of the greatest love stories in world literature, and Shakespeare truly makes linguistic power actually figure thematically in the play in regards to having insisted on the crucial importance of naming, more generally, by repeatedly calling attention to the force of verbal actions. It is truly a literary work that is highly saturated with various different language games, and it is truly considered by most that in the world today, generally language does not play as big of a part as it did in works such as this, and for example, there is truly no longer as great of a tradition as it used to be, such as what is displayed in this, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
This literary work is truly considered as being one of the most important ever, and the most important thing to realize perhaps above all else is that the story itself was actually not anything new or different, but it is rather the way that Shakespeare wrote it that made it differ so much from everything else; the language that he used in order to communicate the love between Romeo and Juliet was written so profound and poetically, and underneath the rather flowery language, Juliet knows exactly what she wants, and we know this by the way that Shakespeare has her language structured. As well, she truly seeks to overcome her maidenly modesty and enjoy the legitimate pleasures of martial sex, and Juliet indulges in one of Shakespeare’s most clever word-games at ll. 60-65. It is worth puzzling out, and admiring the Elizabethan audience for having been able to pick up on it quickly. When at l. 85 Juliet says she wishes no one but she would avenge her cousin’s death what is the ambiguity in her speech? She continues to equivocate in her next speech where her mother hears her saying she hopes to behold Romeo dead while she is actually saying she will never be satisfied until she beholds him, and that her heart is dead. Her desire to “wreak her love” on Romeo’s body is even more obviously ambiguous: she wants to make love with him again.
Overall, it is quite easy to the way that Shakespeare structures the language of the different characters in the play truly is what actually makes the play, these innovative ways of his truly reinforce and embellish its principle themes, and the latter include that of the antithesis between love and hate, the correlative use of a light and dark polarity, the handling of time, as well as the prominent status accorded to fortune and its expression deeply in that of the dreams, omens, and forebodings that truly presage the tragic conclusion of the story itself. Therefore, basically overall, we can see that the most important and justified component of all in this literary work is that of Shakespeare’s structured language, and how the language of each character not only affects the other character, but how it truly makes this work stand out among all the others.
Johnson, Bill. (2006). The Power and Passion of Love and Hate: A Review of Romeo and
Juliet. 4 Dec. 2006. http://www.storyispromise.com/rjoutlin.htm
The Literature Network. (2006). Romeo and Juliet. 4 Dec. 2006. http://www.online-literature.com/shakespeare/romeo_and_juliet/
Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. New York, NY: Washington Square Press,