1.1 A story about young love
In Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet are presented the two important families of Verona, the Capulets and the Montagues. Because of the feud between them , it is impossible for a servant of Capulet’s house to meet with a servant of the Montague’s house because every time a fight intervenes. In the first act of the play, the old lord Capulet organizes a pretentious dinner where he invites a lot of beautiful women and nobles. At this party everyone is allowed except the Montagues. Despite this rigorous rule, Romeo, the son of the old lord Montague goes to the party wearing a masque. He wants to see Rosaline there, the woman he loves. When Romeo arrives, he observes a gorgeous woman and instantly he falls in love with her. In the same evening, Juliet falls in love with Romeo. Although the two lovers don’t know each other’s name, they “have as yet no idea of their respective identities so that the inception of their love is not hindered by social considerations” but they find it out later that night. In the second act, Romeo doesn’t realize the danger he exposes to and goes to Juliet’s room, where they plan to marry secretly. The lovers are finally married the next day by Friar Laurence, a friend of Romeo. In the third act, after a conflict, Romeo kills Tybalt from Capulet family and prince Escalus exiles Romeo from Verona. In this time, Juliet’s father decides that it’s time for Juliet to marry Paris and also establishes the date of their wedding. Juliet doesn’t agree and she thinks that the only solution to escape from this unwanted marriage is to take her life. In the fourth act, Friar Laurence gives Juliet a potion to simulate her death. The young girl decides to drink the potion in the night before the wedding, so Romeo is able to kidnap her. When Paris arrives, the Capulets discover that Juliet is dead. Thus the wedding preparations turn into funerals. In last act, Romeo comes to Verona to see his beloved Juliet, but for the last time, because he knows nothing about Juliet’s plan. After he kills Paris, Romeo drinks a poison too, gives to Juliet a last kiss and dies. After the effect of the poison is gone, Juliet wakes up. When the girl sees that Romeo is dead, she kills herself for real this time.
As readers, what can we do is to admire their powerful love because in a world of darkness, they are each other’s light. Romeo and Juliet is a story of young love and presents the obstacles the two lovers have to overcome in order to fulfill their love. There is an isolation of the young lovers in this play. They have a different vision of the world as the rest of the people. Even if the old population rules in Verona, the young lovers want to change this perspective and do what their heart says. For Romeo, the isolation begins with the idea that he is an adolescent who fights with loneliness. The lovers want to eliminate the pressure of their surroundings, they want to be free to decide what to do and whom to love.
Romeo and Juliet has a huge impact in our days too because is the most admired love story and the culture celebrates this dramatization of young suicide which has a huge vibration for young people today.
1.2 Shakespeare’s sources of the play
The first performance of Romeo and Juliet is put into the scene in the autumn/winter of 1594 at the playhouse called Theatre.
The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is one of the most famous writings of William Shakespeare. This love story travelled the entire world and transmitted to the spectators the most extraordinary emotions from the time of the audience till today. The melodrama spins around the premature death, the feud between the families and the power of love.
Romeo and Juliet is one of the most played plays written by the famous William Shakespeare. The story is so much appreciated that the lovers in the story, Romeo and Juliet became archetypal stereotypes. Shakespearian traits such as the alteration between tragedy and comedy, the multitude of backgrounds and characters make his writing a work of art. The story of Romeo and Juliet was on the screen as intense as it was on the stage. The costumes inspired by the Elizabethan period highlighted the scene and increased the dramatic emphasis and the effect of the lyrics.
The story of Romeo and Juliet is written by William Shakespeare between 1594-1595 in his early career. This story is similar to the comedies Love’s Labour’s Lost and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The plays are grouped together because they share the same themes of love and marriage. They have in common also the convention of falling in love at first sight.
It is well known that William Shakespeare wasn’t fully original in his writings. In many of his stories he inspired from other author’s writings. He read a lot so he had the main idea in writing his own stories. Even if he inspired from other books, he improved very well his versions in his own characteristic style which proved to be the best. Thus he made the stories of the other authors known worldwide and they became popular very fast. It is the proof that Shakespeare was a master, he knew how to write in order to catch the interest of the audience and to be so loved by his readers. The story of Romeo and Juliet was very popular in Elizabethan England and it appeared in several collections in a multitude of forms.
There are theories which confirm the fact that the story of Romeo and Juliet exists and can be found even from the Antiquity, the story of the young lovers from Verona being no more than a copy of Ovid’s poem “Pyramus and Thisbe”. Shakespeare proves to be a good imitator who gets the material from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and fits the texts to his purpose.
Pyramus and Thisbe are two lovers from Asiria. Their neighboring families, which are divided by a wall, were enemies. The lovers’ relatives oppose the union of Pyramus and Thisbe through marriage. One day, Pyramus and Thisbe agree to meet during the night at the tomb of King Ninus even if Thisbe’s father opposes to their relationship. The girl arrives earlier at the meeting place but she runs because a lioness with the mouth full of blood is following her. Thisbe runs so fast and she drops her scarf close to the savage animal. When Pyramus arrives at the meeting place and finds the bloody scarf of his love, he thinks that the lioness killed Thisbe. He is filled with despair and kills himself with his sword. When Thisbe comes back to Ninus’ tomb, she discovers the breathless body of her lover. Thisbe is shocked by this irrecoverable loss, she cries at Pyramus’ head and commits suicide using the same sword. The parents of the two lovers buried them in that place, putting their ashes in the same urn.
Also A Midsummer Night’s Dream is influenced by Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The third scene includes a parody of the two lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe. Shakespeare locates a tragedy of love in which two lovers end up dead through mistake, within a comedy, and uses it as the play within the play. He shows the readers the fact that love in a comedy can bring pain and makes us experiment huge emotions. The tragedy is transformed in a ridiculous comedy. The characters have serious things to deal with but the outcome becomes ridiculous just because workmen chose to perform the play. As a craftsman, Shakespeare demonstrates again that he can easily transform even a tragedy in a comedy if he wants to.
The earlier sources of William Shakespeare for Romeo and Juliet comes to him through Arthur Brooke’s poem The Tragicall History of Romeus and Juliet since 1562. We find out that Brooke’s poem is a translation of Matteo Bandello’s poem Giulietta e Romeo written in 1554. So nor Shakespeare either Bandello are original in their stories. There always exists a source of inspiration used by writers. Five years later, in 1559 Pierre Boaistua translates Bandello’s version into French in his Histoires Tragiques. Luigi da Porto’s story was an inspiration for the authors cited above. He put the story of the two Italian lovers as the basis for his Historia novellamente ritrovata di due amanti. He sets it in Verona and introduces the two feuding families, the Montecchi and the Capelletti. The characters in love are called Romeus and Giulietta. The difference between Shakespeare’s version and Luigi da Porto’s version is that in Luigi’s there is no sleeping potion. But the entire literary production of that time is shaped by imitation, not originality. This was the criterion to follow. So it was not Luigi da Porto who records officially the legend of Romeo and Juliet. Here comes the idea that Luigi da Porto also uses imitation, he is not original at all. In his turn, he takes inspiration in writing his love story from Masuccio Saternitano and changes characters’ names from Mariotto and Gianozza in Romeus and Giulietta, places the action in Verona while in Masuccio’s version the action takes place in Siene and introduces modern elements which can be found in Shakespeare’s drama.
Even though the story of the two lovers was for a long time part of European literature before Shakespeare improves it and gives it to England audience, nor Luigi da Porto, neither Arthur Brooke makes it known worldwide and appreciated so much, but Shakespeare. In pushing his own limits, Shakespeare develops stories whose plots are very expanded and discussed even in our days. His plays are the most read and performed on the stage.
The names of the two feuding families Montecchi and Cappelletti are present also in the fourteenth century in the well known comedy written by Dante Alighieri “Divine Comedy”. They appear in a passage in Purgatorio, “where Dante laments the collapse of civil order in the Italian lands of the former Roman Empire.” Italy suffers in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries after the disfunctionality of these families. Even if he has an affinity for Italian stories, Shakespeare, however, didn’t know about Dante or the Divine Comedy when he wrote Romeo and Juliet.
1.3 Family constraints
Romeo and Juliet is a narrative that shapes the relation between the young people with their parents and relatives.The two lovers are permanently implied in an endless conflict with the world of the adults and despite their attempt to integrate the passion between them in the society, they fail. In this authoritarian space they live, dominated by social conventions, there is no open space for a love like theirs. For the Capulets and Montagues, this love which is not allowed by them but continued by Romeo and Juliet in secret, is no more than a betrayal from their children’s part. Romeo and Juliet endure a huge pressure from the parents’ part because they always have to hide their feelings for each other, their meetings happen just in secret and the marriage is also an enormous thing to keep secret. The parents don’t stop to exploit the innocence of their children and the beauty of their young souls which are now in love, a feeling so pure. They just profit from these period of adolescence which is so fragile, ruining from the beginning their hopes and future. The play focuses on the relationship between Juliet and her father. She has little interaction with her parents throughout the play because just a minuscule interaction provokes misunderstandings. Juliet is not 14 when Paris asks his hand from the authoritarian father. In Capulets opinion, marriage is a fact that can be decided just by a father who has good interests in order to make his daughter happy for life and Paris can do this just because he is a young nobleman and a relative of the prince of Verona. Even if he seems very protective with her daughter, the idea that Paris, a nobleman wants to marry Juliet, makes him accept the proposal for his daughter to be a wife with a respected name. In Shakespeare’s time, daughters expect that their fathers decide for them because they know better and they have enough experience of life. This allows the audience see that women in a patriarchal society, are subordinated to men, they have to do what men say and to agree with them. With his prudence, the father chooses the best future husband, but no way a boy from the rival family, who, in the paternal view, has nothing to offer to his educated and beautiful daughter. Thus is such a pity that the two young lovers are born in Verona where names have a colossal importance. That’s why Juliet chooses to stand against her father’s decision to marry her with Paris. But the moment when Romeo kills Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin and also a Capulet, lord Capulet hurries the wedding of his daughter with Paris. Even if the family sees Juliet crying and suffering, she doesn’t really suffer because of her cousin’s death but for Romeo. Thus Juliet is not announced that she will marry sooner than she imagined and gets angry. This sentiment of anger makes her become rebellious and think to a better solution for her love with the son of her father’s enemy and they marry in secret. Juliet never gives up she always “remains true to her conscience and inner desires.”
Despite her parents’ opinions, Juliet is not concerned at all that he breaks her family’s rules, on the contrary she is decided not to stress on the restrictions which include her interactional possibility, and to do whatever her heart says. Even if her father thinks that his pride leads his personality, he is not flexible in decisions concerning his daughter because he is a fair man and he cannot be changed nor by his daughter’s prayers neither by her youth which can sometimes melt parents’ heart. Thus, at the end, Juliet will be the sacrifice of her father “in a contest with death for the power to be in control of events.” But it is not the case in the Veronese society. Romeo too encounters difficulties, his relationship with his father lacks in communication. He does not exteriorize his experiences, and wears an inner struggle. So his father tries to find out what happens with his son and talks with Romeo’s friend, Benvolio. Even if the parents don’t realize, their authority transforms Romeo and Juliet into a sacrifice given to the gods. The only person in front of whom Juliet opens her heart is the nurse. It is normal for a 14 years old girl to have a maternal figure to talk to so the nurse was the person who raised her and Juliet trusts her more than she trusts her mother. The nurse hopes that Juliet will finally be happy with Romeo but she is devastated when she sees to what led this love. The fights and tensions between parents and children are part of the culture, and in patriarchal families the pressure is very intense and kills some children not necessarily physically but psychically. Relationships between parents and their children always become boring and children choose to interiorize themselves or to choose a friend to talk what should be talked with parents. That’s why they take extreme decisions which sometimes cost their own lives. First of all the children stop to exteriorize in front of their parents, so here appears the lack of communication, they hide and do things which are not allowed to do just because they are very stressed and scared of the consequences. Secondly, they think a lot about how to escape from this world full of constraints, they make a solid plan that has to function but at the end, as in Romeo and Juliet they finish death and all their plans to live a free life fail and bring them all into the tomb with their young and innocent hearts.
The love between Romeo and Juliet functions like an infection, they are from the beginning “cut off from the world, and the symbolism may count for more than the plot machinery” so this marginalization from world makes the two lovers find a fast solution which lead to their death.