Romeo and Juliet: form

Romeo and Juliet: form

Form and Language in Romeo and Juliet

  • “Romeo and Juliet” is a Tragedy, a specific form of drama characterised by a serious and often sombre tone. The events typically hinge on a fatal flaw or mistake, leading to catastrophe and the downfall of the main characters.
  • The play uses a mixture of prose and verse. Higher-ranking characters like Romeo, Juliet, Mercutio and the Friar usually speak in verse (iambic pentameter), marking their elevated status. Lower-ranking characters like servants or comic characters tend to talk in prose.
  • The language used is Early Modern English, punctuated with poetic devices such as metaphors, similes, oxymorons and puns, adding to the emotional depth and impact of the characters’ dialogue.
  • The play features a number of formal speeches which follow the Shakespearian sonnet form: 14 lines written in iambic pentameter with the rhyme scheme ABABCDCDEFEFGG. Examples include Romeo’s and Juliet’s first conversation and Friar Laurence’s soliloquy about plants.
  • Verse and language also reflect the inner thoughts and emotional states of the characters, a classic device used in Shakespearian style. This is most evident in lovers’ conversations, which often turn into shared sonnets.

Theatrical Devices in Romeo and Juliet

  • Several scenes utilise the form of soliloquy, where characters express their innermost feelings and thoughts directly to the audience, like Romeo’s monologue at the Capulet’s party and Juliet’s soliloquy as she waits for Romeo on their wedding night.
  • Dramatic irony is frequently utilised, where the audience knows something that the characters do not. This increases the tension, as we know from the opening Prologue that the “star-cross’d lovers” will die, but the characters themselves do not.

Structure and Themes in Romeo and Juliet

  • The play’s structure is typically Elizabethan, with a five-act structure. Each act has a specific purpose: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution/dénouement.
  • The theme of fate and destiny pervades the whole play, marking the inevitability of the tragic ending. This theme accentuates the tragic form of “Romeo and Juliet”.
  • The action is driven by key dramatic conventions such as mistaken identity, foreshadowing, and conflict. These are key components of the tragic form and serve to heighten the tension and dramatise the events leading to the tragic climax.