What effect does the accelerated time scheme have on the play’s development? Is it plausible that a love story of this magnitude could take place so quickly? Does the play seem to take place over as little time as it actually occupies?
Because of the intensity of the relationship between Romeo and Juliet and the complex development of events during the few days of the play’s action, the story can certainly seem to take place over a time span much longer than the one it actually occupies. By compressing all the events of the love story into just a few days, Shakespeare adds weight to every moment, and gives the sense that the action is happening so quickly that characters barely have time to react, and, by the end, that matters are careening out of control. This rush heightens the sense of pressure that hangs in the atmosphere of the play. While it may not seem plausible for a story such as Romeo and Juliet to take place over a span of only four days in the real world, this abbreviated time scheme makes sense in the universe of the play.
Compare and contrast the characters of Romeo and Juliet. How do they develop throughout the play? What makes them fall in love with one another?
Romeo is a passionate, extreme, excitable, intelligent, and moody young man, well-liked and admired throughout Verona. He is loyal to his friends, but his behavior is somewhat unpredictable. At the beginning of the play, he mopes over his hopeless unrequited love for Rosaline. In Juliet, Romeo finds a legitimate object for the extraordinary passion that he is capable of feeling, and his unyielding love for her takes control of him.
Juliet, on the other hand, is an innocent girl, a child at the beginning of the play, and is startled by the sudden power of her love for Romeo. Guided by her feelings for him, she develops very quickly into a determined, capable, mature, and loyal woman who tempers her extreme feelings of love with sober-mindedness.
The attraction between Romeo and Juliet is immediate and overwhelming, and neither of the young lovers comments on or pretends to understand its cause. Each mentions the other’s beauty, but it seems that destiny, rather than any particular character trait, has drawn them together. Their love for one another is so undeniable that neither they nor the audience feels the need to question or explain it.
Compare and contrast the characters of Tybalt and Mercutio. Why does Mercutio hate Tybalt?
As Mercutio tells Benvolio, he hates Tybalt for being a slave to fashion and vanity, one of “such antic, lisping, affecting phantas- / ims, these new tuners of accent! . . . these fashionmongers, these ‘pardon-me’s’ ” (2.3.25–29). Mercutio is so insistent that the reader feels compelled to accept this description of Tybalt’s character as definitive. Tybalt does prove Mercutio’s words true: he demonstrates himself to be as witty, vain, and prone to violence as he is fashionable, easily insulted, and defensive. To the self-possessed Mercutio, Tybalt seems a caricature; to Tybalt, the brilliant, earthy, and unconventional Mercutio is probably incomprehensible. (It might be interesting to compare Mercutio’s comments about Tybalt to Hamlet’s description of the foppish Osric in Act 5, scene 2 of Hamlet, lines 140–146.)