An Analysis of the Function of Speed in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Romeo and Juliet is an avalanche. As a loose pebble in the snowcapped mountain wobbles in the wind, Romeo yodels to Juliet in the cliffs just to send it tumbling, lightly, down a vertical abyss. It does not end there, of course, for this pebble held back the rocks and boulders constituting the height of the peak, and the reaction now begins as each individual stone rolls with momentum. They pick up speed and snow, growing in velocity and size until the inevitable occurs and Romeo and Juliet are engulfed in the upheaval and finished forever.
William Shakespeare’s version of the play Romeo and Juliet, ...view middle of the document...
While Romeo has already determined, at the ball, that he is in love with Juliet, she has just learned his name, that he is a Montague. In fact, when she begins to daydream about her handsome admirer, he emerges from beneath her balcony. He declares his love for her, despite their rivaling families, and persists that his feelings are genuine. At first, Juliet says, “Although I joy in thee, I have no joy of this contract tonight. It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden, too like the lightning which doth cease to be ere one can say it lightens” (Norton, 2.1.159-62). Seconds later, she is excited and giddy to marry Romeo the very next day. It is clear that her decision to marry Romeo is based on her emotions as she so quickly decides to get married the day after meeting her fiancé. Following her request, Romeo agrees to go to Friar Laurence and propose the wedding. The speed at which these events happen—from Romeo and Juliet’s first meeting, to second meeting, to marriage—surely emphasizes that they are living in the moment and following their emotion rather than any sort of reason.
While the same events occur in Brooke’s original play, the relatively slower pace gives room for reason, which makes emotion less of a motive in Romeus and Juliet’s decision making. Preceding the balcony scene, Juliet takes a moment to think through her feelings for Romeus. She goes back and forth from love to dislike of the handsome man and finally decides that she will marry him (Brooke, page 8-9). When Romeus finds her on the balcony later, she has already reasoned in her mind the positives and negatives and bases her decision on this logic. Following her lead, Romeus says that he will go to Friar Laurence to get further advice on the situation—he seeks reason from the friar—and gains more time to think about marriage (Brooke, page 10-12). The short time Juliet is not given in Shakespeare’s play is a catalyst leading to emotional decisions rather than logical ones, including Juliet’s feelings for Romeo, her decision to marry him, and his decision to see Friar Laurence and propose the marriage. Shakespeare’s choice to remove Juliet’s time to think, to quicken the pace of the play, emphasizes the emotional aspect of the young couple’s motives.
While Shakespeare omits certain aspects of Brooke’s original play to enhance the emotional factor, he also accomplishes hastening the pace of his play by adding certain features, like the character Mercutio. In the first scene of act three which ultimately ends with the death of Tybalt (Juliet’s cousin), the haste with which Romeo kills Tybalt is used the emphasize Romeo’s anger. Mercutio, Romeo’s best friend in Shakespeare’s version of the play, is used by the playwright to achieve this speed. The brawl begins when Tybalt sees Romeo in the street and releases his anger at Romeo’s unwanted presence at the Capulet Ball. Despite Romeo’s efforts to submit to Tybalt, a fight breaks loose when Mercutio defends his best friend’s...