The Heartbreaking Ending: A Tragic Mood in Shakespeare’s Love Story Most people think of Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, as a love story. But as the title suggests, The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is just that: a tragedy. The narrative is about the struggles of Romeo and Juliet’s love despite the century-long feud between their families. Like many tragedies, which end with fatality, the play ends with the deaths of the “star-crossed lovers. ” Throughout the play, Shakespeare conveys strong feelings, or moods. In Act Five, Scene Three of Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare uses imagery, irony, and symbolism to create a tragic mood.
The first device Shakespeare uses to create a tragic mood is imagery. After the bodies of Romeo, Juliet, and Paris are found, Lady Capulet describes the scene in Verona: O, the people in the street cry ‘Romeo,’ Some ‘Juliet,’ and some ‘Paris’; and all run With open outcry toward our monument. (V. iii. 191-193) These lines show the chaotic aftermath of the death of the three adolescents. This creates a tragic mood because the audience gets a picture of a sad, weeping community. The sense of distress and grief depicts tragedy and sorrow throughout the town. A second device used is irony.
There are many examples used in Act Five. One instance of dramatic irony is when the audience knows that Juliet is under a sleeping potion, but Romeo does not, and he is about to kill himself. When Romeo enters the Capulet tomb, he sees Juliet and cries out: Death, that hath sucked the honey of thy breath, Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty. Though art not conquered. Beauty’s ensign yet Is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks And death’s pale flag is not advanced there. (V. iii. 92-96) Here Romeo is describing Juliet and how beautiful she is, even though she’s “dead. ” She is actually beautiful because she is still alive!
The audience feels so awful for Romeo, because right after he kills himself Juliet wakes up and finds her lover is dead because of her. Shakespeare’s use of irony appeals to the readers’ emotions, creating a tragic mood. Lastly, Shakespeare created a tragic mood by using symbolism. Previously, the Friar described poison in a soliloquy: O, mickle, is the powerful grace that lies In plants, herbs, stones, and other true qualities; For naught so vile that on the earth doth live But to the earth some special good doth give; Nor ought so good, but, strained from that fair use, Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse. (II. iii. 5-20) The Friar is saying that +true and naturally good things can be turned bad when not properly used, like poison derived from plants. This is like the feud between the Montagues and Capulets, which corrupted the love between Romeo and Juliet to the point of death. This creates a tragic mood because something completely innocent has been manipulated by human hands. The poison was originally harmless plants; it symbolizes the feud between the families. Both the poison and the feud literally and figuratively killed Romeo and Juliet. This creates a tragic mood because if it were not for the feud, they would have lived happily ever after.
Shakespeare created a tragic mood in Romeo and Juliet by using irony, imagery, and symbolism. Imagery gives us insight to the chaotic mess of people in Verona. Irony plays on our emotions and makes us sympathetic for Romeo’s unawareness. Symbolism gives a deeper meaning to the deaths. He contrasts this tragic mood with the feelings of love and romanticism earlier in the play. Shakespeare does this to show that in life, things go wrong and there are not always happy endings. Works Cited Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Elements of Literature Third Course. Orlando: Holt, 2007. 901-1024.
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