Characteristics of Shakespearean Drama

In Medias Res                    In the middle of things
                                                All of Shakespeare's plays begin in the middle
                                                of  action that began before the rise of the curtain.
                                                This technique was very successful
                                                at getting the audience involved immediately.

Pun                                        A play on words
                                                In the opening act, Sampson and Gregory use
                                                collier, choler, and collar in banter between them.
                                                Sampson opens the scene by saying the two of
                                                them will not carry coals, meaning they will not
                                                take anything off of anyone.  Gregory makes fun
                                                of Sampson by saying that if they did, they would
                                                then be coal dealers (pretending not to get the
                                                point of what Sampson said).  Sampson, being a
                                                little dim-witted tries to explain himself (not realizing
                                                that Gregory is making fun of him).  Sampson says
                                                no that they will be angry (choler) if they have to
                                                take anything off anyone.  To this Gregory says
                                                that they will get in big trouble (Their necks will
                                                be pulled out of their collars) if they start a fight.
                                                The humor of this scene is enhanced by the fact
                                                that Sampson (a man of great strength in the Bible)
                                                is a little guy who is trying to impress Gregory, the
                                                big guy.  These two characters are somewhat
                                                similar to the big dog and the little dog in
                                                the cartoons.

references to blood         Just like today, audiences in the Elizabethan Age
                                                were drawn to blood and violence.  Shakespeare
                                                wanted to appeal to the people in the pit, so they
                                                would pay attention to the play rather than
                                                throwing tomatoes.  Therefore, blood is a major
                                                ingredient of Shakepeare's plays.

                                                An example is "...purple fountains issuing from
                                                                                        your veins."

Foreshadowing                An indication of something to come-usually bad.
 
                                               Example:  Romeo has a premonition that the events
                                               that will lead to his death will begin at the party that
                                               he plans to crash at the Capulets' house.

Foil                                        A minor character whose purpose is to intensify
                                               a quality of a major character by contrast

                                                Example:  The nurse is fat and ugly.  She is in
                                                the play to make Juliet look more beautiful.

 soliloquy                             a dramatic monologue; one person speaking
                                                alone on stage
                                                The purpose is to let the audience know
                                                what the character is thinking.  A soliloquy
                                                is like a "voice-over" in a soap opera.

                                                The example is the long speech of Friar
                                                Laurence on page 761 when he speaks
                                                about flowers and herbs, saying that they
                                                are like people:  They have the potential for
                                                life and good, but they also have the potential
                                                for death or bad.

New Notes - Beginning Act III

references to ghosts       Romeo says that Mercutio's spirit is waiting
                                                for Tybalt or Romeo to go with him.  Romeo
                                                means that he intends to fight Tybalt to the death.

dramatic irony                    The character says one thing, but the audience
                                                    understands it another way.
 
                                                 Lady Capulet demands the death of Romeo.  She
                                                 does not know that she is demanding the death
                                                 of her son-in-law and, indirectly, her own daughter.

anachronism                    something out of place in time
 
                                              Romeo tells the nurse that his name has been
                                              like a gun that murdered Juliet.  He means
                                              that he has brought her heartache.  Guns had
                                              not been invented in the time of Romeo and Juliet.

references to                    The Globe Theater used the light of day to
to night/light                       illuminate the stage.  In order to achieve this
                                                the roof was open to the sun.  As a result,
                                                audiences had to be reminded when the
                                                scene was set at night.
                                                Often actors will mention the stars, the dark
                                                sky, or light from the dawn beginning to break
                                                into the dark of night.
                                                The example is when Romeo tells Juliet to
                                                look at the streaks of light coming from the
                                                eastern part of the sky, meaning that it is
                                                almost dawn, and he must leave her.
 

  Nature is in tune            At the end of the play, the sun refuses to come
  with the deeds                out because of the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.
  of men
 

The last person                The prince speaks last saying
to speak is always            "A glooming peace this morning
the person of                           with it brings.
highest birth.                       The sun for sorrow will not
                                                    show his head.
                                            ...For never was a story
                                                    of more woe
                                                Than this of Juiet and her Romeo."

                                                Shakespeare did this in all his plays to honor
                                                the nobility who often sponsored theater
                                                companies.