AQA English Literature - Romeo and Juliet Essay - June 2019
Romeo and Juliet Essay - AQA English Literature Exam - June 2019
This is an exemplar Romeo and Juliet essay, at GCSE standard, based upon the AQA English Literature June 2019 exam question. The essay analyses aggressive male behaviour in the play. The Romeo and Juliet essay has been well structured and achieved full marks. The Romeo and Juliet essay was written by a student (aged 16) in exam conditions, taking approximately 45-50 minutes to complete.
Read the following extract from Act 1 Scene 5 of Romeo and Juliet and then answer the question that follows.
At this point in the play, Romeo and Juliet meet each other for the first time at the Capulet house.
ROMEO If I profane with my unworthiest hand This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this, My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss. JULIET Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much, Which mannerly devotion shows in this, For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch, And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss. ROMEO Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too? JULIET Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer. ROMEO O then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do: They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair. JULIET Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake. ROMEO Then move not while my prayer’s effect I take. Thus from my lips, by thine, my sin is purged. JULIET Then have my lips the sin that they have took. ROMEO Sin from my lips? O trespass sweetly urged! Give me my sin again. JULIET You kiss by th’book.
Starting with this conversation, explore how Shakespeare presents the relationship between Romeo and Juliet. Write about: • how Shakespeare presents their relationship in this conversation • how Shakespeare presents the relationship between Romeo and Juliet in the play as a whole.
Shakespeare, the play, ‘Romeo and Juliet’, presents the relationship shared by the eponymous characters as almost too good to be true, given the circumstances, that their households share an ancient animosity (“ancient grudge” from The Prologue).
The extract displays a sonnet with an ABAB rhyme scheme. This suggests the gradual growth of attraction or perhaps ‘love’ between Romeo and Juliet. It also suggests that the 16th Century ideals of love are being challenged by the two youths. Shakespeare perhaps is questioning the orthodox beliefs on the conformity and confinement of love in general – for instance, any expression of love outside of marriage was frowned upon in society. Perhaps Shakespeare begins to explore identities and relationships between young people and hence, encourages Elizabethan society to do the same. The structure of the text involves couplets of subtle flirting, while simultaneously maintaining equality in speech between the new lovers. One can suggest that Juliet, being a female of the 14th century, had the ability to reciprocate and express her feelings too. Stage directions (“she returns his kiss”) suggests mirroring of Romeo’s actions, thus making their relationship seem almost perfect. To further elaborate on the relationship they share, Juliet illustrates her loyalty to Romeo (despite the fact that he murdered her cousin, Tybalt) in Act 3 Scene 2, stating “my dearest cousin and my dearest Lord”. The adjective “dearest” is in its superlative form, which suggests her absolute love for her cousin, and her sorrow towards his death. However, through the higher elevation of the adjective “death”, she immediately prioritises Romeo even family. While this could suggest deep affection towards him, she also subsequently betrays the Capulet name. A modern day audience would perhaps perceive this as loyal in comparison to an Elizabethan audience, to whom this would seem an offence (as she appears to be ungrateful) towards her family.
However, alternatively, it seems though Juliet is solely putting effort into their relationship while Romeo enjoys the benefits. In the extract, we are exposed to a very manipulative Romeo, who uses Juliet’s innocence to claim her love. Juliet is inexperienced with relationships as we see later: “my only love”. This suggests that the use of the adjective “only” establishes that she is new to love, or moreover, naïve. This results in her possibly being taken advantage of – Romeo uses religious imagery and connotations to woo her, or rather “kiss” her. He personifies his lips to be “pilgrims”. The plural noun has references to religious statues and beliefs, to which Juliet has naturally been accustomed to growing up. Romeo uses the idea of prayer and God to convince Juliet that the sexual favours she offers him are considered harmless and almost acceptable. He elevates her by describing her as a “shrine”, which usually is constructed by precious metals and stones, and is used for veneration. The connotations of worship suggest that he is making her feel valued, while consequently exploiting her emotions. One can thus suggest that their relationship may appear beautiful externally, while at the same time, it may not be the truest or purest form of love.