Let’s play A4S5 of Romeo and Juliet in which Juliet’s family discover Juliet ‘dead’ after she has taken the drugs Friar Laurence prescribed her. This scene offers a challenge for the actors. Usually, when Shakespeare is portraying characters under great stress, as in this scene, he doesn’t give them fine language to speak, instead the stress makes them speak very simply with lots of emotion and lots of repetition. In this scene, the Nurse, and Juliet’s parents all speak like this. Only Paris, who though he wants to marry Juliet, hasn’t shown much sign of really being in love with her, speaks in high-flown language.
The danger is that if this is played ‘over the top’ it becomes comic, as Bottom does when playing Pyramus discovering the death of Thisbe (see A5S1 of Let’s play Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. So the actors have to bring out the drama and upset of the family members, but avoid going over the top.
By the way, Shakespeare sometimes does give characters under great stress fine language to speak. A good example is Macbeth in A2S1 just after he’s murdered Duncan:
Methought I heard a voice cry, Sleep no more:
Macbeth does murder Sleep, the innocent Sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravel’d Sleave of Care,
The death of each day’s Life, sore Labour’s Bath,
Balm of hurt Minds, great Nature’s second Course,
Chief nourisher in Life’s Feast.
But let’s get back to A4S5 of Romeo and Juliet. This extract is set up for 6 players so that, hopefully, young people can get together and play it. All parts are in highlit text format. The casting for 6 of Romeo and Juliet has been used, with players in order of appearance in the scene. Each player should click on one of the following Players, and a script will appear with their lines highlit.
Some of the parts are much smaller than others (e.g. Paris and Musician 1), so once you’ve played the scene, it might be a good idea to re-allocate the parts and play it again (and again, and again).
I particularly like the last part of the scene where the musicians arrive to play at Juliet’s wedding. Juliet may be dead but they’re still free to moan about the lost money, and willing to discuss Peter’s favourite song with him.
If you want to understand better how to use our MFFEV5 CloudReader, read:
- Preparing Malvolio for Performance using MFFEV5 CloudReader and Parts and Cues