Prologue of Romeo and Juliet- Double-Entendre's

Essay by polloploppol903High School, 10th gradeA+, February 2010

download word file, 3 pages 0.0

‘An EXCELLENT conceited Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet,’ is a play written by the well-known poet and playwright, William Shakespeare (1564-1616). In most of his plays, Shakespeare utilizes what is known as a ‘Double-Entendre,’ which is a spoken phrase devised to be understood in multiple ways, especially when one meaning is risqué. The prologue of Romeo and Juliet is an ideal example of Shakespeare’s technique of utilizing a Double-Entendre.

"Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean" (Prologue 1-4).

"Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean;” In this phrase lies the Double-Entendre. Shakespeare describes the blood as “civil”, meaning: innocent, polite/courteous or simply relating to citizens (i.e. citizens of a town). The word “civil” is the Double-Entendre, for it has more than one way to be understood. For the first meaning, we will take “civil” to mean citizens.

When Shakespeare uses “civil” to describe blood, he is referring to the fighting (“blood”) between fellow civilians, Montague and Capulet, and the next part of the sentence, “...makes civil hands unclean,” means that the fighting between these civilians, are drawing other, law-abiding (“civil”) people and brings them to guilt (“unclean”) too, in basic terms a “civil” war.

For the second meaning, we will consider “civil” to mean polite, courteous, thus giving us a paradoxical situation. When Shakespeare uses this meaning of “civil” to describe blood, it leaves us to think, how bloodshed between the two civilians, Montague and Capulet, can be regarded as “civil”. This wouldn’t make any sense, but it was Shakespeare’s intention, to make a paradoxical situation, to show that the supposedly “fair” town of Verona is in fact lacking fairness and courtesy. For if Verona was in fact “civil”,