Aristotle’s Unity of Action in Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, a classic tragedy about two star-crossed young lovers in Verona, can be analysed using Aristotle Unity of action. Firstly, it tells one story – there is one main plot around which all incidents and character revolve. The action itself Is the main focus of the drama and to have plurality in action weakens the story. In Romeo and Juliet, from the first act till the last, the story follows Romeo and Juliet’s love story. Secondly, Aristotle stated that this unity of action entails a clear beginning, middle and end. In Romeo and Juliet, which has been divided into the more detailed version of this division- the five act structure, there is a beginning which as Aristotle said, has no posterior – in the exposition we are introduced to the setting in Verona, the characters of the Montague and Capulet families and the basic conflict that they are feuding clans. In the middle, there is rising action in which leads up to the conflict, in which Romeo and Juliet fall in love but are kept apart because of their families.
In the climax, the Capulets and Montagues go head to head. Romeo develops an aggressive, violent colour and ends up killing Juliet’s cousin. Here the story brings fear to the audience which later is emotionally relieved (catharsis) in the next act when Romeo is sent to Mantua as punishment and we see him suffer out of guilt, resolving his character flaws. After Romeo gets banished, he and Juliet marry in secret. In the fourth act, the falling action, Juliet pretends to kill herself to run away with Romeo, but he does not hear about the fake death and assumes it was real. Driven mad with grief and love he makes plans to kill himself. In the end, there is a resolution and catastrophe of the play. When Juliet awakens to find Romeo dead, she kills herself as well. Their families learned about what happened and are deeply saddened, vowing to end their feud. The play has a clear conclusion in which all loose ends are tied up – as Aristotle said – “there is nothing else”. Hence, Shakespeare’s’ Romeo and Juliet contains all key elements of Aristotle’s Unity of Action theory.