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Costumes and Clothing in Romeo and Juliet

Filed under: Romeo and Juliet — talonskelsey at 12:13 am on Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My choice of focus was the costumes and clothing in Romeo and Juliet. I thought that it would be very interesting to compare the costumes in the plays to the clothing in the Elizabethan Era. I was actually quite surprised by all the rules about what you were allowed to wear and what you weren’t allowed to wear. We each chose three questions that were consistent with our topic. The questions here have as close to the answer’s as I could find or guess at.

1.  How do the costumes in the play compare to the clothes of that time?

2.  If they are the same why would them being the same benefit Shakespeare?

The benefit to Shakespeare would be not only be not having to get costumes tailored but also that those characters of nobility would be played by characters of nobility.

3.  Do the clothes in the play make a statement? (Are they more elaborate to show wealth?)(Are they less elaborate to show poverty?)

One and Three are answered below:

Since the play’s were put on in a very short time frame they could not store up costumes. Therefore they went with what they had. They wore the clothes that they were “allowed” to wear and sometimes that dictated who they were allowed to portray in a play. Romeo or a servant for example, If you were of noble status you were supposed to portray someone of noble status so that the clothing would match up. If you were poor and not as important you might end up portraying a servant or other lowly figures.

The reason for people only being allowed to wear certain things was that Queen Elizabeth I wanted to make sure that those with wealth didn’t show off, and that those who were poor didn’t attempt to decieve people. Here is a short list of colours and who was allowed to wear them.

Gold, was allowed to be worn by Duke’s, Duchesses, Marquises, Counts, and Countesses.

Yellow with white symbolizes Easter. Also King Henry I decreed that since Jews were a threat to the country they must wear a yellow star to identify themselves. Yellow was allowed to be worn by lower and upper class people.

Green was well known as the colour of Robin Hood. Grey was the colour of mourning and repentance. Green was allowed to be worn by lower and upper class people.

Gray is the colour of ashes and a punishment or penance was to walk barefoot through the town covered in ashes. Grey was allowed to be worn by lower and upper class people.

Brown was the colour of Humility and poverty and so symbolized the poor people. The fabric was also cheap and didn’t need to be dyed so for most of the poor it was affordable. Brown was allowed to be worn by lower and upper class people.

Orange symbolized courage however the orange colour wouldn’t fade or run and since it was cheap it was seen most often worn by the poor. Orange was allowed to be worn by lower and upper class people.

Blue symbolized servitude and was always associated with servants. Servants commonly wore blue to proudly show their servitude. Blue was allowed to be worn by lower and upper class people.

Pink symbolized joy and happiness. It was (and still is) associated with young girls and ladies. Pink was allowed to be worn by lower and upper class people.

Red symbolizes fire and was associated with power and importance. It was described as clothing for valiant men. However red was made with cheap dyes and therefore was affordable for everyone. Red was allowed to be worn by lower and upper class people.

Black symbolized humility, and death. Just as often however black symbolized authority and power. Black was allowed to be worn by lower and upper class people, however black was worn (unless the poor were in mourning) by the wealthy because the dye they used to make a true black colour was expensive and therefore so was the cloth.

White symbolized purity and virtue. White was a colour that was associated with the pope, the church , and marriage. White was allowed to be worn by lower and upper class people, however white was worn by the wealthy because the dye they used to make a pure white colour was expensive and therefore so was the cloth. Pure white is not to be confused with cream or other linens that weren’t completely white.

Purple symbolizes penitence and mourning. However it is associated with royalty since the dyes that were used were the most expensive of all the other syes. Therefore it also symbolized wealth and power. Purple was allowed to be worn by the Queen, Queen’s mother, children, and sisters, and aunts. The King, King’s mother, children, brethren, and uncles.

Indigo symbolizes power, importance and wealth. Indigo is also known as Royal Blue because the dye used to create this colour is not quite as expensive as the purple yet is still very expensive. Indigo eas allowed to be worn by Royalty, Nobility and members of the Council.

Crimson symbolizes fire and was associated with power and importance. Made with expensive dyes and not to be confused with red. People who were allowed to wear crimson were Royalty, Nobility and members of the Council.

Links:
Elizabethan Era, Elizabethan Sumptuary Laws, Meaning of Colours, Elizabethan Costume



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