Romeo and Juliet: The Feud Between the Families
In addition to love at first sight, the feud between
the Montagues and Capulets is also a main theme of the play. The
world that Shakespeare has chosen to portray is violent and hate-filled
from the very beginning. The prologue shows the audience exactly
how the feud will play a major role throughout the production. The
The fearful passage of their death-marked love,
This shows that everything in the play relates to the progress of Romeo
and Juliet's love, and the ongoing family feud. One is
And the continuance of their parents' rage
Which, but their children's end, naught could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage…(prologue,
always aware of the tension between the two sides because of this strife.
The violence is minor at first, but intensifies
throughout the play. In the first scene, Benvolio of the Montague
household, fights Tybalt
of the Capulet household. However, this is a mere scuffle in the
street. No one is seriously harmed. After Romeo and Juliet
are married, the violent action begins gaining pace. Tybalt murders
III, scene 1. His dying words, "A plague o' both your
houses!"(act III, scene i, 90) foreshadow the end of the play, and
the end of the violence. Mercutio's death enrages Romeo, who challenges
Tybalt, saying, "…Mercutio's soul is but a little way above our heads,/
Staying for thine to keep him company./ Either thou or I, or both,
must go with him."(act III, scene i, 126-128) Romeo slays
Tybalt, and is banished to Mantua by the Prince. Romeo will kill
twice more before the end of the play. After he is misinformed about
Juliet's death, he plans to poison himself by her "dead" body. At
the tomb, Paris attempts to apprehend Romeo. When he will not listen
to Romeo's reasoning, Romeo slays him.
Once inside the tomb, Romeo drinks the powerful
poison and dies. Juliet awakens almost immediately thereafter.
She realizes what has happened and fatally stabs herself with Romeo's dagger.
Only with the death of their own children do Montague and Capulet bury
their hatred. The Prince states, "See what a scourge is laid upon
your hate,/ That heaven finds a means to kill your joys with love/…All
are punished."(act IV, scene iii, 292-293, 295) The feud was
an embodiment of the immaturity of the parents. Five of their loved
ones died before the realization occurred.
Themes of a play result from various elements explored
throughout the entire work. Love at first sight and feuding families
are two abstract topics. The action of Romeo and Juliet works to
define and develop these topics into a concrete plot structure. From the
action, the themes become apparent to the audience. Conversely, by
understanding the themes of this play, the audience will better interpret
the action of the plot.