In the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, love and revenge causes fate to catch upwith two youngsters from two different conflicting rich families and who have a secret marriage.However, after finding out that they are not of the same family, conflict becomes the running theme asthey choose to go secretly and consummate their marriage. There is a long feud in Verona between theMontague and Capulet families where their actions cause tragic results especially to Romeo and Julietespecially after the masquerade ball event that takes place and where Romeo sneaks in despite hisfamily being sanctioned. Being a romantic tragedy, Shakespeare has exposed the nature of revenge,fate, courtship and marriage where he selectively uses defined motifs which help emphasize the mainideas distinctively as light and darkness in relation to fate. The playwright being set in Verona Italy inthe late 15th century, the issues concerning the role of women and the conflicting cultural perspectivesare also highlighted in the play.
The playwright main featured characters include Juliet, Romeo, the Nurse, Mercutio and FriarLaurence. Together, this citizens of Verona and the Capulet and Montague family members developthe central theme in the play presented as conflict as they find themselves as part of the conflict asthey do witness the ongoing battles which resulted in death. Shakespeare uses the Nurse and Mercutioto develop a relationship between comedy and tragedy. They are used to serve as foil charactersdeveloping the young couple. Mercutio refers Romeo as a Petrarchan lover as he uses a lot of poeticimagery. the quick tempered friends are going to link this comic and their violence. When Mercutiodies, it becomes the turning point of the rising action turning comedy into tragedy. Before he dies, heasserts to Tybalt that, if he was to find him tomorrow, then he would be a grave man. Juliet after sheagrees to take the portion as not to marry Paris sets her as a tragic heroine and when she wakes up tofind her husband lying dead, she opts to take hers too.
To understand the social political view of Shakespeare’s key ideas, the use of symbolism andmotifs including the use of light and darkness expose the nature of the couples love. Darkness will beassociated with mystery and as Juliet comments “in little stars…and he will make the face of heaven3so fine…That all the world will be in love with night? And pay no worship to the garish sun”(III.ii.22-25).
The play starts on a Sunday where the reader is exposed to the long-standing conflictbetween the Montague and Capulet families which continues to affect the peacefulcoexistence in the northern city in Italy. There starts a brawl between the servants of thesefeuding households and it ends up with them unsheathing their swords to fight. The stage isset by Sampson and Gregory who are Capulet servants continuing to joke rudely about theMontague women, they are joined by Montague servants and with provocative gestures, theyare close to a fight before the prince arrives and threatens both sides with dire consequences.We are introduced to Romeo Montague who is mooning over a certain girl whom he is inlove with called Rosalina and who seems to have left him as she wants to remain a virgin.Being sad, he is promised by his cousin Benvolio help in getting another girl for himself.Romeo’s mixed feelings are well brought out when he utters “O browling love, O lovinghate” (p.11) leading us to understand his feelings towards the girl she loves as well as thefamily feud which symbolizes the hate. We meet Juliet in her bedroom where she seemsphysically trapped between her nurse and mother. Young as she is, she is expected to obeyand wait for her parents to marry her off to someone of their choice. She seemsunenthusiastic as she is quoted saying “I’ll look to like, if looking liking move” (p.13). Theseearly scenes introduce us to love, sex, and marriage which dominate the play.
That same night there is a masked ball event to encourage the courting of Juliet and Paris,who is a relative of the prince. On deciding to crash the event and explore other women,Romeo and Benvolio decide to gatecrash concealing their identities behind masks. This setsthe stage for a conflict, as the Capulets have excluded the Montagues from attending theevent. By chance, Tybalt sees Romeo and takes this as an intrusion and Tybalt swears4revenge. He is seen to comment that “this intrusion shall, Now seeming sweet, convert tobitt’rest gall” (p.15.). This is a foreshadowing of the conflict which will create tragedy.Coincidentally Romeo and Juliet meet and they reinforce their new relationship. In theirspeech they are symbolized as “pilgrims”, and “saints” and the mention of “prayers” suggeststhat their union is set to overcome barriers including their family feud. Ignorant of theirbackgrounds, Romeo and Juliet fall in love at first sight and when the feast ends, Julietappearing on the balcony attracts Romeo who climbs into the orchard to see Juliet again.They exchange vows of love and they agree to marry the next day. According to Juliet, herlove is boundless as the sea (p. 22) and she is optimistic that their love can end their longfamily feud.
On Monday and as promised, Romeo asks Friar Laurence to consummate their marriagethough at first, he is reluctant. Hoping to reconcile the families, he agrees to marry Romeo toJuliet that afternoon. Meanwhile, the play shifts from comedy to tragedy when Tybalt who isseeking revenge invites Romeo to a duel. Tybalt, however, provokes Mercutio and challengeshim and in the course, Mercutio dies. The playwright opens the reader to the dilemma withRomeo who is caught up with a duty to avenge Mercutio’s death or honor his new family. Heends up killing Mercutio and he earns himself a banishment from the prince. Before leaving,Romeo and Juliet plan to spend their last night together. The night ends so quickly and thegrief of parting is exhibited in their talk “More light and light, more dark and dark our woes”(3.5). Since initially Romeo had tried to kill himself when he was pronounced banished, Friarhad promised to make their marriage public to gain the prince’s favor and pardon. Thisallows them to celebrate their wedding night before Romeo leaves at dawn for Mantua.
On Tuesday morning, news reaches Juliet that her father plans to marry her in Paris onThursday. Her family is unaware that she is grieving Romeo’s exile than Tybalt’s death, theythink that this wedding will help relieve her setting forth dramatic irony. Juliet is seen to seek advice from the Friar who offers a 42-hour sleeping portion which Juliet was to drink on thenight of the wedding. As she played dead, Friar was to send for Romeo in Mantua just in timefor Juliet to wake up. Both Romeo and Juliet in their speech believe that the new day broughtnothing but grief. “More light and light, more dark and dark our woes” (3.5). Juliet agrees tomarry Paris in pretense. Opposite of their plans, Capulet brings the wedding closer toWednesday from Thursday, and Juliet is forced to take the portion that same night, therefore,reducing the time for the message to reach Romeo.
On Wednesday morning, Juliet’s dead body is lying lifeless and she is placed in the familytomb. Due to the plague that prevents the message from reaching Romeo, the wrong newsreaches him concerning his lover’s death. Desperate for love, Romeo buys poison and returnsto Verona. When He finds his way to Capulet’s tomb, He is accosted by Paris whoaccidentally fights and Romeo kills him. Unknown to him that Juliet is still alive, Romeodecides to take the poison and end his life alongside his love. Their chances of growingtogether are slim as the fate of the two lovers is sealed. Arriving too late, The Friar begs Julietto leave with him for a new life however she refuses and to the amazement of the reader, shestabs herself with Romeos’ dagger. By killing themselves, the lovers do accept that they aretrapped by their fate. At the same time, they manage to escape from the world that has keptthem apart.
At daybreak on Thursday, the watch arrives followed by the prince who is going todemand a full probe of what happened. As the two families arrive and seemingly out of thehorrific scene before them, they choose to end the long feud of the Montague and Capulet byjoining in for peace. It is not until when Friar Laurence confesses everything that the twolords of the rival houses get moved by their dead children’s love story and agree to end thefeud. The story then ends in tragedy out of fate brought through love and revenge, therefore,6emphasizing fate’s control over their destinies as the prologue stipulates. “star-cross’d lovers”relationship is deathmark’d.”
The plot is developed in style and the use of imagery of stars, moon, and sun doesemphasize that the love of the young couple is not earthly and ordinary. For Romeo, Juliet isthe sun (p. 22). Her eyes are the fairest as stars in all the heaven (p. 22). The use of thislanguage defines the tragic end of their fate as astrological using the phrase “star-crossed” (p.11). Shakespeare’s tragic play is also developing mainly as a blank verse however, the use ofverse is effective when he is tackling grave issues like the doomed love, the feuding, suicide,and death. The use of prose is also effective in bringing forth the comic effect like the eventscharacters exchange jokes.
The play has effectively explored the fundamental key concepts of the forcefulness oflove, violence out of love, the individual vs individual, and individual vs society conflict,fate, and sex. The use of clever dialogue, passionate romance, violent conflicts, and poeticimagery convey the epic beauty in the play, making it one of the best tragic romance playsacknowledged worldwide. Understanding the frameworks that define societies was a keyreason this play stands out, as it is definite that love heals and the same way it does kill. Theyoung couple make vows and spend the night as their last before running away however theyend up having a dead honeymoon influencing peace after many years of feuds.
Annaliese. F. & Connolly. (2022): Romeo and Juliet. Cliffs Notes.
Shakespeare (1597). Romeo and Juliet. Entire play. http://shakespeare.mit.edu/romeo_juliet/full.html
Shakespeare birthplace trust (2022). Romeo and Juliet. Synopsis and plot overview of Shakespeare’s
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Spark notes (2022).Romeo and Juliet.