Love and Death in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet


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I do not think Romeo and Juliet are close to their parents, nor do I think their parents know them very well. At the beginning of the play, when Romeo is moping over Rosaline, his father is worried about him but he actually does nothing about it. Juliet's parents are nasty to her, especially her father, who is particularly horrible when she says she wants to marry for love. He tells her that he has lined up a suitable husband, meaning a wealthy one, and that is that. If she doesn't marry Paris (that's his name) she will be thrown out of the house, to fend for herself.

What her father does not know is that his only daughter, who he is supposed to be so concerned about, is already married to the son of his enemy, Montague. He really doesn't communicate with his daughter at all, if this is the case. Obviously she has not spoken to him about it. She cannot even share her secret about the most important moment in her life with her mother. The only person who knows is her nurse, who helps to arrange everything, the way a mother should. Juliet's nurse has been with her since birth and brought her up like her own daughter (she had a daughter of her own but she died). You could say that the nurse is Juliet's substitute mother, even though she is a servant in the Capulet household.

 

She does love Juliet

 

Nurse: Thou wast the prettiest babe that e'er I nursed.

An I might live to see thee married once,

I have my wish.

 

but she also likes to boss her around, though I think this is because she wants Juliet to be happy. She does not put Romeo down, at least not until after he has killed Tybalt and the Prince of Verona has exiled him. Then, when Paris is named as Juliet's husband, and Juliet asks her dear nurse for advice, she says the wrong thing entirely.

 

Nurse: I think it best you married with the County.

O, he's a lovely gentleman!

Romeo's a dishclout to him.

This is when Juliet feels completely alone, and goes to the Friar for help.

 

Romeo has more freedom of movement than Juliet does in Verona, before he is exiled that is, but he, too, depends on the Friar for fatherly advice.

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In this way the Friar is a father figure to them both, though more to Romeo. The Friar's plan to bring them together in Mantua, away from Verona, was clever and would have worked, if his messenger had reached Romeo before Balthasar did. As it turned out, the Friar reached the Capulet vault too late to save Romeo, and then he ran away when he heard the watch coming, leaving Juliet behind. This was cowardly, but the watch caught him anyway. He tells the truth about what happened, and is cleared of suspicion, but he will live with two deaths on his hands.

 

Romeo and Juliet are two teenagers who fall in love in spite of everything and get married secretly, without any of the adults in their families knowing. I think theirs is a perfect love that could not survive in an imperfect world, and Shakespeare uses adults as the dramatic tools to bring their happiness to a premature and tragic end. This is just how the real world works; I mean, that it is run by adults who are dismissive of what teenagers feel and want. They force teenagers into a corner or into rebellion, if they feel strongly enough about something - like Romeo and Juliet did about their love - to make it happen. The adults in this play, whether they are real parents or substitute ones, control or at least steer the action by their attitudes and decisions. If there had been communication between the real parents and their respective children, the feud might have been brought to an end more quickly, and without bloodshed. It is so true that we learn from the wisdom of hindsight. With the Friar playing God, and the parents so caught up in their own lives that they don't know what is going on with their children, maybe there couldn't have been any other ending. I just feel that, for Romeo and Juliet, their lives are too valuable to be sacrificed so that their families can learn the truth.

 

Finally, I think that what Shakespeare is saying about guilt is that we all share it. Man is responsible for the crimes he commits against himself. It is the way of the world that it takes tragedy for us to forget our differences and come together for healing. Romeo and Juliet's deaths, which could have been avoided, served to bring their families together and heal the feud, but this joining of hands would never bring their children back. In the end love triumphs by keeping Romeo and Juliet together, beyond earthly pain and suffering, while their families live to endure the sorrow of death: this is their punishment.


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