Shakespeare was clearly influenced by the events of his time, and this
is apparent especially in Romeo and Juliet. To dismiss this play as a
mere fable is to overlook some very important religious and political
changes of the time which are evidently woven into the storyline of
Shakespeare's religious beliefs are uncertain, but it is known that
his father was Catholic, and that he lived in a time of religious
stratification across both community and family ties. As a result of
the queen's toleration for vagueness in this area, people became
accustomed to "religious tension and confusion at a very personal
level". Many of Shakespeare's works reflect that tension. It is known
that these issues had affect on everyone living in England.
Romeo and Juliet is a play based around conflict; the conflict of two
families in discord with one another. The youth of the play cause
violence and death due to their extreme beliefs and actions.
If the family relationships are considered as a miniature
representation of the greater social structure then the possibility of
specific themes that are integrated into Shakespeare's play arises.
Firstly, consider Religious Extremism versus the Elizabethan
Settlement. Shakespeare is attacking neither the Catholics nor the
Protestants. What he does condemn is the senseless and radical actions
of youth in the play.
In Romeo and Juliet, the older generation has evidently made peace and
learned to live together, which resembles the principles of the
Settlement. The families are still separate entities, but they have
... middle of paper ...
...vidual, and would have understood that Romeo and
Juliet's decision, based on individualism, is their one major flaw and
that when acting as an individual, the consequences of ones actions
affect not only oneself, but the whole society.
Modern culture, now that we have grown so far from the age of
Individualism, can idolize Romeo and Juliet and villainize social
order, but it is uncertain to whether an Elizabethan audience would
have had the same views.
'I suggest that Romeo and Juliet is not so much a play about romantic
love as it is a religious and political commentary. To reduce
Shakespeare's work to allegory would be an oversimplification of his
work; however, to divorce it from the literary and socio-political
trends of his time is to overlook an important element of theatre
during the Elizabethan period'.
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