Violence in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Violence in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

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Violence in William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet

Violence in 'Romeo and Juliet', by Shakespeare shows how prejudice
leads to escalating violence. Prejudice leads to violence between the
feuding families, the Montagues and Capulets when a fight breaks out
and death occurs.

As we know, William Shakespeare wrote 'Romeo and Juliet' in 1595.

In the 1590's, the Elizabethan times, there was a lot of violent feuds
and duelling ruling the streets of London. This violence has and is
growing very quickly, as there were only 5 famous duels in the 1580's
followed by 20 famous duels in the 1590's. In 1595, Italy, the idea of
young lovers dying tragically was instantly appealing to the audience.

Today's society is far more violent than 20 - 30 years ago with
domestic violence between families on the increase. The theme in
'Romeo and Juliet' is therefore even more relevant today and it
remains a popular play.

In this play of forbidden love, there were a number of violent scenes.
These were in Act 1, Scene 1, Act 3, Scene 1 and Act 5, Scene 3.

Violence in Act 1, Scene 1

Act 1, Scene 1 is the very first scene of the play so this introduces
the story and the rivalry between the two families, the Montagues and
the Capulets.

This violence is between two characters from the Capulets, Sampson and
Gregory and two characters from the Montagues, Abram and Balthasar.
The scene starts with Sampson and Gregory having a play on words to
each other.

For example when they communicate to each other with the words 'we'll
not carry coals' (which means we'll not be insulted) and Gregory
replies 'No, for then we should be colliers' (people who carry coal).
Gregory and Sampson are having a humorous conversation here. They also
mock and tease each other. Where Sampson says 'A dog of the house of
the Montague moves me', Gregory says 'if thou art moved, thou runnest
away, to the wall'.

Meaning, the weakest or the 'weak vessels' go to the wall.

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Even though Sampson was confident before the fight, once the two
characters from the Montagues arrive, Abram and Balthasar, he wants
Gregory to go first then he will follow. Also he doesn't want to be
blamed for starting the fight so Sampson bites his thumb at the
Montagues, which was a bad insult in the 1590's.

This shows Gregory to be a strong individual and Sampson a coward, all
words, no actions.

While they are fighting, Benvolio, a Montague tries to calm thing
down, he was attempting to be a peace maker but soon after Benvolio
spoke Tybalt, a Capulet appears shouting Benvolio's a coward for
stopping the fight. This shows Tybalt thinks the only way of dealing
with an argument is to fight.

Violence in Act 3, Scene 1

The violence that occurred in Act 3, Scene 1 was the death of Mercutio
by Tybalt. In Act 3, Scene 1 the audience see the difference in the
characters and how each character deals with a situation.

Tybalt originally wanted to fight Romeo, because in the first
statement when Tybalt said when Romeo appeared, 'Well, peace be with
you, sir. Here comes my man'. When Romeo says he doesn't want to fight
him because he is a part of Juliet's family, the audience sees the
caparison/ differences of the two characters. Tybalt again thinks
fighting is the answer to everything whereas Romeo has nothing against
Tybalt and refuses to hurt him.

Mercutio was a witty, humorous character who brought most humour into
the play and when he dies the audience sense, because a humorous
character has died in Shakespeare's story, that more tragedy will
unfold.

Violence in Act 5, Scene 3

Act 5, Scene 3 is when Romeo visits Juliet's tomb, thinking she is
dead. The mood and tone used in this scene portrays an image of deep
sorrow and disbelief as the realisation of his lover's death
overwhelms Romeo. The tragedy is that had Romeo received the message
from Friar Laurence he would have known that Juliet was only in a
death like sleep and not given up by taking his own life. The quote
from the passage, 'Here's to my love! (Drinks) O true apothecary, thy
drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die' demonstrates his desperation.
Throughout the play, Juliet never gives up on their relationship but
on awakening finding Romeo dead, she takes her own life. The play
remains optimistic that the outcome will be a happy one until this
final act.

Romeo was a romantic character who avoided conflict throughout the
play but acted out of character when he killed Paris. He felt that
because he had lost Juliet he had nothing to lose. Fate dealt the
final blow as Juliet awakes to find Romeo lifeless.

My conclusion to the presentation

Shakespeare prepares the audience for the impending tragedy by
inserting minor tragedies in the opening scenes culminating in the
ultimate tragedy with death of Romeo and Juliet. He does this by
highlighting the feud between the two families who bicker over petty
and ridiculous situations.

The moral and philosophy of this story is that had Friar Laurence and
Benvolio succeeded in their peace making efforts the families could
have been united in happiness rather than in grief.

Plays like 'Romeo and Juliet' with it's tragic ending often reduces
the audience to tears unlike plays today many end happily leaving the
audience with a feel good factor.

This story of forbidden love can be seen in modern life as in the case
of arranged marriages causing problems within a family, when someone
falls in love with another person outside their own religion for
example.

Modern versions of this storyline include the musical Westside story
set in 1950's New York when two people from rival gangs, the Jets and
the Sharks, fall in love and tragedy results, as their love is also
forbidden.
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