Honour in The Godfather and Romeo & Juliet

Honour in The Godfather and Romeo & Juliet

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How is honour the driving force with the texts The Godfather and Romeo & Juliet?

The Godfather and Romeo & Juliet are complex texts which the readers of them barely see pass their superficial meanings. The Godfather on the surface is about the mafia underworld in the Italian American underworld, however underneath the facade it is also a fantastical tale of many types of honour. Romeo and Juliet is superficially a tale of two lovers whose families are torn apart by hatred for one another, but it too is a tale of honour. The four main types of honour in these texts are family, enemy, female and community honour. 95

In The Godfather, family honour is one of the main themes of the text. The don says to his son Sonny when the family talk with Sallazo about a drug deal after Sonny's outburst "don't ever let anyone outside the family hear what your thinking". After Michael who becomes the new don and finds out that his brother in law was disloyal to the family he has him killed. Before he kills Carlo, to reassure him that he wont be harmed he says "I would'nt make my sister a widow". Sustaining the family honour is more important to michael than his own sister. Michael says to his brother Fredo after he took sides against the family, "Your my oldest brother and I love you but don't ever take sides against the family" The family's honour supersedes all things because the family is nothing without its honour. In Romeo & Juliet too, honour is also a main theme. When the Montagues bite their thumbs at the Capulets, the Capulets quarrel and fight with them so that the family name is not digraced. Gregory of the Montagues says to Sampson "I will bite my thumb at them which is a disgrace to them if they bare it". Something as small as a rude gesture to the families is seen as disgrace or dishonourable if they bare it.
Tybalt of the capulets after seeing Romeo of the house of Montague at their feast is furious at seeing him there. Tybalt says "By the stock and honour of my kin, to strike him dead I hold it not a sin". These powerful words show us how much honour was the driving force in the play.

Enemy honour too plays a significant part inthe Godfather.

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Don Corleone says to Sallozzo after not agreeing to his drug deal "I came to see you out of respect cause I am told you are a serious man and serious men deserve respect". Sallozzo who the Don never liked, got the respect that the Don thought he deserved because as Mario Puzo once said "A man who does not respect others, does not respect himself". To respect oneself is to have honour in oneself, in this we see how much honour was the driving force in the text. In Romeo & Juliet also we see how enemy honour was very important. Tybalt wants to kill Romeo but the only legal and honourable way to kill another person was to duel. There is no honour in killing someone if it is not a fair fight. Tybalt sends a letter to the Montague house but Romeo does not recieve it. When Tybalt challenges Romeo later on, Romeo declines and Tybalt won't fight him unless he agrees. Mercutio asks Tybalt "Tybalt you rat catcher, will you walk?" . These men who hate each other still respect eachother eventhough they are swarn enemies. Society Nowadays is not like back in noble times like when The Godfather and Romeo & Juliet were set, we have almost lost our sense of honour.

Female honour too plays a role in the the text The Godfather. Carlo who is married to the Don's daughter Connie beats up his wife. Sonny after seeing his sister as a victim of domestic violence, beats up Carlo. Sonny says to him "Don't you ever hurt my sister again or I'll kill ya". Sonny beats up Carlo to protect his sister but also his family's honour. Connie is incapable of defending her honour against Carlo, so Sonny must do it. In Romeo & Juliet, female honour is an important theme. Juliet keeps honour, a female's honour in those times was staying a virgin until marriage. Juliet maintains her honour by waiting until she has married Romeo. Juliet's other honour was staying faithful to her marriage with Romeo. Her father arranges her to marry Paris but she loves Romeo. Juliet can not stand up to her father, so the friar gives her a potion to make her look as if she is dead. We see like in The Godfather, how a woman can not defend her honour by themselves.

Lastly, honour to the community is another important theme in the Godfather. When the heads of all the mafia families meet to discuss the drug business, some display their honour to the community. The Kansas city Don when talking about his opposition to drugs says "I want it to keep it respectable, I don't want it near schools, I don't want it sold to kids". These words were said by a man with great audacity, he displayed his morals and stuck by them and thus keeping his honour to the community. In Romeo & Juliet too is honour to the community very important. Prince Escalus after much violence from the Capulets and Montagues, decides to take matters into his own hands. He tells them that if they fight again that the heads of the families would be killed. Prince Escalus says "If you disturb the peace again, your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace". He does the honourable thing to the community and he too maintans his honour.

Society has lost its fervour for honour, it has been marginalized for lesser things such as money. The texts were set in more noble times when honour and morals were what made you who you were. Nowadays we are measured by what we have in the bank, their is much for society to learn from this texts. The Romans who were very honourable people use to commit suicide because they saw capture or surrender as dishonourable acts. In concluding, Roman emperor Julius Ceasar once said "We men are measured by our honourable acts in this life. Here the question arises, how do we want to be remembered by others?".
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