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Violence and Conflict are Central to 'Romeo and Juliet' Discuss this Theme and its Importance to the Play as a Whole

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Introduction

Violence and Conflict are Central to 'Romeo and Juliet' Discuss this Theme and its Importance to the Play as a Whole William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is perhaps one of his best known pieces of writing, proving to be an immensely popular play amongst both an Elizabethan and modern day audience. Aside from the unique and touching story, the play's popularity also benefits from its fast paced and action filled plot, essential to create the atmosphere of a whirlwind romance and how Romeo and Juliet rushed into their love. The violence within the play and the conflict between the various leads are an essential benefactor to the story's overall effect. The play is centred on the feud between two wealthy families living in Verona, Italy- the Capulets and the Montagues. The opening scene of the play is designed to demonstrate their loathing towards each other and to inform the audience of how far their dislike stretches. Act One Scene One starts with two servants of the house of Capulet talking unfavourably about the Montagues. Sampson, one of the servants, talks crudely about the Capulet women. The play opening on this theme of conversation implies to the audience that it is fairly common for them to talk like this as they seem to talk so casually. In a way, the joking tone of the two men leads us to think that the dislike they, as the servants, experience isn't so much bitter or even genuine rather than what is expected of them. ...read more.

Middle

The audience knows the consequences the characters will face if they are caught fighting again and at the same time know that they'll end up fighting and something dreadful will happen. Benvolio knows what the consequences will be and, at the very start of the scene, tries hard to encourage Mercutio to retire, so as to avoid the Capulets. He knows Mercutio wouldn't back down from a fight if challenged and fears what will happen if he lets his pride get the better of him. Tybalt acts surprisingly civil towards Mercutio and Benvolio, asking for a quick word. Mercutio immediately tries to start a fight when, again, there is nothing to fight about- Tybalt did, however, antagonise Mercutio with the title "Minstrel". After Romeo refuses to fight Tybalt, as he is now indirect family, Mercutio stands to defend the Montague's honour, but he was obviously spoiling for a fight from the start of the scene. Tybalt kills Mercutio, followed by Romeo killing Tybalt in anger. The significance the violence and deaths hold is in the irony of the entire situation- everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. There are many aspects to the irony. Firstly, Romeo, trying to evade conflict by refusing to fight Tybalt, caused Mercutio to get involved and risked both their lives. Romeo, trying to intervene, causes more damage than he stopped as it was him obstructing Mercutio's view that resulted in Tybalt stabbing him. The most ironic aspect of it all is that the marriage of Romeo and Juliet was planned to bring the families in unity, but all it did was separate them further- there are deaths on both families' parts and now their renewed hatred is vindicated. ...read more.

Conclusion

The point is reinforced further by the fact that he didn't even know who he was killing- it didn't matter to him until he realised. Finally, the two lovers' suicide brings about the play's climax. The poignant moment truly represents how, once they had met, their lives were meaningless without the other, that it was better to die than to live on without the other. There is much dramatic irony, as well; the audience is powerless to stop them as they see the two na�ve young adults express their love in the severest of fashions. It shows violence in another light as well, not only to cause pain against others but to ease their own pain. The violence, as a whole, maintains the pace of the play. It plays part to many of the significant changes in to the direction of the plot, and brings about most of the consequences and twists. On a more obvious level, without the feud between the two families, Romeo and Juliet would not have to have concealed their relationship and things would have been much simpler for them- the violence is crucial to the plot and the fight scenes reinforce the idea into the audience's head that this can never work. On a simpler level, it also draws the audience in and attracts their attention directly through the exciting appeal violence brings to a story. The action and explosiveness of the violence helps to retain the audience's interest. The violence is also a way of echoing the characters thoughts and feelings, visually aiding in the progression of the story. It graphically shows the conflict and therefore it becomes a lot easier to understand. ...read more.

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