Violence and Conflict in Romeo and Juliet

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Violence and Conflict in Romeo and Juliet

Four hundred years ago, William Shakespeare wrote the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, a popular play that continues to capture the imagination and emotions of people around the world. The drama portrays the passionate, violent and often desperate lives of the youth of Verona. Even today, the tragedy resembles a blue print of the problems that the adolescents of the twentieth century must face each day. In this play Shakespeare explores the pitfalls of young love, and the consequences they receive from their actions, which mostly revolve around violence and conflict.

     In Verona, the feud between the Capulets and Montagues reigns supreme, and rules seemingly over love, over justice, in an almost unfair manner, as ‘civil blood makes civil hands unclean’. The image of violence being so unfair exists prominently in the deaths of so many of the cast. We see the two obvious images of the tragid death of Romeo and Juliet. Their young, pure lives are brought to a despicable end through the violence around them

      ‘Romeo and Juliet’ was written between 1594 and 1596. During this period, poets and dramatists alike were experimenting with a variety of styles; blank verse was a new form, and so was the sonnet. Shakespeare intentionally wrote ‘Romeo and Juliet’ for the Queen, simultaneously gaining her interest and enthusiasm for his style of writing. The play contains a lot of sexual punning, rude jokes and verbal interaction, which Elizabethans enjoyed watching and reading about. These sorts of entertainments factors would really get the audience excited and their interest towards the story grows rapidly.

      Throughout the entire play there is a strong sense of violence, which continues to portray unfortunate consequences. I will be explaining the aspects of violence and conflict in various scenes, to discover how they are a trigger to further preconceptions.

       Act one, scene one. I feel that Shakespeare begins his play in the same way he intends to end it…through violence and conflict. Immediately we are introduced to the servants of the Capulet’s house. Where they are caught confidently boasting about themselves, ‘Gregory, on my word, we’ll not carry coals’. However they do not only talk about themselves, but also bring the Montagues into their minor discussion, ‘A dog of the house of Montague moves me’. This clearly indicates that there is a strong sense of hatred within the Capulets for the Montagues, a hatred where even the servants are involved. It also shows how devoted and faithful the servants are to their master.

      Shakespeare soon decides to add some sexual innuendo, as Elizabethans loved the rude jokes and sexual punning, ‘I will be civil with the maids – I will cut off their heads’. Gregory and Sampson are then greatly provoked by the entrance of Abram and Balthasar - Montague’s servants. Gregory suddenly changes his tone, as he is a cowardly character, ‘No, marry! I fear thee!’ He does not wish to get involved in a fight.

     However Sampson on the other hand is roaring to go, as he wants to start a brawl, ‘I will bite my thumb at them’, from this comment we discover that the Montagues also hold a strong grudge against the Capulets, therefore Abram argues back, ‘Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?’ This triggers their anger and they decide to physically attack one another, ‘Draw, if you be men. Gregory, remember thy swashing blow’.

     Suddenly Benvolio enters and realises what is about to happen, and advises the servants to not continue, ‘Part, fools! Put up your swords; you know not what you do’. There is another sudden entrance made by Tybalt, Lord Capulet’s nephew. He behaves in a contrasting manner to Benvolio and forces him to start fighting as is violence is the only solution to their problem, ‘what, art thou drawn among these heartless hindes? Turn thee Benvolio, look upon thy death’. Tybalt’s words sting Benvolio, as he has been greatly insulted. However Benvolio refuses to change his mind, ‘I do but keep peace. Put up thy sword’.

    Tybalt is a very unreasonable and stubborn character that seems to always depend on physical skills and strength to get him out of certain situations. Tybalt is extremely bitter and deeply insults the Montagues, ‘I hate the word peace, as I hate all Montagues, Have at thee coward’. The brawl soon begins, which soon turns out to be a massive street fight where the citizens also get involved in, ‘Clubs, bills and partisians! Strike! Beat them down’. Lord Capulet and Montague hear the noises of a vicious fight, ‘what noise is this’, and are soon drawn in, ‘Give me my long-sword ho!’ However their wives try to prevent them from going in, ‘Thou shalt not stir one foot to seek a foe’.

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    The aim of the first scene is to introduce main points, which contribute greatly throughout the play; the violence is made strong even within the servants indicating that the feud between both households is overpowering, uncontrollable and aggressive. Because of this aspect, many other problems occur. A small discussion between Sampson and Gregory turns into a massive fight, involving most of Verona. I think that Shakespeare wanted to express the seriousness of their hatred and how they would react when situations arise.

     Scene one makes the reader think how small words can cause chaos between feuding ...

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