Conflict in romeo and Juliet
What is meant by conflict? The dictionary defines “conflict” as “a struggle to resist or overcome; contest of opposing forces or powers; strife; battle, antagonism”. No matter how hard one tries to avoid it, conflict enters our lives. All drama involves conflict, without conflict there is no drama! Different forms of conflict exist, usually either, man versus himself, man verses man or man verses nature. Every story should have conflict on at least one of these levels, as conflict brings the plot to life keeping the audience hooked.
Characters need to go through conflict, before there can be a happy ending or the happy ending won’t mean anything. The central conflict in Romeo and Juliet is the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets. Members of each family hate, insult and fight each other, even the household staff become caught up in this rivalry. Shakesphere’s Romeo and Juliet is essentially known as love story, although, it is entwined with different types of conflict, and this is what I will be examining throughout this essay. The Prologue is a fourteen line sonnet and would have been read to the audience providing an introduction to the play.
Conflict in romeo and Juliet Essay Example
The Prologue does appear to have a deeper, more important function, as it does not merely set the scene of Romeo and Juliet; it tells the audience exactly what is going to happen. The Prologue refers to a pair of ‘star-cross’d lovers,’ which means, literally, against the stars. In Elizabethan times, stars were thought to control people’s destinies. The Prologue itself creates this sense of fate providing the audience with the knowledge that Romeo and Juliet will die even before the play has started, and also that their tragic deaths end their parents’ feud. “Doth with their death bury their parents’ strife”.
Shakespeare uses this technique called ‘dramatic irony’ throughout the play, it enables the audience to watch the play with expectation and sense the tension. The Prologue also reveals themes and imagery to bring the themes to life, such as, love, conflict, time, fate, life, death and power. It begins with the word ‘Two’, and just in those 14 lines there are seven examples of the word ‘two’, emphasizing two sides of conflict. Shakespeare’s use of oxymorons or contradictory word pairs throughout the play also accentuates conflict of two sides, Montagues versus Capulets, love versus hate.
The first oxymoron is found in the Prologue, “From forth the ‘fatal loins’ of these two foes, a pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life” where ‘fatal’ means death and ‘loins’ depicts birth, suggesting that the children of these mortal enemies were destined to die. Romeo’s opening speech contains nine oxymorons, which again emphasizes opposing forces, he talks about his love for Rosaline, how love and hate have become mixed together, conjuring up images of chaos and confusion. He describes his state of mind through this series of oxymorons, “Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health” (1:1:171).
It appears to be a statement that he is ready to be in love rather than actual love. The Prince’s closing speech also contains an oxymoron ‘glooming peace’ (5:3:309). It is a sad kind of peace, sad because Romeo and Juliet have taken their own lives, but peaceful, as it is the end of the feud. These oxymorons serve to reinforce the major theme of conflict. As the audience is led through the opening scene, it is exposed to the depths and severity of the feud between the Capulets and Montagues. Shakespeare initiates using the technique, ‘word-play’ with banter between Sampson and Gregory.
They state crude, sexual innuendos about conquering Montague men and women. The sexual punning continues throughout the play, contrasting to the lyrical imagery used later by Romeo and Juliet to express their love. The servants’ references to “tool” and “naked weapon,” together with repeated images of striking and thrusting, illustrate how images of love and sex are intertwined with violence and death. The sudden switch from comical banter between servants to sudden possible death demonstrates the fast changing pace that drives the action within the play.
Almost immediately, swords are drawn in order to bring the audience into the plot and capture attention. It becomes evident from the start that the feud involves the servants as well as their masters. Gregory tells Sampson, “Draw thy tool. Here comes two of the house of Montagues” (1:1: 31-28). The use of swordplay and its dramatic effect reminds the audience of the theme of conflict. The fight starts with Samson insulting the Montagues, “I will bite my thumb at them” (1:1:35). This act represents the foolishness of the entire Capulet/Montague feud.
As each character is introduced, the differences in temperament become apparent, Benvolio, means ‘good will’, and is represented as a peace maker, “I do but keep the peace” (1:1:59). Tybalt, as hot tempered and aggressive: “What, drawn and talk of peace? I hate the word. As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee” (1:1:61). These are strong words, revealing the strength of the hatred and the seriousness of the feud. Even the older men want to get involved in the brawl. Lord Capulet tries to join in the sword play, “Give me my long sword, ho! ” (1:1:66) Lady Capulet mocks her husband’s eagerness, “A crutch, a crutch, why call you for a sword?
” (1:1:67) creating a certain tension between the Capulets. The Prince is furious, ‘”hear the sentence of your moved Prince” (1:1:79), his sentence is death. He states that there have been three foolish brawls, “three civil brawls, bred of an airy word” (1:1:80). The people of Verona are tired of the fighting, even suggesting getting out their own weapons to stop the fighting. The Audience at this point are left in acute suspense on what is going to happen next. Act 3, Scene 1, begins with two contrasting characters, Benvolio, the peace maker, and Mercutio, whose name reflects his mercurial nature, quick tempered.
It is clear that he is in the mood for a fight and Benvolio is actively trying to avoid one. “If we meet, we shall not escape a brawl” (3:1:3). Both Tybalt and Mercutio are portrayed as powerful characters and when Tybalt asks for a word, Mercutio replies, “make it a word and a blow,” (3:1:35), already provoking Tybalt. Tybalt tries to provoke Romeo, ”thou art a villain” (3:1:54). Romeo does not want to fight and Shakespeare uses dramatic irony here, the audience knows, he has just married Tybalt’s cousin, Juliet, creating a sense of tension.
The Elizabethan society believed that a man too much in love lost his manliness. Romeo clearly states this, ‘thy beauty hath made me effeminate’ (3:1:105). Once again, this statement can be seen as a conflict of emotions, between the world of love and the public world of honor, duty, and friendship. The sudden, fatal violence in this scene, as well as the buildup to the fighting, remind the audience that for all its emphasis on love, beauty, and romance, Romeo and Juliet takes place in Elizabethan times, which is predominantly a masculine world.
Notions of honor, pride, and status are destined to erupt in a fury of conflict. The viciousness and danger is a dramatic tool that Shakespeare uses to make the lovers’ romance seem even more precious and fragile. The fights between Mercutio and Tybalt and then between Romeo and Tybalt are chaotic; Tybalt kills Mercutio under Romeo’s arm. The audience feels sadness when Mercutio dies, it seems that Tybalt was quite underhand. I personally do not blame any character for his death, they all played their part. Shakespeare uses a play on words after Mercutio is stabbed, “you shall find me a grave man.
” (3:1:90) Mercutio knows he is dying, but continues to pun jokingly, he curses the Montagues and Capulets, speaking three times about a plague on both houses. This in Elizabethan times would have meant the ‘black death’ which would have most certainly been used to shock the audience. Romeo wants revenge claiming “Mercutio’s soul is but a little way above our heads. ” (3:1:18) meaning that one of them is going to die. Shakespeare uses the language of ‘revenge tragedy’, whereby the main character is the ‘revenger’.
Mercutio appears to see people as the cause of his death, not fate. Whereas, Romeo blames fate, for him being banished after killing Tybalt. Romeo’s cry, “O, I am fortune’s fool! ” (3:1:127), refers to the fact that it is written in the stars, he believes that what is happening is beyond his control, reminding the audience again of the sense of fate that hangs over the play. Lady Capulet continues the theme of violence demanding that Romeo be put to death in punishment. Act 3, Scene 5, also conveys conflict, but different from the previous scenes.
The conflict here is emotional conflict, between ‘light and dark’, ‘day and night’. It is contrary to normal, as light would normally be positive, here it brings sorrow. “More light and light; more dark and dark our woes! ” (3:5:36). Juliet claims the lark is a nightingale, wanting it to still be night. Romeo playfully argues with her stating that it was in fact the lark. She eventually realizes that Romeo must leave and as Romeo bids farewell to Juliet, the lovers experience visions that blatantly foreshadow the end of the play.
This is to be the last moment they spend alive in each other’s company. When Juliet next sees Romeo he will be dead, and as she looks out of her window she seems to see him dead already: “O God, I have an ill-divining soul! Methinks I see thee, now thou art so low, as one dead in the bottom of a tomb. Again, suggesting their fate. In the confrontation with her parents after Romeo’s departure, Juliet shows her maturity. She dominates the conversation with her mother, who has no idea that Juliet is proclaiming her love for Romeo whilst saying the opposite.
Shakespeare here uses a technique called ‘quibble’, “Indeed, I shall never be satisfied with Romeo, till I behold him-dead-is my poor heart. ” (3:5:94). Lady Capulet believes that she is upset because of the death of Tybalt. “Yet let me weep for such a feeling loss,” (3:5:74). Again, another example of dramatic irony, the audience knows she is talking about Romeo and not Tybalt, adding to the dramatic effect. In this scene Juliet uses ten double meanings, providing an understanding of language. When she first sees her mother, Juliet says, “Madam, I am not well” (3:5:68).
Again, Lady Capulet presumes she is upset about Tybalt, but Juliet is talking about Romeo. Conflict of interest and between parent and child is also apparent in this scene when Juliet is told that she must marry Paris and she does not want to. When Lord Capulet enters the room he hears Juliet crying and one imagines his tone of voice to be that of fatherly concern, “How now! A conduit, girl? What, still in tears? ” (3:5:129), assuming her tears are for Tybalt. When he hears that Juliet does not want to marry Paris, Lord Capulet is furious, “hang, beg, starve, die in the streets, I’ll ne’er acknowledge you” (3:5:192).
His words provide an image of a storm, one minute calm, the next exploding. His threat would have been very frightening to the audience; they would have empathized with Juliet. Even though Juliet tries to defy her father, she is still a woman in a male-dominated world. One might think that Juliet should just take her father up on his offer to disown her and go to live with Romeo. That is not an option. Juliet lived in a Patriarchal Society and, as a woman, cannot leave; her father has the right to make her do as he wishes.
The nurse attempts to defend Juliet, Lord Capulet responds with cruel, sarcastic comments, indicating conflict between the nurse and Lord Capulet. Even Lady Capulet tries to calm her husband, “You are too hot” (3:5:175) but, she will not speak to Juliet. Again emotional conflict is evident as she is already married to Romeo, she is torn between Romeo and her family. When the nurse also agrees that she should marry Paris, Juliet is sarcastic towards her, “thou hast comforted me marvelous much” (3:5:230) and feels that the nurse has betrayed her, again demonstrating conflict between Juliet and the nurse.
The play has many examples of different types of conflict, the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues is at the centre of most of it. The heavy use of swordplay throughout communicates the dominant theme of conflict. The love of Romeo and Juliet is set within the context of hatred, generated by the feud, although deep, passionate and more powerful than death itself. Romeo’s struggles with Tybalt, Mercutio fighting with Tybalt and Juliet’s nurse are all examples of conflict. The conflict of light and dark, day and night, darkness stands for death, violence and tragedy, whereas images of light reflect love, life and hope.
Inner conflict, emotional conflict and love and hate conflict is seen throughout the play, mostly with Romeo, between the world of love and the public world of honor, duty, and friendship. Juliet also demonstrates inner, emotional conflict with her nurse and father. Lord Capulet shows a conflict of interest by insulting Juliet and her nurse. Shakespeare uses techniques, such as oxymorons, to enhance conflict throughout the play. Not just in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but in all scripts even today, conflict is an essential ingredient, it adds tension, enabling sad and happy moments.
Without conflict, the script would be boring, uninteresting and virtually pointless. It serves to leave the audience interested and wondering what will happen next and this is certainly evident in Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare’s use of stagecraft and language brings the story to life; each character is distinctive and memorable, revealing the conflict and turmoil of emotions experienced by Romeo and Juliet and evoking moods of violence, tenderness, humour, passion and terror.