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Violence and Conflict in Romeo and Juliet Essay

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.

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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’.

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 families. It is quite clear that characters in Romeo and Juliet feel that violence is the only answer to their problems, they do not realise that what they are doing is pointless, they think that as they are men they have to show their physical ability to acquire respect. Shakespeare decides to use strong violence and conflict in the first scene as it leads to bigger consequences throughout the play. Violence and conflict start off the play just like it starts off the problems for Romeo and Juliet.

Act three, scene once takes place after Romeo and Juliet’s hidden marriage. Benvolio and Mercutio are lurking around the streets of Verona but Benvolio is worried and thinks they should leave in a short matter of time as their presence might cause another fight. Mercutio’s view on this is not the same; he accuses Benvolio of having a bad temper, and starting fights for no apparent reason.

He claims Benvolio would walk into a tavern and starts a fight with anyone just because he felt like it. ‘God send me no need of thee and by the operation of the second cup draws it on the drawer, when indeed there is no need’. Benvolio is a very reasonable person but Mercutio is the type of person who would go out looking for a fight.

During this teasing session, Tybalt appears in search of Romeo, as he wants to take his fury out on him. Mercutio begins to mock Tybalt, ‘Here’s my fiddlestick; here zounds, consort!’ Romeo soon arrives but he doesn’t know Tybalt has come looking for him. Romeo wishes not to fight or argue with him, as it will be an insult upon his wife’s family, ‘Tybalt the reason that I have to love thee doth much excuse the appertaining rage to such a greeting; villain am I none’, Mercutio and Tybalt are unaware of anything Romeo says, so they assume Romeo is being a coward. Tybalt adds ‘Romeo, the hate I bear thee can afford no better term than this, thou art a villain’.

Tybalt being an arrogant, forceful character does not let this go easily. He calls Romeo ‘Boy’ and says that this does not ‘excuse the injuries that thou have done me’, Romeo deliberately tries to avoid conflict submission! Allo stocata carries it away’. Mercutio cannot believe his ears. Romeo? Backing down? He decides to defend his friend, and he draws his sword. The two begin to fight. Tybalt- “I am for you”, this quote was a typical fencing challenge and it means ‘I am the one who is skilled enough to stab you into pieces.’ They both fight! Romeo tries stopping the fight but somehow Tybalt gets a thrust under Romeo’s arm and wounds Mercutio then runs away. Mercutio has been seriously wounded “I am hurt. A plague o’ both your houses! I am sped.” Mercutio says his injury is “not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door” but “ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a ‘grave’ man.” He also comments on the feud: “A plague on both your houses!” Mercutio page goes to fetch a doctor while Benvolio helps him to a nearby house.

After a short while Benvolio returns and states that Mercutio is dead “O Romeo, Romeo, brave Mercutio’s dead! That gallant spirit hath aspired the clouds, which too untimely here did scorn the earth. Romeo is upset and outraged when Tybalt comes back to the place of the scene Romeo is prepared to fight. Romeo gets the better of Tybalt and stabs him, Tybalt dies.

Benvolio realizes the enormity of the situation, and decides that this might be a good time for the young lover to leave, “Romeo, away, be gone!” Romeo agrees, and he runs away, leaving a couple of corpses behind. Not so long a wait but then the Citizens arrive asking “Which way ran he that kill’d Mercutio? Tybalt, that murderer, which way ran he?”

More people curiously arrive such as the Prince, Montague, Capulet, Lady Montague, Lady Capulet, and others. It seems that the word gets around pretty fast in Verona. At this point there are a lot of questions being asked, Prince: “Where are the vile beginners of this fray?” Juliet’s mother, seeing her dead nephew lying there in a pool of blood, demands that the Prince punish some of the Montagues’ blood, in revenge “For blood of ours, shed blood of Montague.” The Prince asks Benvolio who started it. Benvolio explains how Tybalt started it, how Romeo tried to stop it, and how Mercutio was murdered. He also explains how Romeo then lost his temper and fought Tybalt. Lady Capulet does not believe his tale.

She claims Benvolio is biased: “He is a kinsman to the Montague; Affection makes him false!” She wants Romeo’s death. As Montague reminds him, Romeo’s “crime” was exactly the same as the punishment that the Prince had promised, back in Act I, Scene 1. Anyone guilty of fighting was supposed to die. Tybalt fought. So, now Tybalt has died. The prince gradually announces the punishment “And for that offence immediately we do exile him hence:” Romeo is thrown out of the city. The prince also says that “Therefore use none: let Romeo hence in haste, Else, when he’s found, that hour is his last. Bear hence this body and attend our will: Mercy but murders, pardoning those that kill.”

After this cruel and well-deserved announcement the scene ends. This scene has a lot of conflict and surprising actions, which Shakespeare creates to add dramatic irony, suspense, and thrillers to the play.

Act three, scene one is a great turning point for Romeo; Shakespeare brings down his happiness through violence and conflict. Tybalt’s stubbornness and Mercutio’s continuous teasing cause a lot of trouble for Romeo’s future. I think that Shakespeare shows during this scene that all awful things happen through violence, nothing positive comes from it, and conflict revolves around fait and destiny; it occurs only for a reason.

Act five, scene three. It is nighttime, and this scene takes place in the local cemetery. Alongside Juliet in her tomb is her arranged fianc� Paris, he has come to say goodbye to Juliet. He explains and says he will come to the tomb every night to lay flowers and mourn “Sweet flower, with flowers thy bridal bed I strew,- The obsequies that I for thee will keep nightly shall be to strew thy grave and weep.” Paris hears a noise: it is a whistle, from his servant. A warning. Paris hides “The boy gives warning something doth approach.” All in due time Romeo and Balthasar arrive, Paris beside watches patiently. “Hold, take this letter; early in the morning, See thou deliver it to my lord and father. Give me the light: upon thy life, I charge thee, Whate’er thou hear’st or seest, stand all-aloof,” Romeo gives his faithful servant a letter. It is addressed to Mr. Montague, from Romeo. He stamps it, and then instructs Balthasar to leave. At this point Balthasar is pretty worried that Romeo might kill himself “Why I descend into this bed of death,” so he stands nearby the tomb.

“Thus I enforce thy rotten jaws to open, and, in despite, I’ll cram thee with more food!” Romeo slowly opens the tomb, as he is doing this Paris is watching carefully, this stage of the process Paris thinks that he is going to vandalise Juliet’s tomb, he also knows that Romeo is meant to be banished from Verona “This is that banish’d haughty Montague,” Paris not knowing the truthful story thinks that it is all Romeo’s fault that Juliet is dead, his reason being that she died of grief and shock for Tybalt.

When Paris says that Romeo must die, Romeo agrees. He says, ‘Therefore I came hither’. Romeo becomes annoyed and pleads him to leave. Also warns him and sends him a silent threat. ‘By urging me to fury: O, be gone! Stay not, be gone; live, and hereafter say, a madman’s mercy bade thee run away’. Paris doesn’t obey Romeo’s orders leaving Romeo to kill Paris as he gets in the way.

As Paris gets stabbed and dies he asks to be buried along side Juliet “If thou be merciful, open the tomb, laid me with Juliet” Finally Romeo recognises Paris and puts him in the tomb. Romeo notices at once how Juliet does not really look very dead. He comments on the colour in her cheeks, and on her lips. “Thou art not conquer’d; beauty’s ensign yet, is crimson in thy lips and in thy cheeks, and death’s pale flag is not advanced there.

He pulls out his poison from his pocket. He kisses Juliet’s lips and drinks. He falls. He dies. The last words of Romeo are “O true apothecary! Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die.

At that moment, Friar Lawrence arrives, he discovers Balthasar, who is still hiding in this very crowded graveyard. Friar Lawrence enters the tomb and notices the dead bodies of Paris and Romeo. All in this act Juliet awakes, the plan seems to be tilted on its own head and immediately Friar wants Juliet to come away from the tomb “Hath thwarted our intents. Come, come away.” Juliet does not respond and stays put. Friar Lawrence hears a noise-it is the approaching guards. The Friar realises that if he is found out then his future will be on the line, in all this confusion the Friar leaves Juliet on her own without comprehending the consequences.

Juliet sees Romeo and tries to take the poison of his lips, “I will kiss thy lips; Haply some poison yet doth hang on them, to make die with a restorative.” This does not seem to work, she hears a watchman coming in the near distance so takes Romeo’s dagger and stabs her-self. She dies. Her last words being “O happy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die.” All the other characters in this play don’t really understand what is going on; they must seem surprised that Juliet has died twice. The watch arrives with Paris’s page, and sends for the prince. He turns up at the scene hastily, followed by Lord and Lady Capulet. The watch begins to explain all and how Paris and Romeo have died. Everyone except, Lady Montague. Romeo’s mother, it seems, is no longer with us. Mr. Montague explains, “Grief of my son’s exile hath stopped up her breath.” Lady Montague is dead. The Prince asks the guards to “bring forth the parties of suspicion.” Then, Friar Lawrence is asked to say a few words. Instead of saying only a few words Friar Lawrence gives a marathon of a speech thinking that if he keeps talking it my save his life from being taken away. “Give me the letter; I will look on it. Where is the county’s page, which raised the watch?”- The Prince reads the letter Romeo had given to Balthasar. As the Prince reads, Paris’ servant (the Page) explains how his master and Romeo fought. The Prince announces that the note confirms the story, and also that it mentions the poison Romeo bought. “This letter doth make good the friar’s words, their course of love, the tidings of her death:”

At the very ending of the play the Prince tells Capulet and Montague hat their feud has taken away the lives of Romeo, Juliet, Mercutio and Paris. Capulet-“O brother Montague, give me thy hand: This is my daughter’s jointure, for no more can I demand.” Montague replies “But I can give thee more: For I will raise her statue in pure gold; that while Verona by that name is known, There shall no figure at such rate be set as that of true and faithful Juliet.

They two families pay the price and they finally end the feud and agree to put up statues in memory of their children. Prince says the last words of this exceptionally tragic play “A glooming peace this morning with it brings; the sun, for sorrow, will not show his head: Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things; some shall be pardon’d, and some punished”.

Directing Act five, scene three

Out of all the scenes, I feel that the last scene would be an excellent choice as I can use many different types of affects to highlight the feelings and actions of the characters. This scene contains a lot of tragic emotions; heart filling phrases and has a romantic yet quite upsetting tone and mood. To emphasise this, I have to use various sound effects, lighting, different props, settings and costumes. This will allow the scene to become much more dramatic, gaining the audience’s full attention.

The scene will start off by displaying Juliet’s tomb, the lighting in the room will be dim, but the lighting around her tomb will be bright, this has a great double meaning behind it as it symbolises that she is still alive and not dead like the rest of the people surrounding her. There will be light; melodic music from a piano comforts the dead souls and Juliet’s lively heart. You soon hear light footsteps of a stranger, approaching the tomb, his face is gradually revealed as he starts talking. We find out its Paris, laying down flowers for Juliet.

The lighting around her tomb becomes dimmer and you can hear the screeches of a violin, Paris all dressed in black stares at Juliet as she lie like a solemn princess, dressed in all white, representing her innocence and virtuousness. Paris continues to talk to her for a period of time. Lurking outside is her lover Romeo. Outside the tomb, it is extremely shadowy and murky, deep sounds of the trumpets are heard, as Romeo is about to enter the room. A soft, tingly sound is produced by the triangle and xylophone. Romeo enters, and Paris unexpectedly hides.

The music pauses, and the only thing the audience can hear are the discrete sounds of Romeo’s swift footsteps. During this time the entire room is pitch black, but as he travels closer, he spots a radiant glow, directly ahead of him. Romeo is also wearing all white. Sweet sounds of the violin and piano accompany him, as he leans ova Juliet’s tomb and stares at her sleeping peacefully, tears impulsively fall from his eyes and lands on her cheeks.

Romeo holds Juliet’s hands closely to his heart, and whispers his gentle words into her ears concurrently crying. The brightness of the light increases and Romeo holds up the bottle of poison and then quickly drinks it, as he drinks it, he sees Juliet’s eyes twitching but soon he falls to the floor and dies. The light becomes dim, and after a just a few minutes, Juliet awakes. She sees Romeo, and her face all crawls up, she is in devastation. The music increases in speed and becomes louder, she reacts abruptly and out of pain, she gets hold of the knife and immediately stabs herself…she dies straight away. The music instantly stops and the lights slowly go out, showing the final image of Juliet lying on top of Romeo, both dead.

I feel that I have used various techniques to fulfil the aims of directing this play. Adding suspense using the music, adding a dramatic tone using the lighting and adding romance with more feeling. I have definitely improved this scene for maximum success.

Conclusion

Romeo and Juliet is undoubtedly a play written around violence and conflict, viewed from this fresh perspective, Shakespeare’s tragic drama of the “star-crossed” young lovers is seen to be an extraordinary work. Indeed, Romeo and Juliet was an experimental stage piece at the time of its composition, featuring several radical departures from long-standing conventions, which were conveniently caused by the violence and conflict around them. These innovative aspects of the play, moreover, reinforce and embellish its principal themes.

The latter include the contrast between love and hate, the correlative use of a light/dark division, the handling of time (as both theme and as structural element), and the well-known status accorded to Fortune and its expression in the dreams, omens and forebodings that signify its tragic conclusion. Violence and conflict has definitely been the underscore in this play, as violence has occurred most frequently, whilst conflict has been discretely flowing throughout, hitting where it hurts most.

The deaths of young Romeo and Juliet were only caused through aggression and variance, which played with fait and twisted their destiny, to erase the blindness and substituted it with contentment and peace. Shakespeare is trying to make it clear that there is no need for violence when love can overcome, enduring your pride and putting your prejudices to a side can open your eyes to many desirable aspects of life. This is a great mistake the Capulets and Montagues made.

Violence played its part, conflict wasn’t far behind, they played with Romeo and Juliet’s love, they destroyed many lives and corrupted both families, but at least one affirmative aspect came out of it…the final alliance of both families.

I feel that I have fully explained each scene carefully, highlighting the parts that contained a lot of violence and conflict, clearly stating the meaning and my own opinions. I have evidently backed up each point made with quotations and then further went in detail by elaborating Shakespeare’s intentions, and how they worked well together. I have expanded on the fact that it was an exceptionally effective play and how I thought ‘violence and conflict’ were definitely central, I also explicated how and why they were central, providing extensive quotations.

Romeo and Juliet was a play of love and romance, warped in bloodshed and divergence, for never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo…

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