How Shakespeare Presents Family Feud and Relationships in Romeo and Juliet

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 2517 |

Pages: 6|

13 min read

Published: Dec 16, 2021

Words: 2517|Pages: 6|13 min read

Published: Dec 16, 2021

In the context of human society, a family is a group of people either related to each other by blood or by marriage or other relationships. Since human society continues to exist the concept of a family shall continue to exist. As Wanda Hope Carter said, “Family and friends are hidden treasures, seek them and enjoy their riches.”. In Romeo and Juliet, this concept is demonstrated many times throughout the entire novel and is one of the main reasons for the tragic fate of Romeo and Juliet. The most prominent effect of family relationships on Romeo and Juliet is the restriction of their will because they are unable to act. This has been the plot of many stories about how a character falls in one with a man/woman but is unable to be with them due to their family. William Shakespeare uses family relationships and the conflict between the families to great effect demonstrating how family ties can block love.

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Romeo and Juliet is a world-famous play written by William Shakespeare which he based on a poem published two years before his birth. This play is about an old rivalry between two families that erupted into bloodshed. A group of Montagues sneak into their rival family, the Capulet’s party. One of the Montagues the heir to the Montague family, Romeo spots a woman which he instantly falls for. He later finds out that the woman he saw was Juliet, Juliet Capulet the only daughter of Lord Capulet who is due to marry Count Paris. With the help of Juliet’s nurse and a priest that Romeo knows they get married. The next day Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin confronts Romeo and his friends on the street. Things devolve into a fight and it leads to Mercutio, Romeo’s friend killed by Tybalt and Tybalt killed by Romeo. This results in Romeo being banished. In a desperate attempt to be reunited with Romeo, Juliet follows the Friar’s plot and fakes her death. The message that Juliet is faking her death fails to reach Romeo, and believing Juliet dead, he takes his life in her tomb. Juliet wakes to find Romeo’s corpse beside her and kills herself. The grieving family agree to end their feud.

Shakespeare first presents family relationships in a negative light as he introduces the context of the play in the prologue. Telling the audience of the conflict between the families as shown in the lines “two households” the Montagues and the Capulets “both alike in dignity” of the same social standing will be involved in a facility feud and a bloody one at that as shown by the line “civil blood makes civil hands unclean” the word civil implies that a fight between the two families can have a massive effect on the entire community. We are also told that Romeo and Juliet are both going to die due to the conflict between the two families before we even meet them. Shakespeare shows that the two families are very similar in status through the line “Two households, both alike in dignity”

Shakespeare first mentions family in act one scene three as the nurse and Lady Capulet talk to Juliet about her marrying Count Paris. This is the first time we as the audience meet Juliet. Thematically this scene shows the audience the influence that parents in that time have over their children particularly the kind of influence that parents wield over their female offspring. Lady Capulet a woman who has been married off to Lord Capulet at a young age completely supports the plans for her daughter off marry Count Paris and puts pressure on her daughter to think of Count Paris before any thought of marriage ever entered her head. William Shakespeare shows how much influence parents weld over their children through the line “I’ll look to like, looking liking move But no more deep will I endart mine eye Than your consent gives strength to make it fly” which was Juliet saying that she obeys her parents and try to think of Count Paris as a husband. While the nurse reminisces about when Juliet was young she said: “He was a merry man — took up the child.“Yea,” quoth he, “Dost thou fall upon thy face? Thou wilt fall backwards when thou hast more wit, Wilt thou not, Jule?” and, by my holy dame, The pretty wretch left crying and said “ay.” To see now, how a jest shall come about!” The nurse’s husband’s comment about Juliet falling on her back when she grows up is a reference to Juliet having sex when she grows up which in turn shows that Juliet has been viewed as an object of sexuality and marriage since she was young. This demonstrates the fact that Juliet’s fate to be someday given away for marriage has been determined since her birth. This suggests that a woman’s role is only to become mothers and they have no control over their life. This scene also provides much insight into the characters as Lady Capulet is shown to be not very close to her daughter while the nurse with her stories of Juliet as a child shows the audience that it is not Lady Capulet but her who raised Juliet and as a consequence is very close to Juliet. While Juliet is shown to a naïve young girl who is obedient to her mother but there are glimpses of strength shown when she gets Nurse to stop with there storytelling with just a word while Lady Capulet can’t get her to stop with her story at all shown in the line Lady Capulet: “Enough of this, I pray thee hold thy peace.” Nurse “Yes, madam, yet I cannot choose but laugh To think it should leave crying and say, “Ay.” And yet I warrant it had upon it brow A bump as big as a young cock’rel’s stone— A perilous knock—and it cried bitterly.” “Yea,” quoth my husband, “fall’st upon thy face? Thou wilt fall backwards when thou comest to age, Wilt thou not, Jule?” It stinted and said, “Ay.” Juliet “And stint thou too, I pray thee, nurse, say I.” Nurse 'Peace, I have done. God mark thee to his grace!”

In act two scene two family relationships are once again shown to the audience as the only thing keeping them from an actual relationship with the line “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.” Juliet is struggling between the love she feels for Romeo and her loyalty to her family. She attempts to ignore the fact the Romeo is a Montague and considers leaving her family for him. She does not believe that their families will allow them to get together.

In act three scene four Lord Capulet states that “I think she will be rul’d In all respects by me; nay more, I doubt it not.” Lord Capulet states that he is sure that his daughter will listen to him as he promises that the wedding between Juliet and Count Paris will take place on Thursday this shows the audience once again the family relationship in the renaissance times as sons and daughters are viewed more akin to property. The father is shown to be the head of the household as his words are more like orders. If Lord Capulet said the wedding will be on Thursday then the wedding will be moved to Thursday. Shakespeare uses dramatic irony in the line above. Since Elizabethan daughters are expected to obey their father’s will but the audience knows very well that Juliet has already disobeyed her father. It is suggested that Capulet’s fear of being embarrassed is greater than his care for his daughter or perhaps he wishes to gain another ally since his feud with the Montagues have heated up with the death of Tybalt due to fact we as see that he wants to present himself in a positive light to Count Paris as he refers to Paris repeatedly as “friend”. Paris is after all a “Count” who is related to the Prince.

In act three scene five Lady Capulet tells Juliet about the decision that Lord Capulet made. She will marry Count Paris on Thursday. Juliet is shocked and refuses as seen in the line “Now, by Saint Peter’s Church and Peter too, He shall not make me there a joyful bride. I wonder at this haste, that I must wed Ere he that should be husband comes to woo. I pray you to tell my lord and father, madam, I will not marry yet, and when I do, I swear It shall be Romeo, whom you know I hate, Rather than Paris. These are news indeed!” Lord Capulet then comes into the room and learns of the situation he is enraged by Juliet’s statement as shown in the line “Thursday is near, lay hand on heart, advice. And you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend; And you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets,” as he threatens to disown her if she refuses to obey along with him calling her names such as “young baggage” and “disobedient wrench” he also said “hang thee” and “my fingers itch” this shows the audience that he is perhaps willing to kill her if he doesn’t see her at the church on Thursday. As shown in the lines “Hang thee, young baggage! Disobedient wretch! I tell thee what: get thee to church a’ Thursday Or never after look me in the face. Speak not, reply not, do not answer me! My fingers itch.”.

When Juliet begs her mother to help her mother refuses this again shows the fact that Elizabethan daughters are expected to obey their father’s will. When they leave Juliet asks the nurse for advice this matter due to her being the only one who knows everything besides Romeo and the friar this highlights her trust in the nurse and their closeness once more. When the nurse suggests she marry the count she is disgusted with the nurse’s disloyalty and pretends to agree with her while planning to seek the friar’s counsel. In this scene, Juliet is shown to be far more mature compared to at the start of the play. She dominates the conversation with her mother as she proclaims her love for Romeo under the disguise of saying the opposite. Her decision of lying to her nurse and instead of seeking advice from the friar is another step in her character development. Juliet defies her father but due to that action, she learns the limit of her power. Juliet still lives in a male-dominated world. She cannot leave society by taking her father up on his offer to disown her and go live with Romeo in Mantua as her father has the right to make her do as he wishes. Though faced with this she does not back down and decides that she would rather die than marry Count Capulet. This can be seen as a way of finally exerting control over her own life for the first time and the last.

In the lines “And you be mine, I’ll give you to my friend; And you be not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets” it is seen by the audience that obedience to the head of the household is required for even remaining as part of this family. The reference to Count Paris as a “friend” could be seen as a euphemism as a political or financial supporter for his endeavours and he is afraid of offending him or he is afraid that he will lose face. After promising Count Paris that he will marry Juliet on Thursday is he suddenly goes back on his promise it would seem like he cannot keep is promises.

In act four scene two and three Lord Capulet said: “How now, my headstrong, where have you been gadding?” Juliet replies “Where I have learnt me to repent the sin Of disobedient opposition To you and your behests, and am enjoin’d” this shows us, Juliet, manipulating her father and telling him what he wants to hear as she now has a new master, her husband. She is obeying her husband by disobeying her father. In the eyes of Shakespeare’s audience, this would be the correct thing to do because she is married to Romeo and so it is the right thing to do in the eyes of God.

In act four scene five Juliet fakes her death to be with Romeo. In this scene, we see that Lady Capulet is heartbroken over her daughter’s apparent death suggesting that she will kill herself as shown in the line “O me, O me, my child, my only life! Revive, look up, or I will die with thee! Help, help! Call help.” Shakespeare shows that even though Lady Capulet did not raise her daughter and is shown to be rather distant she still cares very much about her showing the bonds between family can be as powerful as that between “star crossed lovers”. The repetition gives out the impression that Lady Capulet is very emotional. Lord Capulet later said “Hah, let me see her. Out alas, she’s cold, Her blood is settled, and her joints are stiff; Life and these lips have long been separated. Death lies on her like an untimely frost Upon the sweetest flower of all the field.” Shakespeare uses this to show the audience that Juliet seems dead creating dramatic irony since the audience knows that she isn't dead she’s just asleep but it all creates doubt in the audience’s heart. “Will she wake again?”. Lord Capulet reacts as any man of his station would in that time and age as he does not show much emotion though he is grieved.

Finally in act five scene three “All are punished” as the prince said. At the end of the play, it is very clear to the audience that the feud has ended but at a great cost to all factions the Montagues lost Romeo, the Capulets lost Juliet and The Prince lost Count Paris. Shakespeare shows that the feud has ended through the line “O brother Montague, give thy hand.” This and the fact that a Capulet called a Montague “Brother” shows that Capulets wishes for forgiveness and to end the feud. 

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The underlying message of the play in regards to family relationships is that families should but often do not think about other’s needs. As stated at the beginning of the play this feud has done much harm to Verona both families disregarded those without power and most importantly both families disregarded their children in favour of the feud. They have no reason not to end the feud. After all, whoever started it is long dead but still this remains on their mind as they teach their children to hate the other family as well for no reason, this gets in the way of Romeo and Juliet’s love as it is shown that pease between the families could have prevented all of this.  

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How Shakespeare Presents Family Feud And Relationships In Romeo And Juliet. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from
“How Shakespeare Presents Family Feud And Relationships In Romeo And Juliet.” GradesFixer, 16 Dec. 2021,
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