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Shakespearean Drama - Romeo and Juliet

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William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet (1599) is a play that centres on the forbidden love between two tragic heroes. This tragedy was written during the Elizabethan Era (1558-1603), which is considered to be the golden age in English history, and was a time when England experienced peace and prosperity, the arts flourished and Shakespeare wrote many plays. The concepts and themes Shakespeare explored in Romeo and Juliet relate to our society today as much as they did in the era the play was written. As Irene Peter says, “Just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed,” which infers that despite the fact that Shakespeare passed away four-hundred years ago, in a different age, much has stayed the same. Conflict and betrayal are two themes that Shakespeare explored that have met this criteria. Lies and disagreements between partners and family members were just as common back then as they are today, and these can cause family feuds similar to the ones between the Capulets in Romeo and Juliet.

Just because the world has changed does not mean conflict has ceased. In fact, there is probably as much conflict in modern day relationships as there would have been in the Elizabethan Era. The main conflict in Romeo and Juliet is between the Montagues and the Capulets, Romeo and Juliet’s respective warring families. The grudge between the Montagues and Capulets is an old one and the reason behind the family feud is not explored in the play and it infers that the reason has been forgotten. The line “From ancient grudge break to new mutiny” (Act 1 prologue line 3) supports this. However, the grudge between Romeo and Tybalt is new and it intensifies when Tybalt kills Mercutio, Romeo’s best friend, because Mercutio had had enough of Tybalt’s yearning to quarrel with Romeo. This occurs when Mercutio says “Come, sir, your passado,” (Act 3 scene 1 line 51), inferring that he has had enough and wants to fight Tybalt. When Tybalt kills Mercutio, Romeo takes vengeance and kills Tybalt, leading to his banishment from Verona when the Prince announces “And for that offence, immediately we do exile him hence” (Act 3 scene 1 line 148&149). This intensifies the conflict between the two families. The reason for this grudge is simply because Romeo is a Montague and Tybalt is a Capulet. This chain of events leads to Paris’s proposal and some inter-family conflict between Juliet and Lord Capulet. Capulet wants Juliet to marry Paris but Juliet has already married Romeo. This conflict is the only one that is either won or lost, as Capulet threatens to disown Juliet so she gives in and agrees to marry Paris. Juliet does attempt to trick her family by staging her own death, but this eventually leads a catharsis when both Romeo and Juliet die in Act 5, releasing their repressed emotions. Unfortunately, despite the fact that the world seems to have changed dramatically since the Elizabethan era, conflict still continues today. A similar modern example of this is when rebellious teenagers argue with their parents and refuse to do as they’re told.

People in modern day relationships betray each other as much as people did back in the Elizabethan era. They commonly lie to each other, cheat on each other and betray their loved ones trust. Betrayal is an eternal theme that is used in many modern day books, such as in Lord of the Flies when Jack and his choir betray Ralph and Piggy by becoming savages. Likewise, in Romeo and Juliet, there are many betrayals, some obvious and shocking and some so devious we do not at first realise they are a betrayal. The first main one is Juliet’s betrayal to Capulet when she refuses to marry Paris, which is against her father’s wishes. She says “Not proud you have, but thankful that you have. Proud can I never be of what I hate, but thankful even for hate that was meant love” (Act 3 scene 5 line 146-148), politely refusing to marry Paris, the man her father had chosen for her. After this, Capulet threatens to disown her, betraying his love for Juliet by forcing her to reluctantly agree to marry Paris. Capulet says “But, and you will not wed, I’ll pardon you. Graze where you will, you shall not house with me” (Act 3 scene 5 line 187-189). Another betrayal occurs when Juliet confronts the Nurse, who is portrayed as a motherly figure, about this dilemma and the Nurse betrays her, telling her to go along with her parent’s wishes. She says “Your first is dead, or ‘twere as good he were” (Act 3 scene 5 line 237). The Nurse says this despite not knowing Paris and denounces Romeo, a man she gets along with and knows relatively well, calling him a “dishclout” (Act 3 scene 5 line 232). This betrayal is shocking because it shows that even our closest friends can betray us. This is relevant both then and now. Romeo and Juliet also betray their parents’ wishes and their families histories in Act 1 at the Capulet ball when they fall in love. Romeo says “They pray; grant thou, lest faith turn to despair” (Act 1 scene 5 line 103), meaning that Romeo has fallen deeply in love with Juliet. This occurs even though they don’t originally know who each others families are. This blinding love is an example of hamartia, the protagonist’s flaw, and ultimately leads to their deaths. So despite all the differences between the Elizabethan society and ours today, betrayal still remains much the same.

Irene Peter said that “Just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed”. William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet verifies this by showing that conflict and betrayal are much the same today as what they were four-hundred years ago. One of the reasons why Shakespeare’s work continues to be studied today is because the ideas explored in his work remain very important and relevant to our current society.

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Shakespearean Drama – Romeo And Juliet. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 22, 2022, from
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