The theme of conflict is instantly introduced in the Prologue of the play. We are told that the families are both of equal status and have an 'ancient grudge' suggesting that the conflict has been on-going for many generations. We are told that the conflict will 'break to new mutiny' and are reminded again of their death through the 'parents rage'. Romeo and Juliet are described as a 'pair of star-crossed lovers' informing the audience that nothing can change their fate which is itself another form of conflict.
Act 1, Scene 2 - starts the play with conflict: "Draw if you be men"
The conflict between violence and peace is apparent from the start of the play where '[Sampson and Gregory [enter] with swords and bucklers... [in] a public place]'.
Romeo's love for Rosaline
Mixes love and violence, violence being a prominent theme throughout - “She’ll not be hit with cupid’s arrow”, “O brawling love“.
Melodramatic - “O teach me how I should forget to think” Romeo seems to think that Rosaline is the only important thing and that if he can't have her, he can't have anything.
Oxymorons, Courtly Lover, “O heavy lightness”
Quickly forgets about Rosaline as soon as Juliet is in the picture - “I ne’er saw true beauty till this night”
Benvolio and Capulet
Benvolio; Shares Iambic pentameter with Romeo (this shows their closeness) “Good morrow cousin/Is the day so young?”
Tries to assert authority like the prince “Or else depart” but the plot shows the powerfulness of love and conflict, the peaceful Benvolio doesn’t have authority over his friends. This is also shown because he doesn’t say much when he’s around Mercutio.
“My will to her consent is but a part” - he doesn't care much for Juliet's consent as father's often decided the choices their daughters made (men above woman)
“Unworthy” “Baggage” “A disobedient wretch” - use of these words to insult Juliet, his own daughter, for disobeying him. He seems to switch almost instantly, the underlying tone of violence popping up again.
“Death lies on her like an untimely frost”
“Can I demand/But I can give thee more” In the last scene Capulet and Montague share iambic pentameter showing they have forgiven one another, but at the cost of their children’s lives.
Presented at Juliet’s ‘death’ as self-centred, caring only for his own happiness. “Have I thought long to see this morning’s face/and doth it give me such a sight as this”.
“Some shall be pardon’d, and some punished”
“For never was a story of more woe/than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”
Prince ends the play (rhyming couplet) as an impartial figure of authority. A sad ending but leaves the audience feeling reflective, especially over his feelings for Juliet, however untrue they may have been. Perhaps only caring for Juliet for the impression of her father.
Theme - Fate
Fate plays an important role in the lives of many of the characters in the story.
Before going to the masked ball, Romeo predicts misfortune. “T’is no wit to go” “By some vile forfeit of untimely death”
At Mercutio’s death, Romeo sees that the fate they predicted before the ball is being realised: “This begins the woe other must end”
Romeo feels powerless against fate “O, I am fortune’s fool”Fate is toying with him.
“I defy you, stars”Wants to go against fate but his destiny as already been sealed, his death foreshadowed in the prologue. Ironic.
Romeo and Juliet both die in the end of the play. This is an example of fate because Romeo and Juliet are two star crossed lovers which mean they are destined to meet, fall in love, and die.
The prologue - love
Romeo and Juliet begins with a Chorus, which establishes the plot and tone of the play. The Chorus also introduces a number of contradictions that resonate throughout the rest of the play. The Chorus speaks in a sonnet, a very structured form of poetry that implies order. However, the content of the sonnet – two families are unable to control themselves, and hence bringing disaster to themselves – suggests incredible disorder. This systematic dissolution is central to the play. It is typical for a tragedy to begin with a Chorus, and certainly, the dire circumstances of this opening address reinforce that trope. However, Shakespeare never clearly addresses the question of whether or not Romeo and Juliet is a classical tragedy - which is defined as a tragedy of Fate. By introducing a foreboding tone but refusing to lay the blame at the universe’s feet, the Chorus also introduces Shakespeare's unique approach to tragedy.
Light and Dark
When Romeo initially sees Juliet, he compares her immediately to the brilliant light of the torches and tapers that illuminate Capulet's great hall: "O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!". Juliet is the light that frees him from the darkness of his perpetual melancholia. In the famous balcony scene Romeo associates Juliet with sunlight, "It is the east and Juliet is the sun!" daylight, "The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars/As daylight doth a lamp" and the light emanating from angels, "O speak again bright angel".
Romeo associates night with depression “Make himself and artificial night”
Day is good and night is bad “The grey-ey’d morn smiles on the frowning night”
The new day makes them more and more unhappy. “More light and light, more dark and dark our woes”
Juliet is wishing her life away, unaware of her ominous fate “so tedious is this day.”